Georgia Harkness: A Women’s History Month profile

Georgia Harkness (1891-1974) was a theologian who broke new ground for women in the Methodist church at a time when the pulpits and seminaries were closed to females. Harkness was a voice for racial and gender equality, a prolific author, and her hymns and prayers are still known today. Harkness’ book, What Christians Believe, was rereleased in 2017 by Abingdon Press.

View a new UM Communications video about this persistent pioneer, a barrier-breaking theologian who was ordained decades before women were given full clergy rights in her church.

Told she could not attend the all-male Boston University School of Theology, she instead earned a Ph.D., and then became the first woman to teach theology in an American seminary. Georgia Harkness went on to write 37 books. She notoriously challenged the sexist beliefs of leading theologian Karl Barth but also inspired famous faith leaders like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

quote-the-tendency-to-turn-human-judgments-into-divine-commands-makes-religion-one-of-the-georgia-harkness-73-66-09The Rev. Alfred T. Day, who heads the UMC’s General Commission on Archives and History, says in the video, “She grew to be a pronounced denouncer of racism and unbridled capitalism and the internment of Japanese Americans in internment camps during the Second World War, a great defender of women’s rights, a promoter of women’s ordination and ecumenist in a 60- or 70-year career as probably the most pronounced female theologian of her time.”

A General Board of Higher Education and Ministry scholarship in Georgia Harkness’ name is offered for women seeking a second career in ordained ministry. And in 2016, the UM Publishing House in Nashville, Tenn., named their library for the woman who taught theology in words any church member could understand. Learn more…