This introductory chapter sets out the focus of the book, namely the history of the persistence of female preaching in nineteenth-century British Methodism. It suggests that by far the majority of Methodist women preachers were not seeking power or even equality, but rather they were following their call to speak. It provides answers to the reasons why the New Connexion—the first Methodist secessionist sect—despite its connection with radical politics and egalitarian ethos, failed to make use of women evangelists, when a few years later the Primitive Methodists embraced them. Among the smaller sects, it examines the differences between Arminian and Tent Methodism that led the former to welcome female evangelists and the latter to maintain an all-male cohort of preachers. These differences add complexity to the larger patterns in nineteenth-century women's ministry and illustrate the importance of the particular contexts of decision-making within Methodism. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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