Anne Bennett, Christian Feminist Voice, Dies at 82

Anne McGrew Bennett, who described herself as “a homemaker, not a specialist,” yet became a leading spokeswoman for feminism in the traditionally male Christian hierarchy, has died in Claremont.

The first woman ever invited to deliver the commencement address at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary and who traveled to South Vietnam seeking peace and to North Vietnam delivering letters to prisoners of war, was 82 and died Sunday.

Born in a sod house in Nebraska to parents who had homesteaded their prairie land, she taught in country schools and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Nebraska and the Auburn Theological Seminary before marrying John C. Bennett in 1931. He was to become president of Union Theological Seminary and survives her.


Among her many accomplishments was being co-editor of “Women in a Strange Land,” an early examination of American feminist theology. On her own she was the author of more than 60 articles that generally were critical of the Christian world’s view of an all-male Trinity.

In her 1972 commencement address at Union Theological Seminary she spoke first of her missions to Vietnam in the 1960s and criticized U.S. participation in that war but toward the end of her speech drifted into what she seemed to feel was her prime purpose in life, saying: “Could it be that the drive for dominance, power (and) control by men is rooted in an identification of the male sex with the attributes of God?”

Her final honor came last January when the New York seminary awarded her its Union Medal for her lengthy service to the United Church of Christ, the World Council on Religion and Peace and the National Council of Churches.

A memorial service has been scheduled at the Claremont United Church of Christ at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 1. Donations in lieu of flowers are asked to the Health Fund of Pilgrim Place in Claremont, a retirement community, or the Bennett-Morton Lectureship Fund of the School of Theology at Claremont.