The Remarkable Evangelical Heroine Sarah Osborn

Sarah Osborn represents…[a} glaring omission in the literature on American evangelicalism, one now addressed by Catherine Brekus’s remarkable Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. Osborn was one of the most influential evangelicals in 18th-century America, and she left a vast body of sources, including a memoir, ten volumes of diaries, and scores of letters. (Sadly, only 2,000 of an estimated 15,000 manuscript pages of her writings survive, the others somehow lost over the centuries since her death.) Yet aside from some scholarly articles, Osborn has languished in obscurity until now. (Brekus, associate professor in religions and the history of Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School is also preparing to publish an edition of Osborn’s writings.) Brekus not only introduces us to Osborn’s personal story but also deftly places it in a frame of 18th-century history, showing how Osborn interacted with slavery, the Enlightenment, emerging capitalism, and other developments associated with “modernity.”

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