The vision of Mary Swartley’s sowing circle of Mennonite women leaders in Elkhart, Indiana, has been fulfilled in a collection of 26 first-person accounts by women pastors, theologians, administrators, and educators. All are from the Mennonite Church or the General Conference Mennonite Church, and all live in the United States (mostly Indiana and eastward), except for Lydia Neufeld Harder, a Canadian theologian.

The title, She Has Done a Good Thing, quotes Jesus in Mark 14:6, affirming the woman with the alabaster jar who anointed Jesus’ feet and endured criticism from the men surrounding him. Marilyn Miller, the first woman to be ordained to a General Conference pastorate (1976), develops this theme in the final essay of the book. During the sharing time at Marilyn’s ordination, her mother gave her blessing but spoke at length about the Bible instructing women to stay at home and be helpmeets to their husbands. It takes grace and gumption to offer your all to Christ rather than measure out the perfume in small acceptable ways.

The essays are very well written, and in editing them Rhoda Keener has highlighted the telling metaphors. Bluffton College president Lee Snyder remembered her Amish Mennonite grandmother’s flaming red poppies as an inspiration to be extraordinary, in a world of few professional role models for women. Editor and theologian Reta Halteman Finger found herself standing in the gap between the Bible and feminism. Marian Claassen Franz learned I can’t make that much potato salad to heal the tragedies of inner-city Chicago, and she went on to challenge militarism as Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.

The book is intended for celebration and inspiration. However, the essays and the brief introductory biographies (which should have included birth dates) are a resource for scholars too. The book reflects a generation of transition. The majority of the writers are in their mid-50s to mid-60s and are married. They and their husbands grew up when distinct roles for men and women were hardly questioned. Most of the women prepared themselves for careers in female fields, such as the seven who taught English. Their testimonies, though reporting obstacles, are often full of joyful surprise at God’s calling and guidance as way leads on to way, in the words of Marlene Kropf, an ordained seminary professor and Minister of Worship and Spirituality. There are many grateful tributes to supportive husbands, some of them pastors who learned to be co-pastors. Most critical of the slow pace of change are Shirley Buckwalter Yoder and Carol Suter, who are leading business-oriented Mennonite organizations after experiencing more acceptance of women’s talents outside of Mennonite circles.

The oldest pioneer of the book, Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus, developed a successful speaking ministry based on her radio Heart to Heart and other series. She became a spokesperson for women’s leadership in the Mennonite Church in the 1970s and 1980s and a lightning rod for Virginia Conference when she was ordained in 1989 at age 74. In her essay and in Carol Suter’s are glimpses of MC and GC denominational politics. Pauline Graybill Kennel and Joyce Musselman Shutt touch on area-conference struggles over the traditional prayer covering and over women’s ordination. There are also hints of generational tension among women themselves. Younger feminists criticized Emma Sommers Richards, the first woman ordained in the Mennonite Church (1972), for the cautious boundaries she set for her ministry. Bertha Fast Harder, seminary instructor in Christian Education 1958-83, was a mentor to Mennonite women in seminary, including the short-lived General Conference Women in Church Vocations organization, 1958-61. But by the late 1970s she was marginalized, when young women at the seminary laid claim to traditionally male roles.

The book itself is limited to women who have become leaders in male fields. Leaders of churchwide women’s organizations and female pastors in overseas missions became eligible by going on to do jobs formerly reserved for men. Future scholars will need to analyze institutional patterns of women’s participation and leadership in all areas of the church and in organizations such as Mennonite Central Committee. Meanwhile it is good to celebrate progress and the contributions of these 26 outstanding female Mennonite leaders.

Anna K. Juhnke
North Newton, Kansas

The vision of Mary Swartley's sowing circle of Mennonite women leaders in Elkhart, Indiana, has been fulfilled in a collection of 26 first-person accounts by women pastors, theologians, administrators, and educators. All are from the Mennonite Church or the General Conference Mennonite Church, and all live in the United States (mostly Indiana and eastward), except for Lydia Neufeld Harder, a Canadian theologian.

The title, She Has Done a Good Thing, quotes Jesus in Mark 14:6, affirming the woman with the alabaster jar who anointed Jesus' feet and endured criticism from the men surrounding him. Marilyn Miller, the first woman to be ordained to a General Conference pastorate (1976), develops this theme in the final essay of the book. During the sharing time at Marilyn's ordination, her mother gave her blessing but spoke at length about the Bible instructing women to stay at home and be helpmeets to their husbands. It takes grace and gumption to offer your all to Christ rather than measure out the perfume in small acceptable ways.

The essays are very well written, and in editing them Rhoda Keener has highlighted the telling metaphors. Bluffton College president Lee Snyder remembered her Amish Mennonite grandmother's flaming red poppies as an inspiration to be extraordinary, in a world of few professional role models for women. Editor and theologian Reta Halteman Finger found herself standing in the gap between the Bible and feminism. Marian Claassen Franz learned I can't make that much potato salad to heal the tragedies of inner-city Chicago, and she went on to challenge militarism as Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.

The book is intended for celebration and inspiration. However, the essays and the brief introductory biographies (which should have included birth dates) are a resource for scholars too. The book reflects a generation of transition. The majority of the writers are in their mid-50s to mid-60s and are married. They and their husbands grew up when distinct roles for men and women were hardly questioned. Most of the women prepared themselves for careers in female fields, such as the seven who taught English. Their testimonies, though reporting obstacles, are often full of joyful surprise at God's calling and guidance as way leads on to way, in the words of Marlene Kropf, an ordained seminary professor and Minister of Worship and Spirituality. There are many grateful tributes to supportive husbands, some of them pastors who learned to be co-pastors. Most critical of the slow pace of change are Shirley Buckwalter Yoder and Carol Suter, who are leading business-oriented Mennonite organizations after experiencing more acceptance of women's talents outside of Mennonite circles.

The oldest pioneer of the book, Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus, developed a successful speaking ministry based on her radio Heart to Heart and other series. She became a spokesperson for women's leadership in the Mennonite Church in the 1970s and 1980s and a lightning rod for Virginia Conference when she was ordained in 1989 at age 74. In her essay and in Carol Suter's are glimpses of MC and GC denominational politics. Pauline Graybill Kennel and Joyce Musselman Shutt touch on area-conference struggles over the traditional prayer covering and over women's ordination. There are also hints of generational tension among women themselves. Younger feminists criticized Emma Sommers Richards, the first woman ordained in the Mennonite Church (1972), for the cautious boundaries she set for her ministry. Bertha Fast Harder, seminary instructor in Christian Education 1958-83, was a mentor to Mennonite women in seminary, including the short-lived General Conference Women in Church Vocations organization, 1958-61. But by the late 1970s she was marginalized, when young women at the seminary laid claim to traditionally male roles.

The book itself is limited to women who have become leaders in male fields. Leaders of churchwide women's organizations and female pastors in overseas missions became eligible by going on to do jobs formerly reserved for men. Future scholars will need to analyze institutional patterns of women's participation and leadership in all areas of the church and in organizations such as Mennonite Central Committee. Meanwhile it is good to celebrate progress and the contributions of these 26 outstanding female Mennonite leaders.

Anna K. Juhnke
North Newton, Kansas