WOMEN THROUGH 1925 LENS
An article appeared in The Oklahoman of August 13, 1925 titled, "Warning is Sounded About Painted Knees: Preacher Also Takes Rap At Rolled Hose." (pg. 7). The small piece is short on information or facts - qualifying more as a 'filler' to use up left over space on a newspapers page - but that did not prevent the prejudice from coming through. There is the possibility it was something made up but it could also be an accurate depiction of the shaky theology which sometimes plagues evangelicalism, fundamentalism, or Pentecostalism.
Identified simply as a "Pentecostal revival", it was reported to have been at a church located on Avenue B and Oklahoma in Capitol Hill, a community just a few miles south of Oklahoma in 1925. Based on a church advertisement of 1919 this would have been the Church of Apostolic Faith, pastored by early pioneer Pentecostal minister, Harry P. Lott. ("Churches", Oklahoman, Dec. 28,1919, pg. 9).
The interesting theological assertion, at least what the reporter claimed, was that "God's kingdom" could not come as long as women 1) have their hair cut above their ears, 2) wear such short sleeves and dresses, 3 ) form their eyebrows, use rouge on their cheeks, 4) roll their hose and powder their knees. "God's kingdom" will begin "when we get back to old-fashioned, modest women who cook, and a bake a decent cake." These assertions were punctuated by shouts and exclamations. The reporter ended his story with an ironic comment that there were "many bobbed-haired, knee-painted, hose-rolled women" attending the church service.
The preacher's theology may not be representative of actual preaching and may reflect more the lingering biases against Pentecostals in the first four decades of the century. It does highlight the social influences at work in society as women, their fashions, behaviors, and value changed in the decade known for its exuberant and uninhibited generational shift.
The idea that a woman's ability to cook and bake cake would be what would bring the Kingdom of God into being reveals several problems which plagued early evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. The first problem was the tendency to deny the need for training, mentoring, or added skills in order to be a minister, pastor, evangelist or other church leader. The second problem was viewing culture as unchanging and with this came the tendency to equate past as perfect. The third problem was the marginalization of women, especially in Pentecostalism, from a status of full participation in the life of the church to one where they were once more socially and religiously relegated to the borderlands of Christian life.
The tide of society is constantly flowing past and that is part of the nature of life ordained by God. Things change, we must adapt, and in that adaptation can be found growth. It is the idea behind the inability of of new wine going into old wineskins. It underscores that change is a necessary aspect of life and development. Rather than fearing it, trying to keep things the way they were in the 'good old days', like the preacher in the news article, there is a need to realize new times often mean changes and require recognition rather than fear.