Women’s Leadership in the Early Church: Possibilities and Pushbacks

  • L. Stephanie Cobb
Part of the Jepson Studies in Leadership book series (JSL)


During the summer of 2010, I studied with 15 other scholars in Tunisia, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. We studied two early Christian texts from North Africa: The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas and Augustine’s Confessions. Although I was excited about traveling to Carthage, I was also nervous. My concerns were partially related to dress. One guidebook gave this advice, “A woman entering a mosque should be covered from her neck to her ankles and wrists; she should also cover her hair and wear a skirt, not trousers, and baggy rather than tight clothes… Women will find that following this dress code on the street will reduce sexual harassment, and make it easier to appeal for support from passers-by if it does occur” (Jacobs 2009, 50). This guidebook underscores the probabilities of sexual harassment by suggesting that female readers learn the Arabic word shooma [“shame on you”] so they can shout this at any man making unwanted advances. Another guidebook states succinctly that women “should keep their arms and legs covered” (Hole et al. 2007, 36). Thus the only authoritative voices I had access to before my trip—my guidebooks—suggested that dressing modestly was not enough; women must be covered from head to foot or risk harassment.


Sexual Harassment Critical Edition Spiritual Leadership Authoritative Text Feminine Form 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© L. Stephanie Cobb 2016

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