I recently joined the project team for American Religious Ecologies as part of my fellowship at RRCHNM. Religious Ecologies was my first choice for projects because of my interest in religion, creating a natural fit as I dove into the work.
Religious Ecologies is a project that seeks to digitize over individual schedules of over 232,000 congregations, schedules that come from the 1926 U.S. Census of Religious Bodies. These schedules provide rich demographic, financial, and educational information from churches and other religious congregations of dozens of denominations. But they are also an anomaly; census schedules taken in other decades were all destroyed once the findings were published. Why these schedules were spared from destruction is unknown, but their existence allows rich research possibilities – once digitized for use since they number so high.
My research forming the blog post considered the role of women in the Census schedules. Few names appear on the schedules and rarely do women’s names appear on any of them. Though few women are represented, plenty of congregations had more women congregants than male members, and I mention this in the blog post with data from the publication. However, some women signed the bottom as church clerks or secretaries, and this seems to be the most common representation of individual women in the Census.
A rare, but present, group of female pastors can be found within the digitized schedules. To read more about these women and their significance, head over to the Religious Ecologies blog to find my post “Female Pastors in the 1926 Census Schedules.”