Sunday School


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The Formation of an American Institution, 1790-1880

Anne M. Boylan

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This engrossing book traces the social history of Protestant Sunday schools from their origins in the 1790s—when they taught literacy to poor working children—to their consolidation in the 1870s, when they had become the primary source of new church members for the major Protestant denominations.  Anne M. Boylan describes not only the schools themselves but also their place within a national network of evangelical institutions, their complementary relationship to local common schools, and their connection with the changing history of youth and women in the nineteenth century.  Her book is a signal contribution to our understanding of American religious and social history, education history, women’s history, and the history of childhood. 

"A valuable addition to the growing body of scholarship on American social and cultural history. As a result of her efforts, the Sunday school takes its place among the institutions that helped organize and define the rapidly changing world of the nineteenth century. In crisp and polished prose, Boylan argues that the Sunday school played a major role in uniting and disseminating the ideologies of republicanism and evangelicalism. . . . Firmly rooted in the new social history. She deftly weaves into her story insights derived from recent work on the changing roles of women, attitudes about childhood, challenges to orthodox Calvinism, and the development of middle-class values. . . . One of the most interesting elements of Boylan’s work is the light her study sheds on national debates over states’ rights and slavery. . . . A useful study."—Priscilla J. Brewer, American Historical Review

"In a tightly organized and smoothly written volume, Anne M. Boylan provides a major contribution to the scholarly study of nineteenth-century United States institution building."—Charles E. Quirk, History

"Anne M. Boylan’s finely crafted book should long stand as the definitive work. . . . Writing with commendable clarity, Boylan traces the development of this institution from an English import designed for poor children to a distinctively American operation based on the evangelical assumptions of the Second Great Awakening. . . . This is an important work for historians of religious institutions, education, and childhood."—Peter Gregg Slater, The Journal of Southern History

"Anne M. Boylan provides an excellent analysis of the impact and importance of the Sunday school and suggests a number of significant new interpretations. . . . This valuable study should help place the Sunday school in its proper perspective in the history of nineteenth-century American education."—Natalie A. Naylor, History of Education Quarterly

"[A] gracefully written and very well researched history of the Sunday school. . . . [A] rich feast of well-selected, suggestive, and intelligently handled evidence. . . . The first of its kind, Boylan’s book succeeds admirably in setting out the issues. . . . [It] makes an original, important, and stimulating contribution to the history of institution building in nineteenth-century America."—Joan D. Hedrick, The New England Quarterly

"Anne M. Boylan’s insightful study examines the Sunday school’s meaning and functions in nineteenth-century America, skillfully drawing attention to the unconventional qualities of such a seemingly traditional social project. . . . Sunday School is a major contribution to the study of nineteenth-century religion and reform."—Daniel J. McInerney, The Historian

"In this thoroughly documented study, Anne M. Boylan has recognized that the historical importance of the American Sunday School Union went far beyond the conduct of Sunday instruction. . . . .[A] seasoned and subtle treatment of her topic."—Paul H. Mattingly, Journal of American History

"[An] outstanding treatment of the institution’s place in nineteenth-century America and its interconnections with other benevolent movement of the time."—Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., American Studies International

"An exciting journey through the history of the Sunday School and its cultural and religious influence."—Harold M. Parker, Jr., Presbyterian Survey

"We have needed a book like this. Only a few slim treatises have attempted to coordinate the stories that make up Sunday school history. Boylan . . . has brought these stories together from a vast array of sources."—Christian Century

"[The author offers] compelling evidence . . . for the conclusion that the Sunday school . . . became the primary locale outside the family for religious indoctrination of Protestant youth. . . . [Her] discussion of conflict within the Sunday school movement and between it and the common schools is valuable for understanding of tensions that survive in 20th-century America. . . . Her fine study is enhanced by illustrations, notes, [and] a bibliographical note. . . . This is an important contribution to American religious and social history."—Choice

"Boylan puts the institution in an appropriate perspective. A thoughtful record of the evolution of the national social character."—Booklist

"A valuable history of an institution that still exist-though not in its original role as evangelizer to the nation."—Kirkus Reviews

"Our most substantial, complete, and sophisticated study of the American Protestant Sunday school. It immediately will become the standard treatment of the subject."—Jon Butler, Yale University
ISBN: 9780300048148
Publication Date: July 25, 1990
237 pages, 6 x 9
25 b/w illus.