A journalist's investigation of a Christian Right movement in which women put their fertility in the service of a patriarchal culture war.
In the corners of fundamentalist Christendom across the country, an old ideal of Christian womanhood is being revived. It looks like this: The "biblical" woman wears modest, feminine dress and avoids not only sex but also dating before marriage. She doesn't speak in church, or try to have authority over men. She doesn't work outside the home, but within it she is its tireless center. She is a submissive wife who bolsters her husband in his role as spiritual and earthly leader of the family. She understands that it's her job to keep him sexually satisfied at all times, and that it's her calling as a woman to let those relations result in as many children as God wants to bless her with. She's not the throwback to the fifties summoned in media-stoked "mommy wars" but is a return to something far older.
This Christian patriarchy movement finds its fullest expression in families following what they call the Quiverfull philosophy. Here, in direct and conscious opposition to feminist calls for gender equality and marriage equity, women live within stringently enforced doctrines of wifely submission and male headship. They eschew all contraception in favor of the philosophy of letting God give them as many children as possible - families of twelve or more children that will, they hope, enable them to win the religion and culture wars through demographic means: by reproducing more than other social groups.
Journalist Kathryn Joyce plunged into this world to give readers an intimate view of the patriarchy movement. We meet Nancy Campbell, grandmother to thirty-two and counting, and editor of an internationally distributed magazine that provides guidance for women seeking to be "virtuous" mothers and wives. We are invited into the home of Donna Mauney, an "ex-feminist" homeschooling mom from North Carolina, whose children are more dedicated to the movement than she is. We are also introduced to the aspirations of Doug Phillips, founder of Vision Forum and one of the most influential proponents of the patriarchy movement - aspirations that include a return to the values of sixteenth-century Calvinism, the repeal of women's suffrage, and the cultivation of "virtuous daughterhood": unconditional devotion of a daughter to her father, who serves, quite literally, as her "Lord," until he helps her choose a husband who will then fulfill that role.
"Quiverfull" takes us into the heart of a movement we ignore at our peril, and offers a fascinating examination of the twenty-first-century women and men who proclaim self-sacrifice and submission as model virtues of womanhood - and as warfare on behalf of Christ.