- Journal of SD History
"Starved and Treated Like Convicts"
Images of Women in Point Loma Theosophy
The headline on page one of the October 28, 1901 Los Angeles Times said it all: "Outrages at Point Loma; Exposed by an 'Escape' from Tingley. Startling Tales told in this City. Women and Children Starved and Treated Like Convicts. Thrilling Rescue."1 In thrilling detail a woman living at the Theosophical commune near San Diego, California recounted that she had been forced to work in fields "like a convict" and had been locked in a cell like a "raving maniac." She reported that wives were separated from their husbands and children from their parents and then forbidden to speak, isolated, and starved. At night in the "spookery" residents strutted in their nightclothes and engaged in "gross immoralities." The woman had been dramatically rescued to tell her story.2
The leader of the Point Loma community, Katherine Tingley, immediately filed a lawsuit against the newspaper, alleging the story was "false, malicious, libelous and untrue." She declared that Point Loma was a loving family, in which residents worked voluntarily, spouses lived together, and children were cherished. At the trial, the Times was unable to substantiate its claims, and Tingley won her case, although the jury awarded her a considerably lower sum for damages than she had requested.3
Whether or not these charges were true, they indicate a depth of antagonism toward the Point Loma Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society Homestead, popularly known as Lomaland.4 Established by Katherine Tingley in 1897 on the site of what is today Point Loma Nazarene College, Lomaland was the only successful Theosophical commune in the United States and hailed as a community where individuals discovered their unique essence regardless of sex. Women outnumbered men sixty to forty percent.5 Yet despite (or because of) its female leadership and numerical dominance, women's treatment was disputed throughout its existence. Were these charges fabricated to discredit a female-led religious movement? Did Tingley challenge or reinforce dominant gender ideologies? Who were the women attracted to Point Loma and what were their roles?
The roles and treatment of women at Point Loma emerged from a complex interplay of four ingredients: (1) notions of femininity in Theosophical beliefs, (2) Tingley's personality and leadership, (3) the division of labor in the community, and (4) representations of femaleness in Point Loma art and architecture. These four aspects of Lomaland's construction of womanhood reveal two countervailing impulses: one toward egalitarianism and gender-blindness, the other toward hierarchy and gender-exclusiveness. These impulses were also prevalent in wider American cultural gender ideologies of the day. Women were attracted to Point Loma precisely because these opposing femininities mirrored tensions in their own lives.
Femininity in Theosophical Beliefs
Gender has played a significant role in Theosophy, ever since the 1874 meeting of founders Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott. In the time-honored tradition of woman-engineered encounters, she held out a cigar, and he rushed to light it for her. After establishing the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875, the mystical Russian with the hypnotic eyes and the New Jersey-born social reformer-of-all-trades became known as the Theosophical Twins, alternately friend and foe (Olcott vigorously denied numerous rumors that they were lovers). After travelling to India in 1878, Blavatsky (or "HPB" as her followers referred to her) and Olcott articulated the aims of the Society: (1) to advocate the "Universal Brotherhood of Humanity," (2) to promote comparative study of the world's religions, and (3) to investigate psychic phenomena. They preached Theosophy as a universal religion, embracing and replacing the world's religions. HPB claimed to have recovered a tradition of ancient wisdom, a "secret doctrine" which she had received through direct communication with eastern "mahatmas," spirits who had attained enlightenment through reincarnation. Blending eastern mysticism and western occultism, it attracted prominent Americans such as Thomas A. Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb, and Abner Doubleday, baseball pioneer.
Historian Stephen Prothero has persuasively argued that Olcott and HPB had differing conceptions of the Society, both of which became embedded in it. Olcott envisioned it as a social reform society, committed to scientific investigation and democratic process, while HPB saw it as a secret society, esoteric, hierarchical, and concerned with individual rather than societal change. Before HPB's death in 1891, she and Olcott reached an unsatisfactory truce in which as president of the Society he promoted reform and she created a clandestine Esoteric Section for study of the occult.6 These opposing tendencies also impacted Theosophical notions of womanhood. After Olcott, one challenged prevailing notions of femininity by promoting the irrelevance of gender and the essential similarity of women and men. The other reinforced prevailing gender norms by magnifying the differences between women and men. Both were manifest in Theosophical doctrine.
Prevailing gender norms at the end of the nineteenth century depicted the ideal woman as pure, passive, and chaste, emotional, nurturing, and domestic, and spiritual, intuitive, and moral: a sort of Miss America, Martha Stewart, and Mother Teresa rolled into one.7 Some Theosophists rejected this ideal in favor of an essential sameness of women and men due to Theosophical understandings of deity, karma, and reincarnation.
The Theosophical God was immanent, transcendent, sexless, and impersonal.8 Theosophists believed in "evolutionary monism," a harmonial spirituality stressing cosmic balance and interconnectedness.9 As citizens of the cosmos, humans were connected to every atom in the universe and throbbed with divine potential. Consciousness of the divine Absolute was available to all regardless of sex. In Theosophy's optimistic assessment of human nature, people embodied the wisdom of nature and the ages. Therefore, there was no human depravity and no fall.
Karma and reincarnation "promised women an escape from gender."10 Karma provided spiritual reasons for the circumstances of one's life, individuals sow and reap the consequences of their actions in this life and past ones. Theosophists believed that souls were reincarnated as both males and females. Women could anticipate being reborn as a man in another life and be redressed for wrongs they received in this one. According to Katherine Tingley, through karma and reincarnation, Theosophists "attract the attention of humanity to a consciousness of the essential divinity."11 Moreover, "if men and women could work together as one great universal body towards this end they would be creators of a new order of ages, a Universal Religion verily -- a true Brotherhood of Man."12 Historian Diana Burfield concludes that with these beliefs, Theosophy "provides a theoretical legitimation at the highest cosmological level for mundane notions of equality between the sexes."13
For other Theosophists, Theosophical doctrine buttressed the cultural status quo of female distinctiveness. In 1915, Tingley declared, "I believe in the equality of the sexes, but I hold that man has a mission and that woman has also a mission, and that these missions are not the same; the difference is due in part to lines of evolution."14 One difference to Tingley was that woman "is more mystical than man, she lives more in the heart. Her emotional nature, however, becomes a source of weakness if not governed accordingly."15 Women's superlative spirituality and moral superiority were nurtured through ancient religious symbols of the mother goddess.
Therefore, woman possessed a unique cosmic mission. Again according to Tingley, if a woman is to "reach the dignity of ideal womanhood, she must cultivate her femininity. She was born a woman and she must be a woman in the truest sense; and the contrast between men and women exists in life."16 Then, "when woman finds her true place in life, man will find his. When woman realizes the true power of motherhood and its responsibilities, then man will also awaken to his duties in this connexion."17 Historian Mary Farrell Bednarowski sums it up: Theosophy "had as its basis a belief in the need for the balance of the masculine and feminine principles in the cosmos and an adulation of the Mother Goddess."18
These understandings of woman's essential similarity to or difference from man were not necessarily irreconcilable, and both attracted women to Theosophy. And they were not the only factors in recruitment. Historians Catherine Wessinger, Robert Ellwood, Mary Farrell Bednarowski, and James Santucci have named a number of sociological factors that predisposed women to Theosophy and Point Loma: (1) substantive intellectual abilities, (2) unhappy or unfulfilling marriages, (3) middle- or upper-class socioeconomic status; (4) previous affiliation with an organized religion, especially Christianity, Judaism, or Spiritualism, and (5) a personal relationship with a Theosophist.19
Additionally, Ellwood has painted a psychological portrait of women likely to become Theosophists. They are women "who, despite some apparent advantages, are never quite sure where they stand, what invisible doors might be closed, and how what they are fits with how they are perceived."20 These women "do not look marginal, but who in some inner dimension of their being, experience themselves as precisely that," because of "pressures relating to status inconsistency, or it may be due to an inner sense of difference, rooted in personal autobiography."21 Theosophy appealed to a segment of white, middle-class, intellectual women who sought spiritual power, usefulness in the world, and greater control over their lives. Since the Theosophical Society had no ordained ministry, it opened leadership opportunities to women, "[allowing] its women and men leaders alike to travel the world lecturing and organizing. In it, women no less than men rose to the highest positions of responsibility."22
Katherine Tingley's Personality and Leadership
Apparent from the foregoing, Katherine Tingley straddled the Theosophical fence, endorsing conceptions of woman as both essentially the same as man and essentially unique. At times her double-mindedness appeared in the same sentence: "Men and women have come from the same source, are seeking the same goal, are a part of the great universal life, are guided by the universal laws of being -- each one of the two in place: the woman in her place, the man in his, the outward aspects different, with duties different, but the heart-hunger the same, and the spiritual will the same."23 This dualism was apparent as well in her life and leadership of Point Loma.24
Katherine Tingley was born in 1847 in Newbury, Massachusetts into a family of Puritan lineage. Her father was a merchant, hotelkeeper, and city marshall. During the Civil War, she lived in Alexandria, Virginia and briefly attended convent school in Montreal. In the 1870s, little is known of her activities; reportedly she travelled with a theatrical company as an actress. After two unhappy marriages, she wed her third husband Philo Tingley in 1888. He played no role in her career, and the two lived separately for more than twenty years. Unsurprisingly, they had no children.
By the 1880s, Tingley was a Spiritualist and social reformer in New York City, often giving mediumistic readings to support her causes. She founded the Ladies Society of Mercy in 1887 to visit prisons and hospitals, the Emergency Society in 1891 to aid the poor, and the Do-Good Mission in 1892 to feed and clothe families of striking factory workers. While working there in the winter of 1892-93, she met William Q. Judge, general secretary of the American Section of the Theosophical Society. In 1895 the American Section seceded from the larger international society in a dispute over leadership after HPB's death, and Judge became the head of the new Theosophical Society in America. Tingley was attracted by Judge's charisma, the ideal of "Universal Brotherhood," and the karmic explanation for suffering and its end. To her, Theosophy was a vehicle for philanthropy.
When Judge died in 1896, Tingley succeeded him as head of the TSA, although she had only been a member a few years, by convincing key leaders that she channeled Judge and that he had named her as his successor. Once officially installed, she moved quickly to consolidate her power. She streamlined the organization, making it more centralized and autocratic, and renamed it the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society. She titled herself "Leader and Official Head" for life and empowered herself alone to appoint officers of the Society, approve all amendments to the constitution, and call constitutional congresses. Over the next decade she closed most Society lodges across the country and concentrated its work at its new headquarters at Point Loma. She envisioned a utopian community there, what she called the White City and School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity.
The cornerstone for Lomaland was laid in 1897, and Tingley and other residents began living there in 1899.35 They built a worship structure called the Temple of Peace or Aryan Temple, residential facility known as the Homestead, and a school called the Raja Yoga Academy. Under her energetic leadership, Lomaland became a regional center for the arts. Tingley loved ritual, and the community staged elaborate pageants that echoed ancient mystery religions, at least late Victorian versions of them. Raja Yoga students formed an orchestra in 1905 and performed weekly concerts. The Amphitheater at Point Loma was the first open-air Greek theater in the United States. Greek and Shakespearean dramas, including As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and Midsummer Night's Dream, received favorable reviews in the San Diego newspapers. Open to the public, these productions nurtured positive public relations with San Diegans and encouraged them to visit Point Loma. Renowned for the beauty of its architecture and gardens, it became a popular picnicking spot. Tingley bought the Fisher Opera House in downtown San Diego, renamed it the Isis Theater, and expanded her program of drama, concerts, and Theosophical lectures. According to historian Dennis Berge, Point Loma brought an "aura of Camelot" to San Diego.26
Tingley also galvanized Lomaland for social reform. She established the International Brotherhood League in 1897, the Sisters of Compassion in 1898, and the International Theosophical Peace Congress in 1913. She organized relief work for soldiers and Cuban refugees after the Spanish-American War. She supported children's education, aid to the destitute, and opposed vivisection, capital punishment, and war. Through her vision and enthusiasm, Point Loma became a southern California tourist destination long before Disneyland and the Crystal Cathedral. During its heyday in the 1910s and 1920s, tours were regularly conducted of the Homestead and Temple. Visitors were treated to a musical program, brief orientation to Theosophy, and visit to the gift shop run by the Women's Exchange and Mart to purchase books and souvenirs, all for a nominal ten-cent admission fee.27
Lomaland also attracted residents. Census figures indicate that from a population of 95 in 1900, the community grew to 357 in 1910 and declined only slightly in 1920 to 320.28 At its height in the 1910s, five hundred adults and children lived in the community.29 Most adult residents were white, educated, and middle- or upper-middle class, and most were Theosophists prior to relocating to Point Loma. Many were unmarried and/or childless. They included Albert G. Spalding, sporting goods magnate; Clark Thurston, president of the American Screw Company; Iverson Harris, a successful attorney from Macon, Georgia; and August Neresheimer, a New York diamond broker who bankrolled much of the enterprise. Gertrude Van Pelt left a career as a physician to live at Point Loma, and Sara Levy was a schoolteacher. These professionals often continued their work at Lomaland, but received only subsistence wages for their labor. Several lived on inherited or previously earned wealth.
As donors died or became disenchanted, the community began to decline.30 Expenses were high, and the community was often in debt. Tingley's sudden death in 1929, from injuries received in a car crash, and the stock market crash were devastating blows. She was succeeded by Tingley disciple and longtime Point Loma resident Gottfried de Purucker. He inaugurated sweeping changes to try to resuscitate the community. He changed the name from Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society back to simply the Theosophical Society, and he revived local lodges across the country that had languished during Tingley's tenure. A more liberal constitution was passed at Lomaland and the austere lifestyle eased. De Purucker lifted the rule of silence in the Raja Yoga Academy and stopped requiring students and residents to wear uniforms. Expenses were drastically cut, concerts became infrequent, and pageantry and drama ceased all together.
These efforts to save Lomaland failed. In 1941 only 130 residents remained; of these, more than half were over sixty and a third older than seventy.31 That year the property was foreclosed and the community moved to Covina near Los Angeles. Besides foreclosure, a second reason given for the move was that activity at the nearby Naval Training Center had intensified in anticipation of U.S. entry into World War II, and de Purucker feared for the security of residents. But a more significant problem than finances or local military build-up was that Lomaland had not adapted to changing times. Its pageantry, philanthropy, esotericism, and austerity seemed archaic as the twenties roared and the thirties collapsed. In Covina in 1942 the residential community dissolved, and in 1951 the Society moved to Altadena, where it still maintains administrative offices and a library.
Point Loma's strength (and perhaps its weakness) unquestionably rested on Tingley's autocratic leadership. She made all major decisions in the community and most minor ones. She determined residents' jobs and their living arrangements. Her decisions were often based on the individual's wealth and loyalty to her. One of the finest residences in Lomaland, for example, was built for the very wealthy Albert Spalding, who was not a devout Theosophist, and his wife Elizabeth, who was.32 Tingley did not hesitate to intervene in personal relationships among residents, usually to try to prevent divorce. Despite two divorces and bicoastal relationship with her third husband, Tingley strongly supported marriage. Although she usually counselled women to remain with their husbands, in the 1901 case of Grace and John Bohn, she threw her weight behind Grace's decision to leave her abusive husband and offered her communal and financial support after she lost custody of her children.33 In another case, when Fritz Darrow fell in love with another community member, Alice Pierce, in 1916, although he was already married to May Darrow, Tingley once again intervened. Although Tingley, May, and Alice (who definitely did not return Fritz's overwrought affections) tried to persuade him to remain with his wife, he refused to stop pursuing Alice and was forced to depart the community.34 Due to these widely publicized cases, Tingley gained an unjust reputation as a home-wrecker.35
Tingley also used her authority to influence national and international Theosophical developments. Throughout her career she conflicted with Theosophists from whom William Q. Judge had separated in 1895, by now headquartered in Adyar, India and led by British citizen Annie Besant. In 1902 Tingley became convinced that the Adyar group was trying to sabotage her authority by encouraging an investigation of Point Loma's treatment of children. She decided to retaliate. Her opportunity came when she discovered that the leader of the American branch of the Adyar group, Alexander Fullerton, was homosexual and had had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy. In a response worthy of 1990s presidential politics, she reported Fullerton to the authorities. He was adjudged insane and committed to an asylum, and the Adyar group was widely discredited.36 This woman played hardball.
Understandably, assessments of Tingley's leadership varied. On the one hand, she had enthusiastic supporters. Lomaland resident Iverson Harris, Sr., asked before his move there, "Do you not feel the impression of the grand thoughts and ideas which flash from her scintillating mind, do you not feel the force as it comes from the sparkle and radiance of her eyes?"37 His son and Raja Yoga alumnus Iverson, Jr. remembered her as a "very vivacious, lovable, middle-aged lady," "an organizer and a boss" who "had much about her that was inspirational."38 In addition to her charisma, Tingley was admired for her manly qualities. She was assertive and commanding, able to persuade successful businessmen like Spalding and Neresheimer to follow her. A "forceful, innovative, and sometimes mysterious woman," she "brought a combination of pragmatism, dedication, administrative skill, and a sense of the theatric into the leadership of the Point Loma community."39
On the other hand, Tingley had vehement detractors. Evident in the lawsuit-sparking Los Angeles Times story, she was regarded as a diabolical guru and ambitious dictator outside Lomaland. Along with the press, who disparagingly nicknamed her the "Purple Mother" for her fondness for the color, she frequently antagonized local clergy with negative remarks about Christianity. She reportedly held disciples such as Neresheimer as virtual slaves and had a "fierce maternal grip on the affections of her other followers."40 She "brooked no opposition within the community, often imposing unpopular rules on a whim."41 Toward the end of her life, she "tyrannised over her own intimates while making them take responsibility for her follies" and forced them to participate in rituals of self-glorification.42
At least some of this negative evaluation was due to Tingley's sex. The confidence and decisiveness that were praiseworthy qualities in a male leader were condemned in her as unfeminine. The traits that made her successful were precisely those that earned her opprobrium. Historian Penny Waterstone argues that she was aware of this double standard and used it to her advantage. According to Waterstone, Tingley "quite skillfully created a public image that emphasized her reluctant acceptance of the role of leader and her personal self-sacrifice," promoting an "image of an essentially private woman who was chosen to serve humanity, without pay and without any desire for public notoriety."43 She thus exploited assumptions that women were passive and retiring to become an aggressive and forceful leader.
Tingley combined both equality and elitism in her style of leadership. Her vision of social reform was remarkably inclusive; she was particularly concerned with the marginalized, such as refugees, unwed mothers, and the incarcerated. She sought to improve the lives of all Point Loma residents regardless of race, class, or sex. At the same time, she was an authoritarian leader who did not share decision-making power outside her inner circle, most of whom were men. Arrogating power to herself, she regarded loyalty to her as more important than commitment to Theosophy and Lomaland.
Divisions of labor at Lomaland
Gender-blind and gender-exclusive impulses were evident in divisions of labor at Point Loma. Labor at Lomaland was remarkably diverse. A number of cottage industries were attempted, including bee farming, blacksmithing, carpentry, cloth dying and weaving, and a printing press.44 The most successful industry was the last; the Aryan Theosophical Press (later Theosophical University Press) published books, pamphlets, broadsides, and periodicals, including Century Path, Theosophical Path, El Sendero Teosofico, and a children's magazine Raja Yoga Messenger. Point Loma presses also created graphic arts and the first linotype Sanskrit printing in the United States.
These endeavors were collectively owned and operated. Most of the community's food, and all of its clothing and printing were produced there. Moreover, the Women's Exchange and Mart manufactured handcrafts to sell for profit, including raffia, reedwork, decorative netting, embroidery, tooled leather, painted china, batik, and tie-dying. The WEM also created costumes for community pageants and clothing for all residents, simple dresses for women and military uniforms for men. Although women and men participated in all these industries, their involvement was gender-segregated. Men operated the printing press, smith, and carpentry, while women managed dying, weaving, and the bees. As evident in the name, men were not involved in the Women's Exchange and Mart.
Most domestic labor at Point Loma was communal, including cooking, laundry, sewing, and child care. Virtually the only labor for which individual residents were responsible was cleaning their own apartments or bungalows. Lomaland was progressive, even proto-feminist, in collectivizing traditionally female housework. Women were freed from supervising individual households, managing servants, and other late Victorian middle-class hassles. Some women loved the system. One commented to a journalist in 1907: "'You don't know what it means...to escape all cares of the kitchen and of servants. It is heavenly! And there is nothing to equal it in making free women!"45 This freedom was fleeting, however, since women were now responsible for both collective and individual domestic chores. Women cooked, cleaned, sewed, and laundered for the entire community. These expanded labors were divided among more women, but drudgery was multiplied on a larger scale. The bottom line was that the time women spent in labor did not appreciably change, men did not participate.
In addition to operating cottage industries at Point Loma, men did participate in the governance of the community. They supervised building projects and administered finances. Nearly all Cabinet members were men and all officers of the Universal Brotherhood Organization, with the exception of Tingley. Given her unlimited authority, it is difficult to determine how much power these men actually had. Yet they did garner certain privileges denied to women, such as time for study and access to Tingley. Women did hold some leadership positions deemed appropriate for their work: they headed Raja Yoga Academy and directed the Women's Exchange and Mart.46 And although a woman, Tingley's activities differed from those of other women. While a few Raja Yoga students recalled learning how to baste a roast goose from Tingley, she seldom participated in the domestic management of the community. She spent her days writing, answering correspondence, supervising community business, fund-raising, lecturing, and filing lawsuits.47
The gender-exclusive division of labor at Point Loma was founded on the principle that woman's domain was the home. Tingley sought to nurture the complementary characteristics of women and men, cultivating their distinctive spiritual natures. Men were active in the world. Woman's place was in the home, and Lomaland was a big home. Future resident Rose Winkler wrote in 1898 that Theosophy "teaches the true woman to make of the home a sacred place--the place of Peace, a vestal temple of the hearth watched over by household gods--and that her office and dignity, place and power, as I understand it, is in the home."48
The Raja Yoga Academy also combined gender-blindness and -exclusiveness. Meaning "royal union," signifying integration of the individual and the Absolute, Raja Yoga sought to educate the whole person, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.49 Curbing base human instincts such as greed and selfishness, Raja Yoga aimed to nurture the individual's unique inner genius regardless of sex. Beginning in 1900 with five students, the school enrolled a high of three hundred in 1910.50 Boys and girls followed identical academic curricula, for its time a remarkable educational advance. Classroom instruction was given in the usual subjects of the era: literature, grammar, poetry, mathematics, science, art, and modern languages. In addition, students did calisthenics, worked in the community garden, and learned music and drama. To become well rounded individuals, students were required to participate in all activities regardless of skill. Instruction was co-educational until pre-adolescence, when girls and boys were separated except for chorus and orchestra. Raja Yoga alumnus Iverson Harris, Jr. remembered, "when we got to be dangerous teenagers, we were kept pretty much apart."51
The most controversial aspect of the Raja Yoga system was that children lived apart from their parents.52 By the age of six months, infants were taken to live in a communal nursery. Thereafter parents were allowed to visit their children two to three hours every Sunday afternoon. Breastfeeding was deemed unhealthy, and was forbidden. Children began observing Academy classes as early as eighteen months and attending at three. When they outgrew the nursery, children lived in group homes, segregated by gender, supervised by female teachers who acted as surrogate mothers. This practice was condemned as unnatural by outsiders to the community, although all commented that the children were healthy and happy. Tingley defended it as the highest expression of mother-love and family-union. Parents who complied were criticized by others and felt anguish themselves. Alfred Robinson and his wife brought their daughter Larona to the nursery at six months because they believed so fervently in Tingley's methods. He reported that they "stifled the ache at their hearts with the thought that it sprung from selfishness."53
Besides separation of children from their parents, other aspects of Raja Yoga were attacked by outsiders. In 1902 the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children investigated Point Loma before permitting the emigration of Cuban children. Tingley was accused of calling herself a second Christ and her dog "The Purple Inspiration," teaching that plants marry and have babies, requiring children to stand and salute her when she entered the room, and forbidding them from expressing dislike of the school.54 She was vindicated by inspectors, and the children were allowed to live at Point Loma. Initially they lived separately from other children; Tingley stated she wanted to nurture distinctive ethnic traits. Observers also criticized Raja Yoga's atmosphere as repressive. Discipline was military: strict and swift. Children wore uniforms, marched to classes, and saluted their teachers. They sat rigidly upright during classes and meals. They maintained silence at all times except for necessary conversation. Tingley believed that silence nurtured the soul.55 To others, the practice verged on cruel.
The most obvious gender-exclusiveness in Raja Yoga was vocational education. Boys learned horticulture and worked at the printing press. Girls received instruction in cooking, spinning silk, and child-care. After Raja Yoga training, many young women found employment as servants, cooks, and domestic workers. In 1919 so many students had graduated from the Raja Yoga Academy to warrant establishing a Theosophical University chartered by the state of California. However, Tingley's attempts to found schools in Sweden, Cuba, Germany, Minnesota, and Massachusetts were unsuccessful. Raja Yoga provided basic academic and vocational education, but failed to achieve Tingley's lofty vision of teaching children "to aspire to the position of national benefactors, teachers and helpers, and so to become exponents of the truest and wisest patriotism."56
Attitudes toward sex at Point Loma were uniformly gender-blind, while those toward woman suffrage were distinctly gender-exclusive. Both were conservative. No Free Lover, Tingley tirelessly enforced her vision of sexual morality in the community and sought to preserve public perceptions of it. Her ideal was passionlessness, pruning one's bodily urges to enable the soul to flourish. She advocated celibacy for unmarried people, both male and female, and encouraged periodic abstinence during marriage for spiritual refreshment. Extramarital relationships were categorically forbidden. To Tingley, excessive libido was spiritually dangerous. Doing the wild thing might lead to retro-evolution, being reincarnated as an earthworm (or worse, a religious historian).
Tingley opposed the double standard: the same morality applied to women and men. Iverson Harris, Jr. called her "a Puritan," commenting that her
standards as regards promiscuity and any association between the sexes would be considered very square today. But she was going to keep Point Loma above reproach in that regard and she did. I mean to say in our teens, we boys could perhaps meet the girls at a supervised social once a month, something of that kind, otherwise we had to admire them at a distance.57
However, she promulgated the single standard for different reasons. Men must learn to suppress their base instincts, while women must prepare to become mothers. Thus, Lomaland girls were reported to "have that purity which is virtue's impregnable support and shield...In their hearts has been awakened a deep and undying love for all that lives, a tender and compassionate regard for all others."58
Protecting motherhood was also Tingley's motive for opposing woman suffrage. She believed that woman's spiritual superiority elevated her above sordid politics.59 To allow her to vote would debase her natural intuition and maternalism. Woman's sacred work was not the public arena, but in the home. There she served as a role model for her husband and children and used her powers of persuasion to urge them to act morally.60 Yet while Tingley and Point Loma spokespeople opposed it, many residents privately endorsed woman suffrage. Historians Wessinger and Ellwood comment that while Theosophy "as a whole has not promoted any particular feminist program," it "has consistently affirmed and practiced gender equality, and has provided a spiritual home for many actively feminist women."61
Gender-blindness and -exclusivity in divisions of labor and attitudes toward sexuality and suffrage at Point Loma indicate that women and men were considered naturally different and complementary. Women supplied what men lacked, and vice versa. According to historian Ashcraft, the ideal Point Loma woman was "intuitive, attuned to her emotions, maternal, committed to making the home a place of rest and growth, and necessary for humanity's future spiritual advance."62 Teaching morality, modeling compassion, serving others selflessly, and maintaining a pure home were her duties. These values were explicitly preached at Point Loma. In 1901 a public program was held on the subject "True Womanhood" at the Fisher Opera House. Conducted by the Daughters of Lomaland, it featured musical performances and lectures on "Woman in the Home Life," "Woman's Relation to Posterity," and "The Divinity of Womanhood."63 In 1906 Tingley founded the Woman's International Theosophical League as a forum for discussion of femininity. Ironically, Tingley hailed wife and motherhood as woman's highest spiritual calling, while she herself had no children, was divorced twice, and lived separately from her third husband.
Representations of femaleness in Lomaland art and architecture
Insofar as essential similarity to and distinctiveness from men characterized images of femininity in Theosophical doctrine, that equality and elitism were prominent dynamics in Katherine Tingley's leadership, and that gender-blindness and -exclusiveness distinguished the division of labor at Lomaland, it is unsurprising that this dualism also manifested itself in Lomaland's material culture. Point Loma's architecture and grounds expressed Tingley's notions of femininity. She envisioned a utopia with breathtaking scenery, graceful architecture, bright colors, and exotic vegetation: a total experience that would overwhelm the senses with beauty. Her vision was realized at Lomaland. There are two stories about how Tingley discovered the property. One is that as a young girl she had a dream of a white city she would establish in the golden West. At the second inauguration of Ulysses Grant, as the story goes, she described her childhood dream to General John Fremont, who replied that he knew the place, Point Loma.64 The second story is more prosaic: as Tingley was consolidating her power as head of the Society, she asked August Neresheimer to purchase property for her and described a windswept hill above the Pacific Ocean. After some negotiation, Neresheimer closed the deal for the site.65 What is striking about both stories is their drama and vividness, sensitivities ascribed to Victorian women. Lomaland's architecture was equally dramatic, even fanciful. Believing that universal religion should be reflected in universal architecture, Tingley wanted buildings based on classical architecture. Visitors were welcomed through the Egyptian gate, and dramatic performances were held at the Greek amphitheater. The two public buildings at Lomaland, the Temple and the Homestead were Muslim-like temples, replete with arches and glass domes. The Homestead was topped with an aquamarine dome, and the Temple, amethyst. These domes invite associations with female breasts; they have a post-implant quality in contrast to phallic spires, obelisks, and (what we have so many of in downtown San Diego today) the skyscraper. At night both domes were illuminated and could be seen for miles. Casting a magical glow, they symbolized the warmth of woman's truth, in contrast to cold masculine rationality. The domes proclaimed that Lomaland was a new kind of home, based not on biological bonds, but on hearts united in commitment to the community and Tingley. The grounds, smaller buildings, and interior furnishings were likewise sensuous and feminine. Colorful and redolent vegetation from all over the world was planted at Point Loma, and gardens flourished. Residents cultivated citrus fruit, avocado, corn, lettuce, cauliflower, and onions. A specially designed irrigation system watered the fields. By 1910 the community grew half the fresh produce eaten there. Along with the Homestead, one-story bungalows with windows and verandas served as community residences. Many had canvas roofs, not only reducing building costs and increasing ventilation, but also creating a tent-like, romantic atmosphere. Interior furnishings reflected sensitivity to beauty and connection to nature. Vines entwined the backs of chairs. Fantasy lilies formed the base for stools. Palm fronds reached out from screens. Attention was lavished on every detail. Tingley's apartment was furnished with expensive paintings, oriental rugs, and sculpture.66 Hollywood may have been a hundred miles to the north, but Lomaland had a distinctly theatrical aura.
And like Hollywood, it also possessed a superficial quality. The majestic Temple and Homestead were constructed of wood painted to look like marble. The domes on both buildings leaked, and during San Diego's infrequent rainstorms, their rotundas were sodden and unusable. Nonetheless, Lomaland architecture aspired to the integration of form and function, the aesthetic development of residents, and art as sacrament. According to historian Waterstone, Point Loma was a "Victorian middle class paradise based on the gendered virtues of (manly) self-control and (womanly) self-sacrifice."67
Point Loma also developed a unique artistic style. Artists were attracted to the community' for its scenic site, mystical theology, and the support they received. Artistic accomplishment was encouraged in both amateurs and professionals. Point Loma artists filled one or more of the following roles: (l) those who worked full-time creating art for the community and gifts for Tingley; (2) those who produced crafts for sale at the Women's Exchange and Mart; (3) teachers at the Raja Yoga Academy, who instructed students in woodwork, printing, drawing, and sculpture, and (4) residents with artistic interest and inclination who worked in other areas of the community but were encouraged to create art as time permitted. Of these groups, the full time artists were primarily men, the craftspeople and teachers primarily women, and the community artists divided between them. Women taught drawing, while men taught woodcarving, printing, and bookbinding. A number of community artists had been trained in Europe prior to moving to Point Loma. Several exhibited their work at the Panama California Exposition in San Diego in 1915.68
A distinctive Point Loma Art School emerged, according to Bruce Kamerling, longtime curator of collections at the San Diego History Center, shaped by Theosophical principles and Symbolist art. "By using rhythms, colors, and symbols," Point Loma art "created visual images that conveyed ideas, emotions and moods far above the obvious level of what was actually being depicted. It was an art that appealed to those who wished to remove themselves from the materialism and boredom of everyday life, and seek a higher level of consciousness."69 Artists at Lomaland reflected international Symbolist trends in the 1910s and 1920s, but although modernism became popular, Symbolism persisted at Point Loma into the 1930s. Not only were Lomaland artists committed to expressing mystical ideas through Symbolism, but they were isolated from the international art scene.
There was clearly an elitist aspect of Point Loma Symbolism. To appreciate the art, one had to have extensive knowledge of the symbol systems depicted. It conveyed meaning to those who possessed the necessary gnosis and aroused the curiosity of those who lacked it. Point Loma Symbolism revealed spiritual truths and stimulated the viewer's divine powers. Art was for humanity's sake. Thematically, Lomaland artists portrayed the community itself and its setting, imaginary landscapes, and dreamy sun and moon rises. Nature revealed divine truths' designed to be apprehended imaginatively and intuitively. According to Kamerling, Point Loma artists "attempted to capture the invisible, but somehow still noticeable, aspects of whatever they were depicting. It is this ethereal quality that makes their art so memorable.70
Two works by a male artist depicting female and male figures are worthy of analysis. Reginald Machell, born in England and trained as an artist in Paris, carved furniture and screens and created didactic paintings. He carved the doors to the Temple of Peace which portray an ideal male and female, the apex of evolutionary development. In some ways the figures are very similar. They are the same height and build. Their Indo-European facial features are virtually identical. Halos of natural vegetation rest above their heads. At the same time there are distinct differences between them representing ideal feminine and masculine qualities. The man is dressed in medieval armor representing strength and aggressiveness. His horned helmet and sword suggest courage, not to mention sexual potency. A dog lies at his feet symbolizing loyalty. The woman's flowing robes suggest softness and sensuality; they hint at ancient Greek mysteries. She holds a key symbolizing knowledge. Lilies grow at her feet and a wreath of flowers encircles her brow, both representing purity.
Reginald Machell's painting, "The Path," graced the cover of the Point Loma-published magazine The Theosophical Path for many years. Both female and male figures are depicted. Winged Isis, the Mother Goddess is portrayed at the top of the painting. The central figure is a male initiate who aspires to the heart of Absolute Truth. On the right side, two women climb, one in a white robe helping her weaker sister. On the left side, another woman has fallen into a chasm, unnoticed by her male companion, who is committed to following the light. Machell commented that "a ray from the heart of the Supreme falls upon her also, the reward of selfless devotion, even in a bad cause."71 What is striking in this painting is that Winged Isis is the largest figure in the painting, yet she is indistinct, in the background, and oddly asexual. If Machell did not explain in his notes that this was Isis, it would be difficult to tell if the figure was male or female. At first glance, actually, the figure resembles stereotypical depictions of Christ (except for the wings). The dominant human figure in the painting is the male seeker in the center, eyes uplifted toward the light. The human females are relegated to the right and left edges. Women are portrayed as struggling; one reaches for help from another woman, while another has already fallen, selfless though she may be. The painting suggests that males are the archetypical seekers and that they stand the greatest chance of achieving success in their quest. However, it also suggests that Isis is the goal of human development, even if she does look like Jesus.
Theologically and socially, understandings of womanhood at Point Loma were ambiguous. Theosophical doctrine melded an impersonal, sexless deity with images of the Mother Goddess, non-sex-discriminatory karma and reincarnation with woman's unique cosmic mission to uplift the human race. Tingley's leadership embodied tension between a vision of democratic, inclusive social reform and her autocratic personality. Gender roles, art, and architecture in the community communicated the messages that women and men had essentially the same capabilities and opportunities and that they had to develop distinctly different traits and skills for evolutionary progress.
Neither of these messages was necessarily preferable to the other or more faithful to Lomaland's principles; neither gender-blind nor gender-exclusive approaches should have predominated. Moreover, these two approaches are not irreconcilable or either inherently sexist or feminist. However, this duality did exist, and it created ambiguity in understandings of womanhood at Point Loma. This ambiguity was precisely why middle-class, educated, white women were attracted to the community.
These women were attracted to Point Loma Theosophy because it allowed them both to expand their roles as women and to protect their status as white, middle-class Americans. The women involved in Point Loma were themselves uncertain about the equality they wanted. They sought greater freedom but did not want it to jeopardize their race and class privilege. Tingley was the epitome of this femininity that simultaneously sought to resist and preserve the status quo. Unfortunately, the evidence for this conclusion is primarily circumstantial. Few Lomaland women, including Tingley, recorded why they became Theosophists and moved to Point Loma. Those who did did not declare that they wanted to expand their freedom as women while protecting their race and class privilege. They stated they were truth-seekers and that Theosophy was the truth. I am arguing that these women saw Theosophy as the truth in part because it addressed their conflicted and conflicting feelings about gender, race, and class.
Historians Ashcraft and Waterstone point out that Point Loma Theosophists reinforced prevailing cultural ideologies of womanhood while at the same time subtly subverting them. According to Ashcraft, Lomaland denizens "affirmed the definitions of womanhood and manhood current among their middle-class contemporaries, and lived out those definitions in the Point Loma community"; however, their "interpretations of sexuality highlighted the moral nature of gender and raised gender difference to a metaphysical level."72 Waterstone concludes that Point Loma gave middle-class women the opportunity "to exercise public moral authority outside of mainstream churches and to fashion a community intended to provide an example of the possibility of living according to the moral precepts of Victorian womanhood."73 This strategy, although largely unconscious, was a creative and innovative way of expanding the horizons of woman's roles without deviating to the point of social ostracism.
Finally, this paper raises a bevy of questions about the relationship of material culture to the creation of ideologies. Lomaland artists manipulated images for their own ends, seeking to create a useable ideology for the community. Certainly images of women in Point Loma art both reflected and shaped understandings of femininity. But what was the relationship between artists, image, and ideology? Was Point Loma art designed for internal consumption or public relations? How does material culture create, subvert, and reinforce our understandings of femininity and masculinity? These questions are remarkably contemporary. Do Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford shape our cultural ideas of female beauty or merely reflect them? By analyzing the relationship of image and ideology in Point Loma culture, we may understand better the ways in which late twentieth-century women are "starved and treated like convicts."
1. Los Angeles Times, 28 October, 1901, 1.
3. Katherine Tingley v Los Angeles Times, 339-340 of court transcript, no. 11, 799, San Diego County Superior Court San Diego History Center Archives. -
4. The classic study of Point Loma Theosophy is Emmet Greenwalt's The Point Loma Community in California, 1897-1942: A Theosophical Experiment (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California, 1955; revised ed., San Diego: Point Loma Publications, 1978). It is an institutional history, chronicling the rise and decline of the Point Loma community. Greenwalt concludes that despite its weaknesses, Point Loma had a profound effect on the religious landscape and ethos of California.
After forty years of scholarly inattention, two 1995 dissertations place Lomaland in the context of late Victorian culture, U. S. religious historiography, and gender roles. In "'The Dawn of the New Cycle': Point Loma Theosophists and American Culture, 1896-1929" (Ph.D. dies., University of Virginia, 1995), W. Michael Ashcraft argues that "Point Loma Theosophists blended Victorian middle-class culture with an occultic worldview(iii). In "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood: Feminine Values and the Construction of Utopia, Point Loma Homestead, 1897-1920" (Ph.D. diss., University of Arizona, 1995), Penny B. Waterstone argues that "the women of Point Loma Colony embraced an ideology of woman's morally superior nature, and used that ideology to expand woman's 'natural' sphere of influence"(6). They conclude Lomaland gender roles expanded but did not radically change ideologies of womanhood among middle-class, educated, white Americans. Although I agree with their conclusions, Ashcraft and Waterstone tend to describe Point Loma gender roles rather than analyze the reasons for them.
Besides recent interest in Point Loma, there has been a resurgence of scholarly interest in Theosophy and constructions of gender in it in the last fifteen years. See Mary F. Bednarowski, "Outside the Mainstream: Women's Religion and Women Religious Leaders in Nineteenth Century America," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 48 (1980): 207-31, Mary F. Bednarowski, "Women in Occult America," in The Occult in America: New Historical Perspectives, eds. Howard Kerr and Charles L. Crow (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1983), 177-95; Bruce F. Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California, 1980); Robert Ellwood, "The American Theosophical Synthesis," in The Occult in America: New Historical Perspectives, eds. Howard Kerr and Charles L. Crow (Urbana: university of Illinois, 1983), 111-34, Robert Ellwood and Catherine Wessinger, "The Feminism of 'Universal Brotherhood': Women in the Theosophical Movement," in Women's Leadership in Marginal Religions: Explorations Outside the Mainstream, ed. Catherine Wessinger (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1993), 68-87; Stephen Prothero, "From Spiritualism to Theosophy: 'Uplifting' a Democratic Tradition," Religion and American Culture 3 (Summer 1993): 197-216; James Santucci, "Women in the Theosophical Movement," Explorations: Journal for Adventurous Thought 9 (Fall 1990): 71-94; Peter Washington, Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America (New York: Schocken, 1993, 1995).
5. In 1900, Point Loma was 64% adult female, compared to 48% in the US and 43% in California. In 1910, adult woman composed 56% of the total Point Loma population and in 1920, 61%, compared to 49% of the U.. population in both 1910 and 1920. Throughout its history, Point Loma had a higher percentage of single women and men and a lower percentage of children born to residents than the national average. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 215, 295.
6. Prothero, "From Spiritualism to Theosophy," 197-216.
7. See Margaret Bendroth, Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1993), Karen Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist: True Womanhood Redefined. 1868-1914 (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1980); Ruth Bordin, Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty. 1873-1900 (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1981; repr. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, 1990); Ann Braude, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America (Boston: Beacon, 1989), Jane Camhi, Women Against Women: American Anti-Suffragism. 1880-1920 (Brooklyn, NY: Carlson, 1994); Betty DeBerg, Ungodly Women: Gender and the First Wave of American Fundamentalism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), Lori Ginzburg, Women and the Work of Benevolence: Morality Politics and Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1990); Colleen McDannell, The Christian Home in Victorian America, 1840-1900 (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1986); E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (New York: Basic Books, 1993); Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Oxford University, 1984); Barbara Welter, Dimity Convictions (Athens: Ohio University, 1976).
8. Mary F. Bednarowski, New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1989), 36.
9. Ellwood and Wessinger, "The Feminism of 'Universal Brotherhood,'" 75.
10. Bednarowski, "Outside the Mainstream," 222.
11. Emmet W. Small, ed. and comp., The Wisdom of the Heart: Katherine Tingley Speaks (San Diego: Point Loma Publications, 1978), 90.
12. Ibid., 76.
13. Diana Burfield, "Theosophy and Feminism: Some Explorations in Nineteenth-Century Biography," in Women's Religious Experience: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, ed. Pat Holden (London: Croom, Helm, 1983), 35-6.
14. Katherine Tingley, et al., Woman's Mission: Short Addresses by Katherine Tingley and Other Officials of the Woman's International Theosophical League, . . . February 7. 1915 (Point Loma, CA: Woman's Theosophical League, 1915), 24-5.
15. Katherine Tingley, Theosophy the Path of the Mystic, comp. Grace Knoche (Point Loma, CA: Woman's International Theosophical League, 1922), 130.
16. Katherine Tingley, Woman's Mission, 24-25, italics in text.
17. Small, The Wisdom of the Heart, 131.
18. Bednarowski, "Women in Occult America," 183.
19. Ellwood and Wessinger, "The Feminism of 'Universal Brotherhood'"; Bednarowski, "Outside the Mainstream"; Santucci, "Women in the Theosophical Movement."
20. Robert Ellwood, Alternative Altars: Unconventional and Eastern Spirituality in America (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1979), 118.
21. Ellwood and Wessinger, "The Feminism of 'Universal Brotherhood,'" 74.
22. Ibid., 68-69.
23. Small, The Wisdom of the Heart, 137.
24. The following biographical information comes from Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, 12-46 and Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 78-199.
25. The following history of Point Loma comes from Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, 47-144.
26. Dennis E. Berge, "Reminiscences of Lomaland: Madame Tingley and the Theosophical Institute in San Diego," Journal of San Diego History 20 (Summer 1975): 2.
27. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 282-93.
28. Ibid., 295.
29. Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived, 141.
30. See Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community., 170-94.
31. Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived, 141.
32. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, 50.
33. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 228-241.
34. Ibid., 305-316; Ashcraft, "The Dawn of the New Cycle," 184-190.
35. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 235.
36. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, 57-66.
37. Iverson Harris, Sr., Speech," Nashville Convention, February 2, 1898, New Century 1 (March 5, 1898): 15.
38. Berge, "Reminiscences of Lomaland," 22.
39. Ibid., 2-3.
40. Washington, Madame Blavatsky's Baboon, 110.
41. Ibid., 113.
43. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 79, 137.
44. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, 137-44.
45. Ray S. Baker, "An Extraordinary Experiment in Brotherhood: The Theosophical Institution at Point Loma, California," The American Magazine 63 (January 1907): 234.
46. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 280-81.
47. Ashcraft, "The Dawn of the New Cycle," 176, 180.
48. Rose Winkler, "Woman's Sphere," New Century 1 (September 17, 1898): 7.
49. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, 77-98.
50. Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived, 137.
51. Berge, "Reminiscences of Lomaland," 25.
52. Ashcraft, "The Dawn of the New Cycle," 106-49.
53. Alfred Robinson, The Book of Larona (N.p: privately printed: 1910), 10-11.
54. Paul Kagan, "Eastern Thought on a Western Shore: Point Loma Community". California Historical Quarterly 52 (Winter 1973): 9-11.
55. Ibid., 7.
56. Small, The Wisdom of the Heart, 94.
57. Berge, "Reminiscences of Lomaland," 25.
58. "The Future Womanhood," New Century 11 (July 26, 1908): 15.
59. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 99-100.
60. Ashcraft, "The Dawn of the New Cycle," 174.
61. Ellwood and Wessinger, "The Feminism of 'Universal Brotherhood,'" 82.
62. Ashcraft, "The Dawn of the New Cycle," 153.
63. Lauren R. Brown, public meeting broadside, The Point Loma Theosophical Society: A List of Publications. 1898-1942 (La Jolla, CA: Friends of the University of California, San Diego Library, 1977), n.p.
64. Berge, "Reminiscences of Lomaland," 21.
65. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 106-7.
66. Kagan, "Eastern Thought on a Western Shore," 13.
67. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 201.
68. Bruce Kamerling, "Theosophy and Symbolist Art: The Point Loma Art School," Journal of San Diego History 26 (Fall 1980): 237.
69. Ibid., 232.
70. Ibid., 236-37.
71. Ibid., 3.
72. Ashcraft, "The Dawn of the New Cycle," 275.
73. Waterstone, "Domesticating Universal Brotherhood," 24.
Evelyn A. Kirkley is Assistant Professor of Theological and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego. She earned degrees from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Union Theological Seminary in New York, and Duke University. Her area of expertise is the relationship between religion and gender in the United States. Dr. Kirkley has published articles on masculinity, atheism, and the PromiseKeepers; the influence of religious belief on the woman suffrage movement; and the theology of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.