Life, Liberty, and the Practicality of Holiness: A Social Historical Examination of the Life and Work of Ida Bell Robinson

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Theology


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: William Trollinger


The story of Bishop Ida Bell Robinson has important implications for gender discourse in the Black Pentecostal tradition. Here, the first goal is to broaden the existing story of her life and work beyond advocacy for a woman's right to preach. The second goal, in support of the first, is to broaden the existing narrative about the mutually reinforcing relationship between women and the Black sanctified tradition by injecting sociopolitical engagement and economic agency into our understanding of how holiness formed and informed Black religio-racial identity and discursive practice.In so doing, the following will look again at this incredible woman and see how brilliantly she performed three formidable feats. First, to see how Robinson validated her Blackness in a society defined by the negotiations of structural racism. Second, see how she, as "the Bishop" validated her gender within an ecclesial hierarchy vehemently opposed to women in chief positions of religious authority. Lastly, how Ida Robinson validated her class in a social world for whom education, faith, skin tone, and status determined everything from employment opportunities to church membership. Although she had more than a few notable peers, none mastered life, liberty, and the pursuit of holiness quite like Bishop Ida Bell Robinson. Primarily, because Ida Robinson not only preached; she also loosed the women.The following is a social-historical analysis of how Ida Bell Robinson, a black woman, and Holiness-Pentecostal preacher established a Pentecostal organization purposed to empower women to lead mixed gendered congregations and to occupy the highest positions of ecclesial authority and government. It considers the ways Robinson's life and ministry represent how Black Americans and women in American Christianity were trapped in racial and gender hierarchies to demonstrate how Robinson's story highlights how Black Americans and women in American Christianity, during this same era, transgressed such hierarchies to assume a certain level of economic empowerment and social agency.


African Americans, African American Studies, American History, American Studies, Black History, Black Studies, Clergy, Gender, Gender Studies, Religion, Religious Congregations, Religious History, Theology, Ida Bell Robinson, Mout Sinai Holy Church of America, Incorporated

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