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Welcome to Quiverfull

From approximately 1986 through 1994, I was a participant and ultimately a leader in a movement which has come to be known as the “Quiverfull Movement,” the “Titus Two” movement, and the “Patriarch” movement, Christian Bible literalist movements in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand that emphasize obedience to the Bible, submission to authority, separation from the world, and, for women, devotion to husband, children and home. 

When I took the turn in the road that led me in the direction of this movement in 1983, I had four children and was expecting my fifth, who is now 25.  I had quit my job outside the home as, at that time, a court reporter and had begun homeschooling and learning to manage on one income instead of two.  As a member of Calvary Chapel of Tacoma, a nondenominational, Bible literalist church which emerged out of the “Jesus People” counterculture movement,  I was immersed in “verse-by-verse expository Bible teaching” which emphasized obedience to “the Word” and to God.  As a pioneer in the homeschooling movement, I met other Christians who, like me at the time, were interested not just in believing the Word, but in “doing” the Word, obeying it, in other words.  In the belief that I was following God and embracing God’s plan for my own life, for women, and for wives and mothers, my then-husband and I stopped using birth control in favor of allowing God to plan our family.  My daughters and I dressed modestly, wore head veilings and were silent in the church in submission to the scriptures.  We lived a home-centered life, planted gardens, raised farm animals. 

In 1989 I began publishing a magazine for other women interested in living this way.  The name of this publication was Gentle Spirit.   I began with 17 subscribers.  The first issues were typed on a Selectric typewriter and copied on a copy machine.  I began speaking at homeschooling meetings and conferences locally and my subscriber base grew.  Over the next decade I would speak across the country at homeschooling conferences, on the radio and television.  I was a guest speaker on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family program as part of a  panel on a show entitled “Career Homemaking.”  This program became a classic and was aired worldwide and translated into Spanish. 

By 1994 I had approximately 30,000 readers internationally, and my magazine had become a full-color, glossy publication published 11 times per year.   By this time I was the mother of nine children.   My magazine featured articles on living on one income, feeding a large family on $200 per month (something I managed to do for many years), home birth, home schooling, breastfeeding, natural childbirth, gardening, raising farm animals, making soap and candles, homesteading,  hospitality, sewing and home arts.  I published regular articles on “Titus 2” living, too — being “chaste, discreet, a keeper at home, good and obedient to our own husbands.”

The emphasis in Quiverfull/Titus 2 circles on submission to husbands and reverence for husbands meant women in abusive relationships — as I was — had nowhere to turn for help.  To report that a husband was abusive was to dishonor him and to invite the criticism and censure of the community.   In my community, it was believed that God ordained our paths and charted our life’s  course and that “something good” would come out of anything we might go through, even a husband’s abuse.  The view was that if a husband was abusive, we should pray for him and attempt to “win him without a word,” by our “chaste behavior, coupled with fear.”  We were taught, as women, not to “lean to our own understanding,” because women were and are “prone to deception.”  We learned to “trust God” in the face of abuse and to pray and hope for a better day.

The day came when I could no longer continue in my own abusive marriage.  Exhausted, desperate and afraid,  I separated from my then-husband and filed for divorce.  He turned to a pastor friend and to other national leaders in the Quiverfull/Titus 2 movement, and I was subjected to church discipline on a national level and ultimately to excommunication.   As a result, my publication was destroyed.  In 1997 when I could not move forward with my life two full years after my divorce was final, I filed a lawsuit against the churches and organizations that excommunicated me and drove my publication from the marketplace.  A jury found in my favor in 1998, agreeing that the defendants in my lawsuit had conspired to restrain trade in violation of the Sherman Act.  The defendants appealed, we settled, and I returned to  publishing for two years, making good on outstanding subscriptions and making things right with columnists and advertisers.  The story of my excommunication is told in the article “Confronting the Religious Right.”

It has now been 14 years since the day the “letter of discipline” was read in a church I had not attended for months.   After my excommunication, I remarried and had two more children.   Eight of my children are adults now and on their own; they are ages 19-36.  I am still raising my three youngest children, ages 10, 13 and 17.   I have four grandchildren, two of whom have always been homeschooled, just as my two youngest, like most of my older children, have always been homeschooled.  

Since my excommunication I have worked hard to make sense of my experiences and to place them in the larger context of a world in which all women are still second-class citizens, and in which women in fundamentalist religious groups of many kinds remain, for all intents and purposes, the property of their husbands.    I will be writing about my and other women’s experiences  — the big issues and smaller issues, about ideas, theories, politics and day-to-day realities,  in this blog.  I hope what I write will educate and inform those who are not familiar with the situation of women in fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalism in general.  I also hope women like me, exited from groups like mine, will find support, encouragement and practical help here as we build new lives for ourselves and our children. 

In peace and love,




43 thoughts on “Welcome to Quiverfull

  1. Well i was surrounded by quiverful people and had 9 kids myself during my religious stage of life but i was not quiverful personally. I didnt wear the covering but instead kept my hair very long for the same reason. I wore dresses and had a lot of the same beliefs.
    As a recovering christian, I often look at myself then and think WOW that is me??
    All my kids left with me when my then and still now devout christian husband left us after 25 years–unbeknownst to me he had had several affairs– so it was left up to me to rethink my beliefs 4 years ago..and i did and came up with what is perfect for me– pagan/witch/goddess/buddhist/taoism/freedom
    My kids are now 24 down to 10 and want nothing to do with christian religion though their dad tries his best to preach at them.
    So now i am feminist and witchy with 9 kids.. not too many men are brave enough to venture out with me.
    I love my kids but in my world NOW, it makes little sense to have such a large family and i know you cheryl know what i mean…
    Great blog and hope to see many women on it.

    Posted by moon goddess | July 1, 2008, 1:50 am
  2. Welcome, moon goddess, great to see you here. 🙂 It’s funny — now there is this specific movement known as “Quiverfull,” but in the 80s nobody called it that. People read the Hess’s book because they read about it in Mary Pride’s book, or they were into NFP, or they were Gothard people, ATI, who created their own ministries and taught the ATI stuff with their own twist, whatever it might have been, with Bold Christian Living/J. Lindvall it was all about protecting kids and not allowing them to ever play with other kids, it was all about marrying the person parents chose and not the person you thought you fell in love with. I’ll never forget listening to Lindvall describe wanting to marry someone, and his dad didn’t approve, so he married his current wife and even though he didn’t think he was in love with her, in the end it was all good. She would be there, listening, the kids too. Lots of people in that world talked like that and still do.

    Of course now there is this Movement, capital M, “Quiverfull,” then there were all sorts of reasons people went in the direction of homeschooling, home birth, having lots of kids and some of them had to do with being, in their hearts and souls, earth mother type people, back to the land. That was definitely central for me.

    Well, anyway.

    Posted by womensspace | July 1, 2008, 4:28 am
  3. I agree… i think i resonated with the earth mother more than quiverful even in my restricted beliefs.
    I still love this aspect of being a woman..i just know its not a GOD but a GODDESS inspiring me 🙂 and i wont be submissive or quiet or religious…i am who i am.
    Here in the deep south, this is often an issue with those still in the religious thinking…I am a evil women, a a witch, and I am sinful…Never mind the things i do for the community, for women who need a helping hand or food to eat or families who need a free midwife..
    But still.. i love earth mamas!!!

    Posted by moon goddess | July 1, 2008, 5:43 pm
  4. I’m so excited to see you blog on this topic. I read your other blog regularly but don’t usually comment, because I feel that I am ignorant compared to the rest of the community. I’m trying to learn. But I want to comment here because this is my experience, too. My kind of fundamentalism was different from yours, but it’s really striking how so many things are the same, no matter what form the dogma takes.

    To try to boil it down to the basics: first of all, I was raised in an abusive, conservative Catholic family, and this in itself was a type of brainwashing that got me all groomed and ready for joining a cult. My little sister once described me and my siblings like this: “the cult member [me], the drug dealer [my brother], the pregnant teenage mom [my other sister], the street kid [her].” That’s where our ostensibly moral and virtuous upbringing took us. Both my sisters got involved in fundamentalism later on, too, as they tried to erase the guilt from their acting out years. My sister who had the teen pregnancy was a Bill Gothard devotee for awhile, before settling into a more mainstream rightwing Presbyterianism, and I think she probably would have been a quiverfull mom if it hadn’t turned out she was infertile after the first child. I’m sure she saw that as a punishment for her “sin,” too. My other sister is a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist, which in my opinion is another patriarchal cult scam. The one thing they both can’t stand is the Catholic church.

    You’ve spoken of quiverfull families turning the older girls into servants and surrogate parents. I was the oldest of only four, and not at all domestic in my inclinations, but I still ending up parenting my siblings because my parents couldn’t cope. Basically, my family was like a little mini-cult of its own, so I felt right at home when I joined the mega-version.

    When I was 17, I was in my first year of college at the University of Michigan and met a boy. One of his high school friends had just introduced him to a charismatic prayer meeting. I mean charismatic in the sense of Pentecostal, tongues-speaking, prophesying, etc. This was the group that was the seed beginning of what they called the “Catholic charismatic renewal.” The group in Ann Arbor eventually started calling itself “The Word of God,” and morphed into a bigger organization called The Sword of the Spirit that still exists today. They shared many aspects of the fundamentalist movements you speak about. In fact, they came to share leadership with the “shepherding movement” that has tentacles everywhere and was the inspiration behind Promise Keepers.

    By the time we married at the age of 20, we had taken a solemn vow of commitment to this group. We had our first three children in the group. We watched it become more and more controlling, with a focus on authority and on defined roles for men and women, before they finally kicked us out for being rebellious. I look back on that and don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If only we had really been rebellious! I wish!

    I wish I’d seen through them and gotten out before so much damage was done–damage that stuck with me for many, many years. After the Word of God discarded us, I tried to prove that I was good enough by continuing to be Catholic and trying desperately hard to believe that I still cared about their stinking fake values. It was only in the last few years that I finally woke up and smelled the koolaid and understood that there never can be a good version of the patriarchy. I’m embarrassed and ashamed for myself that it took me so long. I’m furious and sad that I let that happen. I feel as if I have to talk about it now to try to make up for the fact that I let them suck so much of my life and energy away.

    I’ll stop here. Whenever I try to get a handle on this stuff, I go on too long. It’s like pulling on one end of a huge tangled ball of string! I never can pull it out straight.

    Posted by anuna | July 2, 2008, 12:34 am
  5. Welcome, anuna. 🙂

    My kind of fundamentalism was different from yours, but it’s really striking how so many things are the same, no matter what form the dogma takes.

    Very true. In the ex-member movement, people find that no matter what fundamentalist group they were part of, whether Christian or Roman Catholic or Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon or a psychotherapy group or New Age or a political group of some kind, it’s all the same thing. The vocabulary is all that’s different. For that matter, abusive fundamentalism can be very much like abusive relationships wherever they occur, including between two people.

    You know, nobody ever joins a totalist or high demand group intentionally (these terms being a little more meaningful than “cult”, I think, a word which is way overused and doesn’t really mean much anymore). Nobody should blame herself for getting into a group like this or for not being able to leave, just as battered women should not be blamed for taking up with abusive men (Well, why did you marry him?) or for not being able to leave (Why didn’t you just leave?). That’s just blaming the victim, good for one thing only– it allows the person doing the blaming to feel self-righteous and superior. Given your background, what’s amazing is, YOU GOT OUT!! Good for you! Yay! That took such strength, courage, intelligence. It’s so common for people to go from one high demand group to another in their search for God or spirit or community or all of the above. What matters is, here you are, you got out, you are moving forward with your life.

    It’s so true– there’s so much to talk about. Gotta start somewhere. 🙂


    Posted by womensspace | July 2, 2008, 4:06 pm
  6. It is hard to get out but its the mental aspects. I know when my ex left i began exploring a richer spiritual life still within the christian box. I remember thinking..i WONT stop being a christian and i wont give up all my beliefs but i will look further for growth into my own being. Well…Soon and very soon it was time to take the step OUT of my comfy box of beliefs..and i remember standing on that edge… knowing once i took that step i was DONE with that life, knowing how my family would react, wondering if it was the right thing spiritually, slight worry about GOD and what HE would do,
    and then i stepped out and SHE caught me~~~
    And i was free. The feeling was euphoric and i knew THEN i had made the right choice. BUt before the step, there was much confusion and fear.
    All i remembered was a story i had read about a leaf hanging onto the tree in the fall..not wanting to detach….fearful about what would happen if it left what it knew–hanging onto the tree. Finally it fell off and the leaf rejoiced in its freedom and new life. I know it seems a silly story and i have no idea of where it came from…but it has always come back to me when i needed to let go of people, relationships and beliefs… JUST let GO!!!!

    Posted by moon goddess | July 2, 2008, 4:18 pm
  7. Thank you, Heart. I hope the way I put things didn’t make anyone feel as if I would blame them for belonging to an authoritarian religious group, because I never would. I’m hard on myself–much harder than I’d ever be on anyone else. I still have that voice inside that wants to blame me and call me bad and stupid, and I struggle with that. It’s part of the ongoing damage that I spoke about. When I look outward at other women, I understand very well why they would seek out such groups and not be able to leave once they’re in. I know all the good things we project onto the group, and all the real, valid needs we have and hope to find in the group. Your gentle reminder not to blame women–not even myself–is the kind of thing that makes me love your blogs.

    I like your use of totalist and high demand, too. You’re right, “cult” isn’t the best word. It was the one that popped into my head when I was typing. Probably because back in the day, our leaders always denied hotly that our group was anything like a cult. Other groups were bad, but ours was one hundred percent good. So it was important for me to name it to myself, at that time, and realize that all the coercion and deception that was ascribed to “cults” could take place in supposedly legitimate groups as well. And then it was another step beyond that to see that it wasn’t just new movements, but the Catholic church also used doublespeak, mental duress and other techniques to make people act in harmful ways.

    Moon goddess, you are so right about the mental aspects. You said, “I remember thinking..i WONT stop being a christian and i wont give up all my beliefs”–that’s just where I was until recently. I only quit going to Mass a couple of years ago, after the child sex abuse scandal. I can’t stand to be in a church any more. I feel as if I will suffocate, or explode. I started reading Mary Daly and finally realized that a church founded on an all-masculine Trinity would never have room for my woman’s spirit. But I still feel stuck. On the borderland. Unable to go back, but not seeing where to go forward. So it helps me a lot to hear your experience. That’s one of the things I need to hear about here.

    Posted by anuna | July 2, 2008, 6:11 pm
  8. Anuna
    I do believe all changes that involve our core beliefs go through what we know as the grieving process.
    denial, anger,bargaining,depression and acceptance…we associate these with the death of a loved one but really all change is a death of some kind.
    A death to beliefs that i was a part of whole heartedly for many years and one that was hard to give up because of the fears..but once i did…. it was easy.

    Posted by moon goddess | July 3, 2008, 5:37 pm
  9. Thankyou for finally bringing us an arena where we can discuss the ex-quiverfull perspective: I have been searching for the last six months for a perspective such as this! It truly has opened my eyes to the number of us out there….

    I come from a perspective of being a child in an Australian quiverfull “cult”: whilst my parents would have liked to prescribe to the tenents of quiverfull, luckily for them (and just our general sanity too) my mother had had an hysterectomy previous to joining the cult, and so had only 3 children in a cult where 6 or more was denfinately the trend!

    Abuse was prominant: out of all the families I knew from that time in my life, about 90% have since been seperated by abuse: including unfortunately, my own. Sexual abuse was particularily prevalant: My father, who was an elder in the cult, is currently in prison serving time for peodphilia, animal cruelty and beastiality: another elder fled the country because similar charges were being brought against him: and I believe that there were more in the church/cult that we don’t know about YET…

    And yes, I do tend to refer to the “group” as a cult. I don’t think of every quiverfull “group”: as a cult, either (Controlling and manipulative, yes). It’s just the one I was part of, I believe was.

    I often write about my journey from extreme right wing christianity, to middle of the road christianity, to completely left wing on most issues and definately not a christian….lol…on my blog: princessjo1988.blogspot.com …

    I look forward to lurking, and occasionally speaking up ;-)…I lurk on Women’s Space quite alot….a truly great resource: props to Cheryl!


    Posted by Princessjo1988 | July 3, 2008, 11:37 pm
  10. Thanks for your writing about this Cheryl.I wish patriarchy was just a part of religion,unfortunately it’s pretty much a part of most political and social organization as well.I find it oppressive and at times suffocating.

    I loved being home,hs’ing,gardening and raising my family.I now question my choices and wonder if the sacrifices I’ve had to make to be able to have this lifestyle have come with too high of a price?

    Hopefully my daughters will be educated and established financially before buying into the hearth and home scenario.At least then if Prince Charming turns out to be a frog the’ll have the resources to leave without the financial impact and subsequent poverty.The emotional issues take a lot longer to overcome.

    Posted by always in the kitchen | July 4, 2008, 8:55 pm
  11. I was raised Catholic, 12 yrs Catholic school, nuns, 10 siblings, etc. For a while as a youngster I thought I had a “calling”. Left the church at 17 disillusioned with the hypocrisies and and patriarchy of the Catholic church.
    I was also a “back to the lander” of the 70’s, and eventually had 8 children of my own, homebirth, nursed my babies until 2, unschooled, gardened, milked cows by hand,etc. Kind of your existence minus the fundamentalism. I met many fundamentalist women as they moved in my circles. My kids called them “bluejean jumper ladies”.
    I have enjoyed reading your writings as you have given me more sympathy, understanding and solidarity with my sisters. It is hard to do that with religious people for us non-religious people as the religious come off as so judgmental. You have made me see that I can be judgmental as well and that the “holier than thou” head-covered, long-dressed women are actually oppressed and deserve my solidarity as a woman.
    I had my own fight with patriarchal values in my relationship, which ended in divorce after many years. The patriarchy is alive and well in secular circles as well. I have moved on and am happy with my life without a significant man in it.
    I still live, and enjoy my motherhood, and my back to the land existence. I just do it without a man to contend with. I am looking forward to your Quiverfull blog.

    Posted by peonista | July 5, 2008, 3:28 pm
  12. I was checking for links to my blog and I clicked my way to you! Hi again and I am glad we are talking about this stuff, especially considering the nomination of Sarah Palin for VP.
    I too ended up with nine children, a happy marriage that ended up as an abusive one and now my life took a totally different direction and I couldn’t be happier!

    Posted by Alterangel | September 2, 2008, 3:33 pm
  13. I just stumbled upon here in doing some reading online and I wanted to thank you for your story! This phenomenon has always been very interesting to me because I have *always* identified as a feminist… but at the same time I have never had an outside job that I’ve liked and given a choice, by now I’d certainly be married with several children and baking my own bread and leaving lavender sachets in the dresser. It’s my little shameful secret, the thing I can’t tell other feminists because in today’s world, “homeschooling” means “insulating children from evolution”, “homesteading” means “religious or environmentalist nutcase” and home crafts are only acceptable if they’re expensive. Artisan breads and hand-painted wool? Okay. Plain old sandwich bread and whatever was on sale at Joann’s? Your husband is obviously oppressing you.

    It would be so nice if we could find a middle ground where those women who *do* like those things–and those men!–could have those things, and those who didn’t, wouldn’t have to. Wouldn’t that just be shocking?

    Posted by Susan | September 3, 2008, 1:15 am
  14. I am fascinated by the Quiverfull movement and read your earlier blog entries about it with a mix of amazement and dread. To me, it’s an entirely foreign existence that both fascinates and repels. The repulsion comes from the overwhelming patriarchy of the movement, the ability of men to convince women that this is the best way to live. I grew up Catholic, belong to a mainline Protestant denomination, and when people at my church speak about Christian bible literalist groups, they are dismissive of their influence and power. I personally see this type of Christian movement as a real threat to the liberty of all people. Please put up more posts about this!

    Posted by enlightenmentgirl | September 11, 2008, 2:57 pm
  15. i was originally from calvary chapel of pomona CA, as a teen then eventually settled in a calvary chapel in central florida.

    i have eight kids, most are grown. my (verbally and emotionally abusive)ex left us almost 9 years ago, and i have been alone since then. i am now a pagan.

    and i would love to be able to continue the conversation of what it is like to come out of that. even though i didn’t know the movement by the quiverfull name.

    we need a place where we each tell our stories. so people looking for us, the disappeared, can find us.

    Posted by JH | September 16, 2008, 10:45 pm
  16. I’ve just come across this group, I’m sure not accidentally. I guess I’m part of the “quiverfull” group in some respects, but definitely not all. I respect all of the women’s opinions that I’ve read so far and hope to be respected for where I’m at. I’m just not sure where that is! I’ve been married for 23 years, have 10 children (2 of them in college,) I home school, home birth, etc. I’m not your back to the land type, although I have a lot of acreage and love to look at it! I enjoy all the modern conveniences that I can. I’ve been through the “charity” churches and thankful to be out. I now attend a charismatic church and definitely don’t agree with everything they teach. I’m looking forward to reading women’s stories and trying to make sense of my own life.

    Posted by Darcy Nelson | September 18, 2008, 6:59 pm
  17. Hi there. Thank you so much for your stories and all the other sharing.

    I’ve “been there, done that” as far as the conservative Christian view. I also ended up in an abusive, controlling marriage where I had four sons. Because of the way the laws work, they still have to visit their emotionally abusive father fortnightly. I became convicted of the quiverfull belief whilst still in that relationship – my then husband did not and forced his beliefs on me mercilessly.

    Years on, I’m divorced with five children (a wonderful unrelated blessing – my daughter) I’m a pagan now (druidcraft) and still desire a homestead more than anything else. My beliefs as to birth control and children have not changed. I still believe that children are to be desired and celebrated and that most of the time our methods for going against nature are misguided at best (and actively harmful at times.) But because I’m also pagan, I feel very much alone.

    Are there groups out there who believe as I do? If so, what search term am I looking for? If we need to start our own little mini-movement, what should it be called?

    Thanks for listening.

    Posted by Lori | September 28, 2008, 10:56 am
  18. The problem many of you ladies have suffered, IMO, is not with Christianity, but with RELIGION. A relationship with God that is true is motivated from within. A Christian should be quiverfull because we love the truth of it, the Holy Spirit is convicting us (which is a gentle peaceful conviction) and we love God—not out of guilt, fear, manipulation, or a desire to please religious people. Those things are tools of Satan. God does not lead people though those means. So those of you who left your faith for those reasons threw the baby out with the bathwater. I find joy in my quiverfull life, my husband is respectful of me, my church is holy and yet definately NOT controlling. There are Christians that stand for the Word of God, but are not cultic. We must worship the Lord in SPIRIT and truth. Some fundamentalists only focus on the truth part. Well, the SPIRIT is peaceful, gentle, and NOT manipulative. God’s spirit respects our free-will, but that does not negate the truth of His word, the Bible.

    Posted by Michelle Garrison | November 20, 2008, 6:22 am
  19. I am not quiverfull, but definitely find the general gist of openness-to-life appealing. I have three living children born in five years of marriage, so given the company I keep and the way I dress, people often assume I’m one of “them.”

    Generally I think of myself as a Unitarian, but honestly, the Unitarians I know are not-so-subtly snobbish and I actually prefer the company of right-wing Christians. It’s a cultural thing, I’m realizing, and not a religious one, but I can hardly stand progressives socially. They’re so unbelievably full of crap.

    But that’s not a good reason to dive into the deep end of patriarchalism, either.

    It’s good to hear the other side. I have some QF friends who make it sound like once you pitch the birth control, no one ever looks back. And I know that’s BS– just from being around fanatical attachment-parent types, I know that people get disenchanted and move on, but that nobody talks about it.

    Posted by looking off the cliff | November 25, 2008, 5:52 am
  20. I love the romance and idealism of the QF movement, and like Susan, am pretty uncomfortable with the obvious class issues that mainstream feminism has with conservative Christian women.

    (and that line about hand-painted wool versus whatever’s on sale at Jo-Ann’s is poignantly funny.)

    Used to love reading mothering.com’s fora, but I got disgusted with myself when I started playing attack dog against other women… it was painful for me to realize that what I was REALLY doing was shoring up my “respectable middle-class mom” cred, using other (lower-class) moms as collateral, and that I was really only doing it because I was insecure about my own working-class status.

    Isn’t that the most fucked-up thing you’ve ever heard?

    Later, I met (in person) a quiverfull mom who I really clicked with on a personal level; I enjoy hanging out with conservative women of my own class more than I enjoy hanging around the snobby Unitarians of my acquaintance– what the hell IS kombucha? LOL!

    The comfort of being simply accepted by the QF moms makes throwing away the birth control very tempting… but I suspect friendship and social acceptance isn’t worth altering my entire outlook on family and sex and marriage.

    Posted by Sandra | December 8, 2008, 5:02 pm
  21. Now that the Duggar’s have announced the birth of their 18th child, I’m sure you’ll have many more visitors. I’m sure they figure part of their food budget from what they get back on the Earned Income Credit when they do their Federal taxes each year.

    I can’t get past the mental image of Mrs Duggar as a human Pez dispenser. Please forgive me for this opinion.

    I liked the term “bluejean jumper ladies”. I’ve noticed that those outfits do seem to be popular with a particular group of people.

    I spent awhile in a rural part of the country and encountered the Bible Missionary folks, who I believe are part of the Quiverfull Movement. Women seem to be considered little more than walking incubators, from what I can see.

    I’m sure that stepping away from what you had known for so very long cannot have been easy, and I applaud you for taking those steps that would help your children (especially your daughters) to be raised in a much less oppressive atmosphere.

    For myself, I was raised Roman Catholic but quickly (at a very young age) became disgusted with what I saw within ithat church and began my own spiritual journey which partially ended when I realized that I am Pagan. I say “partially ended” because I love to learn and explore, so I’m still studying the myriad beliefs of those who people our world.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog and learning more about you.

    Posted by LifeBunny | December 19, 2008, 8:39 pm
  22. Anuna…

    First, my apologies, dear lady, for addressing this in this particular forum, but I didn’t see a link back to any other location for her.

    I am a former member of Nichiren Shoshu of America (which later became SGI after the Nichiren priests excommunicated all members who continued to follow Daisaku Ikeda) and remember vividly how people were expected to live, eat and breathe NSA doctrine.

    When I first became a member, twenty-odd years ago, they said that it wasn’t incompatible with whatever your other beliefs might be, and then, several years later, they started telling people that you couldn’t be both an NS Buddhist and whatever else you were…

    And let’s not forget that a good NSA/SGI Buddhist is always tithing and giving other money to the church whenever possible.

    When you have a moment, take a look at the history of Daisaku Ikeda’s “Clean Government” party in Japan, and it’s very scary and shady history.

    Not good.

    Patriarchy comes in all forms and in all places, from what I have seen.

    Posted by LifeBunny | December 19, 2008, 8:47 pm
  23. Heart, thanks for sticking your head out and speaking out against the oppressive form of Christianity you’ve experienced.

    I think I’m the first male commenter so far.

    I’m 24 years old and I’ve been a product (victim) of the fundamentalist rightwing homeschooling movement. It left me mildly socially impaired for some of my most important years (college). I’ve pretty much recovered now and most people have no idea the kind of insular, controlled life I had growing up as my parents tried to cut me off from “the world” and “sin” (read: natural human urges). Being as though my folks were not rich enough to isolate us on a huge multi-acre farm, I didn’t turn out as fucked-up as most of my homeschooled peers. Despite my academic prowress and only partial isolation from “the world”, homeschooling left me completely unprepared to deal with other smart people in college and a career.

    To any homeschooling parents reading this blog, please reconsider what you are doing to your children. You are stunting them socially, and leaving massive scars by dictating repressive conformation to outdated, primitive social customs.

    Stop brainwashing your kids that the earth is under 10 thousand years old and everyone who doesn’t believe what you do is destined to spend eternity in a lake of fire. Oh, and BTW, Republicans are a fucked up political party also (not expunging the Dems here). So what’s with the Hitleresque allegiance to war criminals and oil profiteers like Bush and Cheney?

    You are unwittingly a part of the American Taliban. And you don’t even know it.

    Posted by mister | December 22, 2008, 5:20 pm
  24. Dear Cheryl,

    I’m so glad I found you! Would it be possible to get copies of Gentle Spirit. Mine were lost in the hurricane, gone forever are the marvellous recipes and encouragement.


    Posted by Karen | December 28, 2008, 5:25 am
  25. This is interesting to read. A nice mix and I notice the same ol’ trend that pops up in feminist/always the victim talk: taking no responsibility for one’s own choices, good or bad. It is always “the church’s fault, his/her fault, I was just a victim of…., my mom/dad were evil, I was molested”. My life experiences are that some women are attracted to extremes. Either they are lesbian feminists or quiver full/attachment parents. They are extremists by nature or life experience. They seek either end rather than a middle road. That’s human life reality. Mocking where one woman is in her experience whether it is denim and quiverful or lesbian witch craft indicates we still haven’t come very far as women in seeing the continuum of womanly life. Blaming a religious group does not reflect the truth that many people experience similar things and end up with a full and rich life. Others don’t and move on. I have experienced all the “victim things”. Part of my human growth was not to stay in that place and, by the grace of God, I am free: free to love my children, my husband and my God. I am also free to allow other women to be what they need to be without my psych 101 judgements. Discusing our own experiences is very different than slamming other women for their choices. Every woman with a full quiver isn’t miserable, every woman in a patriarcal marriage isn’t unhappy, every lesbian isn’t perfectly content. Even when we know someone very well, we aren’t very good at reading their minds, knowing why they do or don’t do things. This victim-of stuff is an old story that might evolve if we believed more in our own sisterhood and trusted women to move, over a lifetime rather than a decade, to where they want/need to be. Stories do change. When I came to realize my mistakes and the mistakes of others didn’t equal the whole of my life I was free to be whatever I wanted. I’ve been denim, I ‘ve been simple living, I’ve been mainstream and very ‘far-stream’. That’s me, I have gone to extremes. Those experiences shaped me. My life is too short to live apart from joy, contentment and compassionate love. I have the life I always wanted. It is not your life; it is MY life. Be the change you want to see in the world of women. Is it bitter, mean-spirited, judgmental, harsh against others and, ultimately, yourself as woman who stumbles around in this complex world? Or, will we encourage one another to embrace each step along our own way and believe in one another as we go through a lifetime of womanhood? The discussion of quiverfull/simple living/divorce/spiritual change is the story of life unfolding. Life can be flower or a collapsing cave. We can choose. We can.

    Posted by consider | January 10, 2009, 9:03 pm
  26. Hi, Karen,

    Responding at long last. 🙂

    Yes, you can order back issues from me. I don’t have all of the older ones available, but I have a few of most of them. Let me know what you’d like and we can figure it out.


    Posted by womensspace | March 4, 2009, 10:23 pm
  27. LifeBunny: Patriarchy comes in all forms and in all places, from what I have seen.

    Yes, it does. In the ex-cult-member movement, there are people from every conceivable religious background, from political cults, from psychotherapy cults, you name it. Underneath it all, all of them are about power and control.


    Posted by womensspace | March 4, 2009, 10:25 pm
  28. I just have to mention that not all homeschoolers are religious nor do they isolate their children.

    Posted by Carol | March 15, 2009, 5:08 am
  29. Very true, Carol. I started homeschooling in 1983 (and still homeschool/unschool today). Back then, homeschooling was far more about how bad schools were for kids, the way it kept them from learning and destroyed their desire to learn, with homeschooling viewed as an alternative especially for progressive people. Homeschooling then was not associated at all with religion. Organizations on the Religious Right eventually attempted to co-opt homeschooling and to harness it to their own fundamentalist ideologies and agendas, but homeschoolers/unschoolers themselves fought that all along the way. I tell the story of how this happened in a series of articles published in my magazine entitled “Who Stole Homeschooling?” and “A Homeschooler’s History of Homeschooling.” If you google these, they are available online.


    Posted by womensspace | March 16, 2009, 4:22 pm
  30. I hope there’s more to come. I’ve had “Blame the Patriarch’s” bookmarked for a couple of years and have written against the patriarchy movement in a few blog posts.

    Posted by Lisa | March 17, 2009, 8:00 pm
  31. I left the whole right wing quiverful stuff behind about 10 years ago and pretty much lost touch with where the movement was going. I have been shuddering over how much more overt the controlling has become, and how some segments are even more deeply, dedicatedly misogynist. In the past we talked about how you could do college by correspondence or send them to a christian college, even Mary Pride talked about how degrees like Business Management would help you manage a home. Now we have groups not wanting to send daughters to college at all and cutting off their education at year 8 or 9 in favour of learning the home arts. We have groups like Vision Forum saying a woman is NEVER to leave her home, she is to serve her father until she marries and then she is to serve her husband. I believe we are only a generation away (if that) from Sharia law.

    I’ve been reading a lot of blogs written by christian women that parse out and refute these teachings. (http://truewomanhood.wordpress.com/ being just one of them). It’s been very revealing to me of how far removed I am from the bible (I had trouble typing that though, felt guilty! looked for other words to use!). Much energy in these blog discussions goes into explaining WHY the quiverfull patriarchs biblical exegesis if faulty and, all importantly, what is REALLY meant by the same verses. What is the true nature of God’s calling for women? What is God’s real plan for the role of women? What is God’s plan for submission in marriage now that we’ve refuted the religious patriarchy definition? And I realize in reading all this dialogue about how to have a non-patriarchal bible and marriage and theology but still justify everything with scripture that my answer to all those questions is “I don’t care.” If God has a plan for the “role of women” I do not care one wit what it is–and I don’t believe there is one. I have discovered myself to be quite outside the bonds of having to make my life fit the formula of a collection of ancient stories about a tribal people wandering around in the middle east. And it’s very very freeing.

    All power to these blogs though because people DO believe in the inerrancy of the bible and if these intelligent and passionate writers can offer them a non-patriarchal interpretation of it (which you have to jump through hoops to do) then that’s great. I have read a lot of it in part in order to have a better language to talk with christian women who are in abusive situations, and it’s very helpful. In the last week I’ve been talking (and mostly listening) to one woman whose marriage is very abusive, they are views as a very spiritual couple by others. I was surprised she approached me since I have in the past felt she viewed me with suspicion but in talking about my fears for my own children in regards to my ex-husband I unknowingly described what was going on in her home. It is a real challenge to encourage her without ever sounding like someone who is feminist and scary and I’m glad I have retained pretty much all of the bible after reading it for so long. So I am grateful for those that parse and wring and squash the bible into a non-abusive shape where good boundaries abound.

    It’s been a fascinating journey. I am still trying to work out for myself why such a life still has a pull, an appeal for me, why I still get little wistful moments when looking at some of the literature of the movement and the photos of the families.

    Cheryl in reading all your blogs and writings I want to say I have always valued how you support and embrace women in all walks of life, how you clearly have a will to care for every woman and you resist separating yourself from women because of idealogical differences. It’s been a great inspiration to me and has affected my own walk with the women that have come into my life, from all different persuasions and beliefs and backgrounds. I love your writing because it is passionately feminist yet never trashes women and this is RARE RARE RARE. I mean to take this lesson into my everyday life. It has encouraged me to “take back” some negative energy I’ve had towards women who I had stood back from because I saw them as “stupid” (I hang my head in shame at that one) or “living in the 50’s” or “fundy fanatics”. So, belatedly, thank you.

    Posted by Arietty | March 19, 2009, 12:10 am
  32. Cheryl, your willingness to tell your story and stand up for women in similar situations is brave and important. Thank you so much for doing it. I was one of your readers back in the early 90’s, a very young woman who came to that “movement” out of a charismatic Christian upbringing and into a stricter approach to Christianity when I sought to have my first child at home. One book led to another which led to another magazine which led to yours. I was pretty alone in my beliefs and I never did wear a headcovering or go to completely “modest” dress, but my husband and I went off birth control, started a home business and dreamed of living off the land one day. I had my second child at home soon after my first (I’m so happy I did–she’s such a wonderful girl!) and then I never was pregnant again. I was devastated. By then, I had made many friends and business associates through online means that shared my beliefs and I even wondered if they were judging me because I wasn’t getting pregnant again. (How bizarre is that?) While I was busying myself with all that home business work, bread-baking and gardening, though, my husband was busying himself with other women. When I found out, he became violent, then moved out. My church all but demanded that I reconcile with him. People would come to my house unannounced, at night even, to pray with me to turn my life around and reconcile with this man. People would call me, these were all people I didn’t even know very well, but they all felt like it was okay to tell me that I needed to submit to this man. A serial philanderer who became violent when discovered. I left the church during this time and never returned. I look back on that time of my life and it still stings. For a lot of reasons. I wonder what it was about myself that made me want those things, made me make them okay for myself. It’s almost as if the insularity of that sort of “home” was some kind of self-made cage that I needed in some way. But why? I struggle with that. But walking out of it felt good. I do have to say that. And by walking out, I don’t mean that I’ve abandoned all of it! I still love bread! And I homeschool my children, but I do it because I believe in that sort of education for them, not because I fear the outside anymore. That period also still stings for me because I reallly did believe. And the people around me so, so let me down. They took the things I believed and twisted them and used them to cut me, to hurt me. It would be too easy and too ugly to sit here in judgment of them. But there are those angry feelings. Organized religion does not do people many favors. It can make people feel entitled to do and say some pretty awful things. Anyway, thank you. Thank you for bringing these things to light.

    Posted by Sallie | March 19, 2009, 1:17 am
  33. Hi, Sallie,

    Isn’t that something the way these folks just show up at your house? One of my worst recollections is, one day as I was in the midst of all of the horrible things that happened after I split with my second husband, several neo-Amish men from a community in Pennsylvania (whose wives subscribed to my magazine) showed up at my door. !! I had an unlisted telephone number and never used my home address, just the PO Box, but they had gone to the postmistress at the post office where my box was for the magazine and asked her where I lived and she told them! I suppose she figured they were Amish so they were safe. Anyway, they showed up at my house in the middle of the day wanting to pray with me and I was so shocked, taken aback and upset I did get down on my knees and prayed with them there in my living room with my babies all around. 😦 I didn’t want to, but those old habits and practices die hard. I felt shaken and devastated for a long time after that. I also had that horrible, strong desire to “repent” and do whatever they thought I should do. I later was sent a copy of a letter they wrote to someone, and I can’t recall who it was, where they described me as badly backslidden, in part because I had been wearing earrings.

    Well, all sorts of people called me insisting that I repent. Most of them, I sued. (Not the Amish guys.)

    By then, I had made many friends and business associates through online means that shared my beliefs and I even wondered if they were judging me because I wasn’t getting pregnant again.

    Yeah, that’s another sad phenomenon in this world. If a woman doesn’t get pregnant again soon after her fertility returns from her previous birth, she starts to worry that God has withdrawn his blessing and maybe she won’t have any more children and like you, she wonders if the community is judging her, suspecting she is secretly using birth control, wondering if there are marriage problems or thinking, again, God is not going to “bless” the woman anymore. There is often a lot of competition in these communities so far as having a lot of kids. If you ask a woman how many kids she has, it isn’t unusual for her to say, “only six,” or “only five so far!” And as you’ve described, it’s really hard for women who have only one or two kids and then they don’t conceive again and of course, for women who do not conceive at all or who have miscarriages.

    Well, there’s other stuff too. Some women in that community are highly judgmental of women like Michelle Duggar and other Ezzos-followers who do not breastfeed responsively (or at all) and who therefore get pregnant right away again without doing the whole wear-the-baby/sleep-with-the-baby thing (this latter being one of my favorite things, ever in my whole life, wearing my babies and sleeping with them. Loved it.) And there can a lot of judgment, too, around creating one’s “quiver” via adoption. The ATI program the Duggars are part of is pretty much opposed to adoption except very narrowly, all sorts of restrictions. So anyone whose family is comprised of adopted kids gets the left foot of judgment from that crowd, ugh.

    Well, I’m sure you’re well aware of all of this, Sallie! I’m writing because I know many reading are not.

    It was so not your fault, there was nothing wrong with you, that you entered this community. There are many things about it that are beautiful and appealing. Most people want community. Most people love homemade bread (!), most people really don’t like a lot of things about mainstream culture and in particular, their busy, exhausting non-integrated lives, many people want to believe in a loving God who has a plan for their lives and who loves them, people with messed up families long for family, many times. As the saying goes, no woman ever marries an abuser. No woman ever joints a cult. We are trusting, we believe people, we are idealistic and we get hooked in to the dynamics and mechanics of abuse and once in, it’s so, so hard to get out, whether it’s a marriage or a church or a religious community.

    GOOD FOR YOU for getting out! And for making a new life for yourself and holding fast to the things you loved about the old world, like bread and homeschooling. Me too. 🙂 I have the deepest respect, for you, for all of us.


    Posted by womensspace | March 19, 2009, 4:41 pm
  34. Arietty: I have been shuddering over how much more overt the controlling has become, and how some segments are even more deeply, dedicatedly misogynist. In the past we talked about how you could do college by correspondence or send them to a christian college, even Mary Pride talked about how degrees like Business Management would help you manage a home. Now we have groups not wanting to send daughters to college at all and cutting off their education at year 8 or 9 in favour of learning the home arts. We have groups like Vision Forum saying a woman is NEVER to leave her home, she is to serve her father until she marries and then she is to serve her husband. I believe we are only a generation away (if that) from Sharia law.

    Arietty, you know, at least in the U.S. (I know you’re in Australia), these guys were always around from the beginning, they just weren’t so large and in charge way back when. That’s happened incrementally as they’ve moved in on home school organizations and groups and pitched their programs there. These guys are ambitious and will quickly commandeer any group they become part of before anybody realizes what is happening.

    In my series about the History of Homeschooling I trace the reconstructionist’s influence in the early homeschooling movement. They were into homeschooling way back, going back to the 60s, if I’m recalling correctly, but again, they were a tiny number and few knew about them much less how dangerous their ideas were. Once they got a foothold on the homeschooling movement, people were drawn in for various complicated reasons. Nobody realized the implications of their views early on. It wasn’t until they’d already amassed a following that their actual theology came under public scrutiny. These guys are the penultimate lawyers and are good at talking their way out of a paper bag; many people still have no idea what this crowd is actually all about. I think they are both more and less dangerous than is commonly believed. More dangerous because of their ruthlessness relationship wise and community wise, less dangerous because of their faith that God really is who they believe him to be and that he will do what they think he’s going to do. Well, that’s another subject.

    Thanks for your kind words, Arietty. I look back over my life and see the things that have remained the same through all of the different seasons and reinventions of myself, and one is, I have been all about women’s community for all of my adult life in some form or fashion. I really do plain like and enjoy most women, in a way that, I agree, is sadly not all that common.

    Posted by womensspace | March 19, 2009, 4:51 pm
  35. One more thing, I agree with you that the work Christian women are doing, conservative Christian women in particular, to address abusive relationships and sexism in the church is SO important. And very difficult and complicated.

    Posted by womensspace | March 19, 2009, 5:38 pm
  36. I’m just curious if you are still a Christian?

    Posted by sarah mae | April 7, 2009, 4:14 pm
  37. Hi, Sarah,

    Depends on what you mean by “Christian”.


    Posted by womensspace | April 7, 2009, 4:20 pm
  38. Another Chrisitan ministry, No Greater Joy with Mike and Deb Pearl, has taken up an interesting ‘attack’ against patriarchy. For a conservative Chrisitan ministry this has been very bold of them. Your readers might find it interesting to see the development of their thoughts around the differences of preparing children for adulthood while homeschooling and also recognizing the ‘warping’ of what starts out with genuine motivation only to become abusive in the end. There it is again; the theme of extremes. Balance is a thing often seen in hind sight!

    Posted by consider | April 14, 2009, 8:02 pm
  39. I would like to say, though your experiences were horrible and I must say I do not condone them, God HAS used them for the better. You’re fighting for women in abusive, cult-like situations. I support the founding BELIEFS of the quiverfull movement and, soon to be married, am planning on living as closely to the word as I can. But there is a differance between the original beliefs, which are biblically based and good, and the way corrupt people act them out. My husband-to-be and I have spoken extensivly about this. We will have submission, but, while the final desicion rests with him, he WANTS me to give my opinon, tell him what I think and believe. We will never join an isolated fundamentalist community because there is so much abuse and corruption within them, and for this reason I don’t call myself quiverful though I follow the system fairly closely. I am not a doormat to him, I have freedom because I am protected by him, but he loves me and as such (as the bible commands!) he loves me as his own flesh and wants the best for me

    I know how fortunate I am, in a time when seemingly the most biblical men always seem to be the most out of touch, I have found a man who believes without corruption. This is how it was MEANT to be lived out, before sinful men saw a way to benifit.

    Posted by abba12 | May 14, 2009, 10:37 am
  40. Heart, i’m sorry for what happened to you. it was wrong. makes my heart hurt to read it.


    Posted by stephanie | May 27, 2009, 11:00 pm
  41. Both as a ‘featured’ writer over on Yahoo/360 and afterward, I’ve been writing on the dangers of Fundamentalist Christianity for some time.

    I recently came across your website while doing research for another article, and wanted to thank you for the service you’re doing, exposing the dangers of what is currently a small but growing part of Fundamentalism.

    Posted by astranavigo | June 18, 2009, 9:17 pm


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