Literature as Pulpit
The Christian Social Activism of Nellie L. McClung
Nellie L. McClung (1873-1951) was an internationally celebrated feminist and social activist whose success as a platform speaker was legendary. Her earliest notoriety was achieved as a writer, and during her lengthy career she authored four novels, two novellas, three collections of short stories, a two-volume autobiography and various collections of speeches, articles and wartime writing, to a total of sixteen volumes. All this served as a “pulpit” from which McClung could preach her gospel of feminist activism and social transformation. She was convinced that God’s intention for Creation was a “Fair Deal” for everyone; and that Canada, particularly the prairie West, was a perfect place to begin to bring that about.
Woman suffrage, temperance and the ordination of women were keystones in the battle — engaged, in contrast to contemporary stereotypes, with a wit and compelling humour that won over enemies as it delighted her allies. Literature as Pulpit explores Nellie McClung’s vision of a “better world,” and the impediments to it, as expressed through her novels and her feminist “tract,” In Times Like These. It addresses the profoundly anti-feminist context within which McClung was forced to make her arguments, and notes her indebtedness to other feminist writers and thinkers of her day. Throughout, McClung’s religion of “active care” emerges as a consistent and harmonizing theme which integrates her feminism and social activism into a single empowering vision for social change.