Elsie Chamberlain: The Independent Life of a Woman Minister, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Elsie Chamberlain

The Independent Life of a Woman Minister, 1st Edition

By Alan Argent


288 pages

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Paperback: 9781138110922
pub: 2017-06-16
Hardback: 9781845539313
pub: 2012-02-01
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Elsie Chamberlain was a leading figure in British broadcasting and religious life. She was a pioneer in many areas: the first woman chaplain to the armed forces; the first nonconformist minister to marry an Anglican clergyman; the first woman producer in the religious broadcasting dept of the BBC and the first woman to present the daily service on the radio. Her broadcasting accustomed many listeners to the idea of a woman leading public worship. And she became the first woman to occupy the chair of the Congregational Union of England and Wales and almost certainly the first woman anywhere in the world to head a major denomination.

Elsie Chamberlain is the first full biography and a critical appreciation of this exceptional woman. Using original church and BBC archive sources, the book tells the story of a woman who did more than any other to change the way Christian women ministers are viewed.


'An impressively full life of an ebullient character. The book is scholarly and yet eminently readable.' – Church Times

'A detailed, well-written biography of the best-known Congregational woman minister in Britain during the second half of the 20th century.' – Reform Magazine

'To be reminded of the leap that has been made, in a comparatively short space of time – historically speaking – in the recognition of the vital and essential place of women at the heart of the Church’s life, is a welcome revelation.' – Methodist Recorder

'Alan Argent's book is a well-paced and clearly written narrative … he allows his readers to reach their own conclusions about an independent minister whom he regards, quite rightly, as a heroine.'– Congregational History Society Magazine

'I found I just couldn’t put it down and I was intrigued to read the story of such an extraordinary woman… a really good piece of history. I was struck by the very fluent and beautiful writing style.' – Principal Susan Durber, Westminster College, Cambridge

'In so short a space I cannot do justice to the scholarship that has gone into this biography, drawing from a wealth of primary material in a way that keeps the story of a life a real page turner. Forget period drama on the television - this is the real thing.' - Journal of the Islington Archaeology & History Society

Table of Contents

1. Introduction and Early Life 2. The Call to the Ministry 3. Elsie Begins Her Ministry, 1939 4. The Return to London, 1941 5. Flying into the Storms: Chaplain in the Royal Air Force, 1945 6. A Season of Clear Shining: Married Life 7. Vineyard Congregational Church, Richmond-upon-Thames 8. Later Years at Vineyard 9. International Meetings and the CUEW Chair 10. Elsie at the BBC 11. After the BBC: The City Temple 12. The Sky Turns Black: Another Crisis 13. Sometimes a Light Surprises: The Congregational Federation 14. Hutton Free Church, 1971 15. A Local Thunderstorm: The Kentish Town Situation 16. Presidential Duties and Travelling, 1973-1980 17. Going West, 1980 18. Ministry in Nottingham, 1984-1991 Epilogue

About the Author

Alan Argent has a PhD in London history 1640-49, and has taught church history for Birkbeck College, University of London. He has edited the Congregational History Society Magazine since 1992. He is minister of Trinity Congregational Church, Brixton, having also served churches in Morden and Wimbledon.

About the Series

Gender, Theology and Spirituality

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / History