Author Archives: Ruth Tonkiss Cameron

About Ruth Tonkiss Cameron

Ruth joined the Burke Library archives in December 2003, returning to archives after education and training roles in university libraries in England and Scotland.

Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus- Christian Feminism Today Records

by Yulia Lazarev and Ruth Tonkiss Cameron

Starting from a caucus of the Evangelicals for Social Action in 1973, the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC) is a non-profit international organization formally founded in 1975, which has been working to educate and support Christian feminists.


The organization contains both women and men who believe that the Bible supports full equality of the sexes. In different chapters throughout the United States, the feminist members promote the use of women’s abilities in all forms of Christian careers and promote interaction and help within the Christian community. The educational opportunities with EEWC enable Christian feminists to grow in their faith and also in the critical issues which face Christian feminists.

Throughout its history the organization has changed its name a number of times to reflect its development. Originally they began as the Evangelical Women’s Caucus (EWC), which then changed to Evangelical Women’s Caucus International (EWCI). It was in 1990 that they selected and changed their name to Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC) in order to reflect their inclusive nature.

However from 2009, after the donation of their papers to the Burke Library Archives, the organization now combines its name with the online name Christian Feminism Today as Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus – Christian Feminism Today (EEWC-CFT).

EEWC-CFT is also accessible on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and, if you wish for more, you can also subscribe to the RSS feeds or email updates from their website

From 1977 to 2012 EEWC distributed newsletters to their members and other contacts. Articles for the newsletters were written by members of the organization or those who sent their articles to the editors. In the editorial records correspondence can be seen between the women writers and the editor-in-chief. Throughout the different series interesting information resources are to be found, which were either referenced in articles or used as background topical information for discussions.EEWC_LastPaperNewsletters

The contents of this collection reveal the interesting story of a small caucus of feminists in 1974 emerging at the conference of Evangelicals for Social Action. Over the years this developed into an international organization. From the start EWC (later EEWC) supported the development of local Chapters, so that women could meet and develop organizations in different states and smaller localities. The collection contains papers from a number of these local chapters, some short lived, others still flourishing. In 1978 the EWC became self-sufficient by its incorporation and moved from being a network of chapters into an incorporated nonprofit organization.

The biennial Conferences are a significant part of EEWC’s success and a specific sum is set aside for the next conference as part of every annual budget plan. The fact that this organization’s conferences are held in different locations may enable members’ attendance from a range of US states. Previous conferences have been held in Pasadena, Saratoga Springs, Chicago, Wellesley MA, Fresno, Norfolk VA, Indianapolis and Claremont CA.



Naturally posters, fliers, and promotional items such as tote bags, pins, pens and pencils are produced for members attending!

Thanks to support from EEWC-CFT all 39 linear feet of the organization’s archival records are now processed and the finding aid can be consulted online. The Burke Library welcomes researchers who wish to consult this archival collection and you can request an appointment through this online form.

Charles Augustus Briggs

A common reaction to the name of Charles Augustus Briggs is – “Wasn’t he the heretic?” The answer should be “Yes, but that’s not the whole story.” A brief look at the life of Briggs and his astonishingly cultured and supportive family reveals some unexpected insights.


Charles Briggs 1865


Charles Briggs was born in New York in 1841, the son of Sarah M. Berrian and businessman Alanson T. Briggs. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1860 and, while at university, experienced a religious conversion which led him to plan his future as a Presbyterian pastor. At the beginning of the Civil War, he joined New York’s Seventh Regiment in Washington DC for some months.





Briggs entered Union Theological Seminary in 1861 and was taught by Union’s renowned biblical faculty including Edward Robinson and Henry Boynton Smith. Briggs’ papers in the Burke archives contain some of his student notebooks.


Briggs’ Notebooks

Briggs' Notebooks

Briggs’ Notebooks










In 1863 Briggs was obliged to leave his seminary studies to manage the family business due to his father‘s ill-health over an extended period. This family business was one of the largest barrel-making companies in the USA, at a time when barrels were much in demand for packaging all types of material for transportation. The firm flourished during Briggs’ leadership.

In 1865 he married Julia Valentine Dobbs, a highly literate and musical New Yorker. Charles and Julia had seven children, five of whom were alive at the time of their father’s’ death in 1913: Emilie Grace, Agnes, Alanson Tuthill, Herbert Wilfrid and Olive.

Briggs was finally licensed to preach by the First Presbytery of New York in 1866. In June of that year he and his wife left New York traveling to Berlin, Germany, where they stayed for three years. While there Briggs studied for his doctorate at the University of Berlin with leading theologians and proponents of historical critical scholarship such as Isaak August Dorner. While they were in Germany, their first two daughters, Emilie Grace and Agnes, were born.

Returning to the United States in 1869, and following his Presbyterian ordination, Briggs was called to be the founding pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Roselle, New Jersey in 1870. Roselle was the very first village to benefit from electrical light thanks to Mr. Edison!

While attending the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance Conference in New York in 1870, Isaak

Isaak A. Dorner

Isaak A. Dorner

August Dorner visited the Briggs family in Roselle, and invited Charles Briggs to return to Germany to teach theology, but without success.

In 1874 Briggs accepted an offer from Union Theological Seminary to teach as provisional professor of Hebrew and Cognate Languages. The family moved to Union and Briggs began to teach for the next 39 years in the seminary where he had been a student. One Union legend insists that Julia (Mrs. Briggs) was horrified at the idea of living in an apartment, when hearing of the plans for Union’s new building in Morningside Heights, and that is why large duplex apartments were incorporated into Knox Hall faculty housing.

An inveterate correspondent, Briggs was connected throughout his life with major theologians from across Europe and the USA. William Adams Brown, once a student of and later a colleague of Briggs, provided a perceptive description of him with the comment that he was a “walking encyclopedia, combining an essentially conservative theology with a critical scholarship.”

Charles Briggs 1882

Charles Briggs 1882

For a temporary period early in 1888, both Emilie Grace and younger sister, Agnes, were featured in the New York press because they had acted as amanuenses for their father while he was disabled with a hand injury and unable to write while facing several pressing publication deadlines. Three articles were produced by his dictation, including one 50 page article written and published within a fortnight responding to the Revised English edition of the Old Testament for the Presbyterian Review. Both girls had benefited from private and home education by their parents, including learning foreign languages.

Briggs the Heretic
By 1890 Charles Briggs had already published articles on biblical criticism in the hope that the Presbyterian Church would begin to understand that this modernist method was possible without compromising their position as faithful Presbyterians.

He and other Union faculty members were by this time influenced by the German theologians’ approach to biblical critical scholarship. However Briggs’ appointment in 1890, as the first Edward Robinson Professor of Biblical Theology, created problems for both himself and Union.

Briggs’ dramatic inaugural speech, “The Authority of Holy Scripture,” inflamed both sides of the modernism and biblical criticism debates:

Let us cut down everything that is dead and harmful; every kind of dead orthodoxy, every species of effete ecclesiasticism, all those dry and brittle fences that constitute denominationalism, and are the barriers to Christian unity. Let us remove every encumbrance out of the way for a new life; the life of God is moving throughout Christendom, and the springtime of a new age is about to come upon us

This was not only heard by Presbyterians attending the inauguration, as his speech was also published and widely distributed.

Heresy trials
The reaction by the Presbyterian Church was both bewildering and overwhelming for the Briggs family. The Presbyterian Church called for Briggs to be “deposed from his Chair at Union” and to defend himself on the basis of his promotion of this approach to biblical study. This trial went on for over three years in the Presbyterian General Assemblies and led to a frenzy of coverage in the news press.

Briggs notes for his objection speech

Briggs notes for his objection speech

These events affected both the Briggs family and the seminary. His family fully supported him personally, as exhibited in the many scrapbooks of the newspaper trial coverage which they compiled. Meanwhile Emilie Grace and Agnes, the two older daughters, joined the Episcopal Church.

Union supported Briggs after some debate and refused to ‘depose’ him from his faculty position, which led to the return of Union to its position as an inter-denominational seminary. In this same controversy, two further members of the faculty were driven to join the Congregational Church.

Charles Briggs 1898

Charles Briggs 1898

In order to avoid a schism in the Presbyterian Church, Briggs surprisingly preached as a Presbyterian layman for five years. In 1899 he was ordained in the Episcopal Church. Briggs continued at Union ever productive in teaching and publishing. He died in June 1913 as a result of pneumonia, which had been oddly diagnosed as ‘brain fever’ to the distress of his family.

In 1944 Emilie Briggs donated her father’s papers to the Union archives, so that researchers could consult them.




Watch out for two more Blog episodes about Briggs and family!

Nobody Expects . . .*

When you walk into the Burke Library and look through the book and periodical stacks and the reading room reference shelves, you probably feel that you know what is here.  However, have you heard about the library’s “so-called” hidden collections?

The archives in the Burke Library contain 350 collections of unique documents and artifacts which cover 4367 linear feet of shelving – we are quickly approaching our first mile!   Archives contain the papers, writings, objects or digital files of faculty, students or organizations.

Because of the fragility and unique nature of all these documents, they are shelved in separate climate-controlled storage, but may be accessed by any researcher through requesting an appointment on this form.

Rows of archives boxes may look rather dull …


…but dip into them and the Burke’s archival collections will bring to life extraordinary experiences spanning across several centuries, up to recent times. Researchers, from near and far, visit the library to consult these collections to complete research for papers, dissertations, books and films.

There are many things about these collections that have captivated my interest over the years – one being the mysteries they hold. One such one has to do with materials relating to James Washington Wood.

An old inventory of Union Seminary collections lists a brief entry for James Washington Wood (1813 – 1884). Wood was one of the first students to graduate from Union back in 1839/40, when Union Seminary was based downtown at 9 University Place. Ordained in December 1839 as a Presbyterian pastor, Wood first worked in Deckertown, New Jersey, moving to Chester, New York and finally Allentown, Pennsylvania.

We would expect that the box of Wood’s papers could contain the usual items from a pastor of that period, possibly a notebook and some sermons. However his cryptic label on the original box, which was falling apart, stated: James Wood’s Spanish Manuscript.

Woods_2_OldlabelisignatureThe label was quite correct, but this was no ordinary Spanish manuscript.

In over 200 pages written by the distinctive hands of up to 5 scribes, this manuscript consists of the full records of the case brought before the Spanish Inquisition, against Juan Panis of Zapatero de Viejo in 1728-1730.


The documents throughout these full trial records tell a sad story and reveal that this unfortunate man was accused of heretical blasphemy before the branch of the Spanish Inquisition at Barcelona as late as the eighteenth century.

Woods_6_PageJuan Panis was clearly distressed at losing income from not working on the day of the Papal Jubilee in 1725, which Pope Benedict XIII had declared to be a holiday. Unfortunately Panis voiced this rather loudly in public and the results of his actions can be read in this detailed manuscript.


The personal disaster for Juan Panis lasted until his case report,including his renunciation, was accepted by the Council of Inquisition in Madrid, 1730.




However the final straw for him must have been his receipt of a bill/invoice listing the costs Woods_7_Finalbillwhich he had to pay on his release, which covered all his food during years of imprisonment as well as the instruments of torture.

Now why is this item in our archives such a mystery?

Pastor James Washington Wood clearly gave these complete Spanish Inquisition trial documents to Union’s Library during his lifetime. He was born in Florida, New York State, in 1813 and was working only in churches on the East Coast USA.

So how do you think that Wood eventually came to own and gift to this library these extraordinary documents, extracted from a secure and surely secret storage in Barcelona or Madrid?


* …the Spanish Inquisition! Quotation from Monty Python.