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A Woman's Place
A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World
Table of Contents
About The Book
The managing editor of Christianity Today and founder of the popular Her.meneutics blog encourages women to find joy in vocation in this game-changing look at the importance of women and work.
Women today inhabit and excel in every profession, yet many Christian women wonder about the value of work outside the home. And in circles where the traditional family model is highly regarded, many working women who sense a call to work find little church or peer support.
In A Woman’s Place, Katelyn Beaty, print managing editor of Christianity Today and cofounder of Her.meneutics, insists it’s time to reconsider women’s work. She challenges us to explore new ways to live out the Scriptural call to rule over creation—in the office, the home, in ministry, and beyond.
Starting with the Bible’s approach to work—including the creation story, the Proverbs 31 woman, and New Testament models—Beaty shows how women’s roles in Western society have changed; how the work-home divide came to exist; and how the Bible offers models of women in leadership. Readers will be inspired by stories of women effecting dynamic cultural change, leading institutions, and living out grand and beautiful vocations.
Far from insisting that women must work outside the home, Beaty urges all believers into a better framework for imagining career, ambition, and calling. Whether caring for children, running a home, business, or working full-time, all readers will be inspired to live in a way that glorifies God.
Sure to spark discussion, A Woman’s Place is a game-changing look at the importance of work for women and men alike.
Made to Reign
Every human being is made to work. And since women are human beings, every woman is made to work.
On the surface, these two statements are fairly unremarkable. Scripture as well as human history tell us that all people in nearly all times and places have labored to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. And most women in our Western context work for pay for many years if not for life.
But dig deeper, and these statements—especially the second—elicit follow-up questions. Of course women are human beings, but what about gender differences? What kind of work does God give women to do? What if some women don’t want to work? What about the value of unpaid work, especially motherhood?
I wrote this book to answer these questions—to help women (as well as men!) explore God’s invitation to women to labor for his honor, for their own enjoyment, and for others’ benefit. I hope this book helps readers think about how to respond to that invitation. But before we explore how we work, we need to establish why we work.
For Christians, a good place to start is the Bible. In Chapter 3, we will look carefully at the Genesis account. Today, many sermons we hear about Genesis 1–3 focus on marriage and sexual intimacy, but in fact, the first pages of Scripture have a lot to say about work as well.
In this chapter, though, we start with a psalm (and not because that’s where you land when you casually flip open your Bible).
Crowned with Glory And Honor
Psalm 8 is first and foremost about God: his majesty, glory, and power. But it is also about humankind: their majesty, glory, and power, a reflection of the God whose image they bear. In Verses 5 and 6, we read:
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings,
And crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
You put everything under his feet.
These verses come to us from King David, who ruled for forty years over the people of Israel. But David is not describing just himself or just kings. And he’s certainly not just describing men. When David says “him,” he means “man” or “mankind.” Which means that, in this passage of Scripture, David is describing all humans.
That means he is describing you.
In order to let this truth sink in, read these verses again. But this time, replace the word “him”—which here means “mankind”—with your own name:
You made [Katelyn] a little lower than the heavenly beings,
And crowned [Katelyn] with glory and honor.
The words inspire me to praise God for creating me to reflect his glory. God created the expanse of interstellar space, yet he hears me when I pray? There are currently 7.1 billion people on earth, yet he knows my own thoughts and desires better than I do? Like David, I marvel, Who am I that you are mindful of me?
You made [Katelyn] ruler over the works of your hands;
You put everything under [Katelyn’s] feet.
Verse 6 is even harder to grasp than Verse 5. And to be honest, it makes me squirm a bit. As a modern Westerner, far from the world of kings and queens, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that I am a “ruler.” As a citizen of the United States—where everyone, in theory, is equal under the law—I’m uncomfortable with the thought of having power over other people. As a woman, I’m uncomfortable with power itself, because powerful women make us very nervous. And clearly not “everything” is under my feet.
But when I consider how I spend the majority of every week—as an editor overseeing the publication of a national Christian magazine—Psalm 8:6 starts to makes more sense. I do have rule, as weird as that sounds. With a red pen as my scepter, I survey countless words and thoughts. I protect what is beautiful and true and correct what is ugly and false. When a new issue comes out, I survey its boundaries, wondering if we should explore new terrain in the next issue. And in one sense, everything in the magazine is under my feet—meaning that when one of our readers is upset with our rule, the protest goes to me.
Psalm 8 helps us to remember a bedrock truth about why we work. We work in order to live into God’s purposes for all of us: to reign over all of creation as his image bearers and representatives on earth. God intended all humans not just for relationships (with him, with others) but also for reigning—over every inch of creation. And whether you currently work full-time or part-time; whether you work out of a deep sense of calling or simply to make financial ends meet; whether you spend your days studying to earn a degree, or caring for small children, or managing a large staff; whether or not you even want to work, this truth is for you: You are called to “make something of the world.”I To take your time, talent, resources, and community and create something good, something of lasting worth, usefulness, and beauty that will glorify God, make meaning out of chaos, and bless your neighbors.
So this is why we work, in the broadest sense of the word. Before paychecks, promotions, and personal enjoyment, we work in order to properly bear the image of God.
Our world comes to us because of the work of people before us.
The World We Inherit
Take a moment to survey the room you are sitting in. Look at the items in it—a chair, a computer, a smartphone, a stack of books, a cup of coffee. Look even at the walls, the ceiling, the windows drawing your gaze to the world outside. This is the physical reality of your life. And if you traced the origins of each item, you would find that every one exists because of the labor and creativity of other people.
The items that fill our lives seem to appear ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) at Target or at our front door, in a box marked “Amazon.” But every element of our material culture has an origin story. In our postindustrial global economy, they arrive through a series of decisions, emails and spreadsheets, factory shifts, computer commands, and shipping schedules (to name a few) that are executed by people we will never know. And those people are building off the tools and discoveries and labor of people who lived before them. Our material culture spans not just across oceans but also across time.
At the time of this writing, the newest iPhone—one of the best or worst cultural artifacts of this century, depending on whom you ask—had debuted. I’ll admit that when I opened the box holding my new iPhone, I was blissfully unaware of anything (or anyone) that had gone into making it. Like a child on Christmas morning, I was aware only of wanting to play with it right away. This is true for almost every physical artifact in my life and perhaps yours, too: I rarely think of the why behind the simple what of my life.
Yet everything there has been passed down in the warp and woof of human history. Nothing is a given, and nothing is random. That is true for material culture. That is true, too, for what we might call institutional culture: government and businesses and schools and churches and nonprofits and neighborhood associations—all gatherings of people who guide and govern the way we live together, from the most intimate gathering, the family, to the most impersonal, the state. What language I speak, where I live, how I get from one place to another, what movies and music I enjoy, what I believe about voting and baptism and green bean casserole—all speak to a world that I have inherited from other people and institutions.
Few others have contributed as much to Christians’ understanding of culture as Andy Crouch, the author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. (For full disclosure, Andy is a colleague at Christianity Today magazine.) Culture, he notes,
always and only comes from particular human acts of cultivation and creativity. We don’t make Culture, we make omelets. We tell stories. We build hospitals. We pass laws. These specific products of cultivating and creating . . . are what eventually, over time, become part of the framework of the world for future generations.II
So the world we inherit was sustained and created by the people before us, who had inherited the world before them. The only truly ex nihilo act in all of history belongs to God: the act of drawing forth the heavens and the earth and all that is in them from the “formless void.” Everything that followed built upon the creative activity of someone else. To quote Crouch, “We live in the world that culture has made.”III
The world that culture has made, the one that we all inherit, is built by men. So overwhelmingly so that we barely notice it.
“This Is a Man’s World”
This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl
I wish I could somehow include in this book a recording of James Brown (or, let’s face it, myself) singing “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” the Godfather of Soul’s 1966 hit. It’s unclear from the tone whether Brown was mourning the state of affairs or celebrating them.
But in fact, he didn’t write the song. The lyrics were written by a woman inspired by the Bible.
Betty Jean Newsome was a former girlfriend of Brown’s whom he had met at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. Newsome was inspired to write the lyrics after reading Genesis 2, in which God creates Eve out of Adam’s rib. To Newsome, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is actually a gospel song, a meditation on the Lord’s design. As she told The Village Voice in 2007:
I was just reading the Bible and thinking about how wonderful and powerful man is . . . God, he can create, he can take man’s rib out of his body and make a woman. I was just sitting there and thinking about how, after all of these things that he made and he did, all of it was worthless without a woman—and you gotta have them kids—or a girl. That’s where the girl part comes in.IV
Newsome’s lyrics pack in a lot of truth. It is a bald fact that the majority of our material and institutional culture comes to us because of the work and creativity of men. Take the technology of the past 600 years: the printing press, the refrigerator, the lightbulb, the automobile, the phone, the computer—all the things that we can’t imagine living without—were invented by men. The great philosophers and thinkers and teachers were men, by and large, as were the great political rulers; nations rose and fell because of the rule of men. The number of women who have contributed to these fields is, by comparison, so small that they are typically listed in women’s history books. (See, when men do things, it’s “history,” but when women do things, it’s special “feminine history.”)
Of course, the situation has improved in the relatively recent past. Women today contribute enormously to the global economy. In most developing nations, women are key to sustaining financial growth and supporting families and communities. In the West, it is now accepted that women should be able to pursue education, and more leaders and politicians in developing countries are accepting this, too. Within the church, women are teaching the Bible, evangelizing the nations, and leading nonprofits.
And, to return to Newsome’s lyrics, men would be “nothing without a woman or a girl.” Even if women appear only rarely in the history books, none of us would exist without women. Men can make bridges and books and bombs, but they can’t make babies.V And beyond their biological role, women in every time and place have “made something of the world,” even if they were typically seen as bit players in men’s stories rather than main players in their own.
But “This Is a Man’s World” is true in another way: It accurately reflects a broken world, a world as it should not be. God never intended for men to reign over creation alone. He made all image bearers—men and women, who together reflect the image of God (Gen. 1:28)—to be his representatives on earth, to reign and rule over both material and institutional culture. It might be a man’s world, but it was supposed to be a world governed by man and woman. And in societies like ours, where the locus of cultural influence is the marketplace (and no longer the home), women must be in the marketplace in order to shape material and institutional culture.
When the Psalm 8 call to exercise dominion falls more or less to only half the human population, then the creation—and fellow humans—fail to flourish.
The Male Lens
Since it affects all of our lives in one way or another, let’s start with Hollywood. The film entertainment industry is the most powerful form of storytelling in our day, generating $564 billion since its mass-scale beginnings. About two of every three Americans will see a movie in the theater in a given year (not counting movies watched at home), compared with the one in two Americans who will read one book in a year. Movies have the power to ignite social movements, give balm to our souls (Inside Out, anyone?), and move us to great and noble deeds. When we go to the movies, what we are often watching is ourselves, reflected back to us.
And yet many of us don’t see ourselves reflected back. The majority of today’s movies—seven out of ten—center on the triumphs and trials of individual men. One study found that, of all the top-grossing movies of 2014, only 28 percent of all speaking characters were women. And it’s no wonder why: Of all filmmakers—directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors—an estimated 70 percent are men. When it comes to the role of director, the rate is more like 95 percent. (There are also great disparities in the number of films created by directors from non-white, non-L.A., and non-elite contexts: meaning the number of films about people who aren’t white, aren’t from either coast, and aren’t highly educated are grossly lacking as well.)
Here is how Laura Waters Hinson, an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Washington, D.C., described it to me:
If you think about the fact that 95 percent of all movies you see are created through a male lens—that’s a staggering thought. The vast majority of the media that we consume, that is shaping our souls in a lot of ways, is created by men. And I love men! But no wonder so much of it is violent or sexualized.
This gross imbalance matters not simply because “gender equity” matters as a modern ideal to check off a political correctness list. It matters because stories matter. Stories literally change people’s lives; it is no wonder that so much of the Bible comes to us as a great story. We are story people. But when our stories reflect the experiences and views of one segment of the population, we are missing a profound part of the human story. We begin to think of men as the default human, even though Scripture teaches us otherwise.
Here is another example, one that has more harmful effects than Hollywood films do. Today, the U.S. medical system quietly minimizes or ignores women’s particular biology and needs. Most of the people who participate in research trials for heart disease and Alzheimer’s are men. This means that diagnoses and treatments for these and other fatal diseases are shaped to respond to men’s bodies—women’s bodies less so. Women and men show different symptoms and need different treatments. But doctors are less capable of treating women when treatments presume a male body.VI
Making matters worse, when women tell doctors they are experiencing pain, it is often explained as “emotions,” “hormones,” or some other “fake” or exaggerated display. For example, it usually takes people with an autoimmune disease on average five years and five different doctors to get the right diagnosis. And over 75 percent of those with autoimmune diseases are women. When a majority of doctors are men (68 percent in the U.S.), it makes sense they might not fully see the unique needs of women, despite all their training otherwise.
Beyond the West, we see a grave cost in countries where women do not reign alongside men. In 1994, when Rwanda descended into a genocide that lasted a hundred days and took about one million lives, very few women held political office. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Rwandan women could open a bank account, own land, or start a business without a husband’s written consent. Girls were not sent to school and were considered valuable primarily as child brides.
It was only after the genocide—whose victims were overwhelmingly men—that women stepped up to the task of rebuilding the nation. Today, the East African nation is enjoying economic stability and peace, and women comprise 56 percent of its parliament. As one Rwandan leader said, “There’s a general understanding and appreciation that if things are going to be better in Africa, women are going to have a key role.”VII
And this is true for every realm of culture, and every realm of work, in every part of the world. When our cultural artifacts and institutions are made or guided only or primarily by men, our world is stunted. Efficient, maybe. Containing beauty and truth and goodness, to be sure. But woefully incomplete.
At this point, let me say clearly: It’s not that men as men are bad. Let me rephrase that: It’s not that men are any worse than women! Men and women fall equally under the power of sin. The only thing sillier than believing that women are worse sinners than men is believing that women are better saints than men. Our world would have just as many problems if only women reigned, and it would likewise be woefully incomplete if only women reigned.
Let me also say here that power itself is not the problem. Again drawing from Crouch, we can understand power as the ability to steward, shape, and direct culture—from abstract institutions of business, religion, and law to the most tangible artifacts of food, buildings, and roads. To quote New York City pastor Tim Keller (who was paraphrasing sociologist James Davison Hunter), “Culture is the power to define reality.” Power is what God grants to all image bearers in Psalm 8. We all have some power.
But since the beginning of time, power and gender have been linked inextricably. And this is not how things were meant to be. In Genesis 1:27, we read:
God created mankind in his own image,
In the image of God he created them;
Male and female he created them.
There is a reason God made us male and female. Maleness and femaleness are mysteries. And they can vary—sometimes widely—in how they are embodied and expressed, depending on place, time, and culture. But maleness and femaleness are good. Together, they bear the image of God; they bear the image of God, together. They are good not just because they allow people to make more people. Again, from Genesis, they are good because they help us to rule over creation, together:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
And this is ultimately why women are called to work, and why more women should work, and why more men should find ways to empower women—in Hollywood and the fields of medical research and business and the arts and politics and all other realms of human activity. Men can’t rule over creation alone. “This is a man’s world, but it would be nothing without a woman or girl.”
The First Humanitarian Photographer
There are women throughout history who have responded to the call to rule and reign, even when the cards of culture were stacked against them.
The Bible itself is full of examples. Despite modern critiques that the Bible treats women as second-class, careful readers (or readers not laboring under a bad interpretation of Scripture) will note a number of women who exhibit strength, strategy, and stealth power, and who contributed positively to “the world culture has made” because of it. Queen Esther went undercover to save God’s people from King Xerxes. Deborah was a prophetess and judge who consulted under a palm tree, where “the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided” (Judges 4:5). Priscilla, alongside her husband, Aquila, was a tentmaker by trade whom Paul considered a “fellow worker in Christ Jesus.” Lydia was a businesswoman who sold a unique purple dye—and made enough money to help bankroll the early apostles’ missions. Yeah, it’s quite possible we have a sugar mama in Scripture.
Plenty of other faithful women throughout history demonstrate, through their very lives, that families, industries, and entire nations benefit when women live into the Psalm 8 call to reign over creation. Oftentimes, their reign serves to undo the wreckage of a world ruled primarily by men. Such was the case for Alice Seeley Harris.
In 1870, the year Harris was born, Victorian England was enjoying unprecedented innovation, industry, and prosperity in every sector of society. Queen Victoria wielded authority on account of the royal throne, ruling over the largest empire the world had seen yet.
But though a woman wore the crown, British culture rested mostly on the power of men. Pervasive in the Victorian era was the notion of “separate spheres.” Women, it was believed, were naturally suited to oversee the spheres of home and family life, and men were naturally suited to oversee the spheres of economic activity and civic life. Even the queen affirmed separate spheres—although she clearly defied them! As she wrote in a letter in 1870, “God created men and women different—then let them remain each in their own position.”
But Harris apparently didn’t feel restricted to the home when she married John Hobbis Harris in 1898. Before marrying, Alice worked at a London post office while training to be a missionary. It was one of the few professions of the time that allowed women to travel the world, sometimes alone. It was the great century of foreign Protestant missions, with William Carey in India, Hudson Taylor in mainland China, and David Livingstone in southern and central Africa leading the way. It was a time when Christian women were trained as teachers and doctors to use their skills on the mission field, so great the evangelistic need and so unprecedented the chance to travel.
The year they were married, the Harrises sailed to the Belgian Congo, a region in central Africa then controlled by King Leopold II of Belgium. Since 1885, Leopold had claimed the Congo Free State (CFS) as his personal property, ostensibly so that Christianity could take root in its basins and rain forests. Instead, Leopold turned the CFS into a labor camp and exploited its natural resources. An estimated ten million innocent Congolese died in Leopold’s camps.
When Alice and John arrived in the Belgian Congo, they were shocked by the brutality of Belgian field officers—a brutality that would arrive at her mission’s doorstep one day. Here is how author Judy Pollard Smith imagines the encounter, based on Alice’s records:
I could see that the young man at the front of the group was particularly devastated. His face was twisted in anguish. His friends led him forward by his elbows toward me. . . . The young man sank onto the porch and I thought he may collapse. He was carrying a small bundle bound about in plantain leaves. . . . I opened it with greater care than was usual because I was not sure what I was in for, given the way they looked at me with such burden etched on each face. To my own horror out fell two tiny pieces of human anatomy: a tiny child’s foot, a tiny hand.VIII
The man, Nsala, had carried the remains of his five-year-old girl to the missionaries. His child had been killed by Belgian officers after Nsala failed to meet his quotas in the field.
In response, Alice did something remarkable, brave, even unwomanly for her time. She asked Nsala to pose, sitting on the veranda, looking down at the severed hand and foot of his child. Then she took a photograph using a portable Kodak camera, one of the first that could be loaded in daylight.
Even though Alice had no experience with photography, she began taking photos of other Congolese who had been mistreated. Then she sent the photos back to her host mission’s agency as evidence of the violence in the field. Within five years, Alice’s photos had circulated beyond the agency’s magazine. The Harrises took the Harris Lantern Slide Show on tour throughout England and the United States, to garner support for their anti-slavery society. Ordinary citizens who had assumed that Leopold’s rule was benevolent were given stark evidence of the carnage of colonialism.
One person who was profoundly affected by Alice’s photos was Mark Twain. In 1905, he wrote a satirical pamphlet in the voice of King Leopold: “The Kodak has been a sole calamity for us. The most powerful enemy indeed . . . the only witness I couldn’t bribe!” Some editions of King Leopold’s Soliloquy include reprints of Alice’s photo of Nsala.
The campaign against Leopold’s rule in the CFS grew to a global hum. By 1908, control of the Congo had finally fallen to the Belgian government. Alice didn’t work alone; she joined a vast network of journalists, activists, and other missionaries laboring to ensure that Leopold’s violence was on display for the world to see. But the power of her photographs is hard to protest. As one UK journalist notes, “The fact that Leopold lost his unfettered control so soon after Alice’s photos were made widely available to the public in Europe tells its own story.” Today, Alice is remembered as the first photographer to campaign for human rights.
Oh, and she raised four children, too.
Making Work Work
We live in the world that culture has made. It’s a culture that comes to us marked by Harris, whom we remember not only as a woman doing apparently unwomanly things but chiefly as a woman serving Christ, adding streams of his truth, love, and mercy to the flow of human history.
I first learned about her in a 2014 Christianity Today cover story—the most widely circulated cover story we have ever published.
In “The World the Missionaries Made,” journalist Andrea Palpant Dilley presented the findings of sociologist Robert Woodberry. Over ten years, Woodberry ran a series of tests to measure the effect nineteenth-century missionaries like Harris had in developing nations. To his astonishment, he found that the missionary presence in the Congo, South Africa, China, and elsewhere was the single greatest factor in predicting the rise of democracy in those countries. That means economic growth, literacy, education (especially for women), low infant mortality, and health care—all marks of human flourishing. All marks of the whole creation flourishing when image bearers live into the Psalm 8 call to reign.
And you don’t have to be a missionary in the traditional sense to live on mission in whatever professional field you inhabit. If the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it—again to quote King David—there is truly no sphere of human activity that God isn’t bent on reaching and remaking.
But for women to live on mission, we Christians need to massively rethink how we think and talk about work. In both subtle and not so subtle ways, Christian women are being discouraged from thinking of work as a good, direct way of bearing the image of God and living on mission for him.
First, despite new energy around the topic of work in some Christian circles, many still aren’t talking about work, for men or women. Which is weird, since so many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work. Julia Snyder, an educator in Philadelphia, told me that “everyone was a professional” at her former church in Boston, but, “there was no context in which people were talking about the effect that it was having on their faith.” Because of this, she was more likely to talk to non-Christian peers about her work than Christian peers. This is a huge missed opportunity for the church to speak into a large part of most believers’ lives.
Second, some Christian communities are talking about work in ways that are destructive and, frankly, unbiblical. One especially maddening example of this came from Liz Aleman. She serves on a legal team in Oakland, California, that advocates for children and teenagers in and out of court. At the office, she says, “I don’t ever feel put down because I’m a woman.” This has not always been the case. When she was twenty-two and excitedly told a pastor that she had been accepted into law school, “he said that I should consider the fact that no Christian man would want to marry a lawyer.
“This was heartbreaking, especially coming from a pastor whom everyone respected,” says Aleman. “That is one of my deepest wounds, is the fear that Christian men won’t like me because I’m a lawyer.” In moments when some pastors and other spiritual leaders have a chance to bless women in their Psalm 8 call, they are cursing them, even as they think they are helping.
Other Christian communities simply don’t know how to speak to the discipleship needs of high-powered women. This was true for Helen Young Hayes when she managed an $11 billion mutual fund in the 1990s. “The church did not know what to do with working women,” she said. “There was a constant feeling of being less spiritual because I was full-time career, and much less spiritual when I was full-time heavy-duty career and I’ve got kids.” Hayes experienced two stigmas at once: the stigma of working in the financial sector, and the stigma of working while having children.
Even at churches that don’t teach that women shouldn’t work while raising kids (and some churches do—we’ll get to those teachings in Chapter 4), there are still subtle ways that working women remain outside the church fold. Jessica (who prefers anonymity) teaches college writing courses in Austin, Texas, and in 2007 founded a nonprofit that teaches Burmese refugees to make sellable handcrafted items. Jessica and her husband, Jonathan, have three children, and she says they are both “really committed to partnership,” in their parenting as well as their ministry endeavors.
But every Sunday morning for five months, without fail, another woman at church would ask Jessica, “How do you manage it all?” As she told me in 2014, “I realized one day, no one ever asks my husband, ‘How do you manage your time?’ ” It was assumed that Jessica was shouldering the parenting, home, and professional responsibilities all by herself, and probably struggling to do any of it well.
And some women really do shoulder most of these responsibilities. To a person, every woman I interviewed who is able to invest in professional work said she wouldn’t be able to without her husband’s full, active support. Not just verbal support but the kind of support that will cook dinner and do the laundry and take the kids to the grocery store. The kind that will bring a nursing baby to and from the office. Thankfully, many Christian men are laying down their lives for their wives in this way, fulfilling a husband’s call to “love his wife as he loves himself” (Eph. 5:33).
Add into this already complex equation the endless debates over parenting styles; the lack of models and mentors; outdated workplace policies; a cultural fear of powerful women; and theology that teaches that secular work is less meaningful than ministry, and it seems nearly impossible for women to live into their Psalm 8 call on the job.
But it’s not impossible—far from it. If the women I interviewed—as well as the eight women I profile in each of the following chapters—are any indication, more Christian women are making work work, for their families, their communities, and themselves. We could look askance at these women, wondering if they are neglecting their children or in the fatal grip of secular feminism. But I trust we’ll let their stories speak for themselves—and, in the process, wonder what God is up to.
I. I am borrowing this phrase from Andy Crouch, who uses it throughout his 2008 book, Culture Making, and who is likewise borrowing it from cultural critic Ken Myers.
II. Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 28.
III. Ibid., 29.
IV. Clancy, Michael. “It’s a Woman’s World,” The Village Voice, December 18, 2007.
V. Or, rather, their role in the work of physically bringing a child into the world is, by comparison, minute.
VI. Dusenbery, Maya. “Is Medicine’s Gender Bias Killing Young Women?” Pacific Standard, March 23, 2015.
VII. Olopade, Dayo. “The Fairer Leaders,” The New York Times, July 10, 2012.
VIII. Smith, Judy Pollard. Don’t Call Me Lady: The Journey of Lady Alice Seeley Harris (Bloomington, IN: Abbott Press, 2014), 54.
- Publisher: Howard Books (August 15, 2017)
- Length: 272 pages
- ISBN13: 9781476794150
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Raves and Reviews
"Women have always worked and in her fully Christian book, Katelyn Beaty celebrates and affirms the work of women in every sphere,generation, vocation, season, and role as good. With the mind of a journalist and the heart of a disciple, she skillfully sets us free to pursue and enjoy your work as image bearers of God. A Woman's Place will ignite a long overdue and healthy conversation in our churches about women and work. I loved this book and I wish I could put it in the hands of every woman I know - there is freedom and permission and celebration on each page."
– - Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith
"A thoughtful biblical perspective on women and work has been long overdue, but thanks to Katelyn Beaty’s excellent A Woman’s Place, the wait is over. May this thorough and provocative treatment of a tremendously important subject find the widest possible audience.”
– — Eric Metaxas, New York Times Bestselling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy and host of the Eric Metaxas Show.
We all work—and Katelyn Beaty has written a theology of work for all of us. Whether you are a man or a woman, whether you work at school,office, or home, A Woman’s Place will inform, challenge, and inspire you as you pursue faithfulness and fruitfulness in your labors.
– Karen Swallow Prior, Ph.D., author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions–The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer Abolitionist
"Shows, not merely tells, what it means for women to take their places alongside men in fulfilling God’s command to cultivate the world... Convincingly calls each of us, female and male, to a wiser, fuller, and healthier life."
– —John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies, Crandall University, Moncton, Canada
"With characteristic transparency, elegance, and prophetic strength, Katelyn Beaty has given us a book that I pray will have a profound influence on women and men alike."
– Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee and author of Jesus Outside the Lines
"Insightful... Incisive commentary on how cultural mores have been overlaidon biblical texts should help the Christian community pry off those faulty, 'how-it-is' assumptions and free us to explore the reforms needed to get to 'how-it-ought-to-be.'"
– —Dr. Amy L. Sherman, author, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
"Women in all life stages will benefit from Katelyn Beaty’s holistic and positive theology of work,whether that work is carpools or corporate board meetings—or both. Men also need to read this so they can encourage their wives, daughters, nieces,neighbors and sisters in Christ to reach their God-given potential."
– Kara Powell, PhD, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute, author of Sticky Faith and Growing Young
“With adroit hands and an authentic heart, Katelyn Beaty opens our eyes to the central place work has for every image bearer of God. Skillfully utilizing historical, theological and cultural lenses, a multifaceted and compelling picture is painted of why human work matters. While the focus of her writing serves as a persuasive apologetic for the goodness and rightness of a woman’s place in the workplace, it is a must read book for both women and men. A Woman’s Place is a welcomed an essential contribution to the dynamically growing faith and work movement. I highly recommend it!”
– Tom Nelson, Senior Pastor, Christ Community Church, Kansas City and President of Made to Flourish
In A Woman’s Place, Katelyn Beaty lays out a comprehensive vision for Christian women to be fruitful in their vocational calling, and for the church to equip them to flourish. Whether you are a man or a woman, it will challenge your thinking and encourage you to a better and deeper view of vocation."
– Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research of the Southern Baptist Convention
"As this excellent book evidences, a woman's place is throughout the culture. Indeed, where women are not present the world lacks itsfull depth. Katelyn puts words to what I've seen each year through the female entrepreneurs we support -- women bring unique stories, competencies,convictions, and a holistic way of seeing life that all of us need to truly flourish."
– Dave Blanchard, Co-Founder & CEO, Praxis
Resources and Downloads
High Resolution Images
- Book Cover Image (jpg): A Woman's Place Trade Paperback 9781476794150
- Author Photo (jpg): Katelyn Beaty Photograph © Ryn Manby(0.1 MB)
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