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Westminster history professor to deliver annual Henderson Lecture

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Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Westminster College’s Dr. Angela Lahr, associate professor of history, will present the annual Henderson Lecture at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Witherspoon Maple Room of the McKelvey Campus Center on campus.

Lahr’s lecture, “Saints, Statues, and Barbie: Six American Women and Their Legacies of Conscience,” will focus on the conclusion of her latest manuscript project. Tentatively titled “Stoking the Conscience: Religion, Political Culture, and American Women Reformers in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” Lahr’s manuscript examines the ways selected religious American women reformers attempted to use the tool of conscience to enact or resist change.

Lahr’s manuscript explores the work of six women who lived in the 19th and 20th centuries: anti-slavery and women’s rights proponent Angelina Grimké Weld; temperance activist Frances Willard; anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells; Pauli Murray, the first African American woman ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church Pauli Murray; Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day; and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly.  

“All six women illuminate the widespread role of the conscience in American history. Long before the country was founded, Puritan settlers were called up to create a ‘city upon a hill,’ a moral, religious, and political example for the rest of the world. American political culture has thereafter been shaped by appeals to citizens’ consciences,” said Lahr.

“The stories of the women featured in my manuscript reveal the ways that these activists drew on their religious traditions and utilized the cultural power of the conscience to sculpt the nation’s future. As the #MeToo Movement has used new tools to advocate for change in recent years, an examination of how women in the 19th and 20th centuries did the same is important,” she said.

Lahr’s lecture will focus on her manuscript’s conclusion, which addresses the legacies of Grimké Weld, Willard, Wells, Murray, Day and Schlafly on American collective memory.

“Examining the cultural legacies of these women and their roles in American collective memory is a way to connect the past, present, and future,” said Lahr. “Agents of conscience in life, the legacies of these women became sites of collective memory in death, and how Americans remember them reveals the process of multifaceted meaning-making taking place in contemporary society.”

Lahr, who joined the Westminster faculty in 2013, teaches U.S. history and Japanese history. Her research interests include American religious history, the history of the Cold War and women’s history. She is the author of “Millennial Dreams and Apocalyptic Nightmares: The Cold War Origins of Political Evangelicalism.” She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Evansville and holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.

The Henderson Lecture was founded by the late Dr. Joseph R. Henderson and his wife, Elizabeth, to encourage and recognize original and continuing research and scholarship among Westminster College faculty, and to afford the opportunity for faculty to share their learning with the academic community.  Dr. Henderson was a professor of education emeritus at Westminster, having served as chair of the Department of Education and as director of the Graduate Program.

Each year, Westminster faculty members may nominate themselves or others to receive the lectureship, which includes a stipend to support a specific research project.  A faculty committee chooses the winner.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Lahr at 724-946-6246 or