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The place women had carved for themselves in the administration of Southern Baptist churches in Texas by 1920 was larger than the one they had filled in 1880, but, like their expansion in worship, it was a less significant niche than the one occupied by men. Men retained exclusive rights to the diaconate and continued to control church policy and expenditures. Women, however, by structuring and expanding the traditional nurturing roles they had previously performed informally and by adding extensive missionary and educational responsibilities, became so vital to the church's life that they acquired the power to influence that policy. They also became skilled in performing the same managerial tasks that deacons carried out; however, because they conceived of themselves as assistants and supporters—second-class citizens of the kingdom—they did not hear a "call" to use those talents in the local church beyond the limited range of their own and their children's activities.

While acquiring new avenues of participating in the life and work of the church, women did not neglect their traditional, uncontroversial paths of religious service: benevolence and the instruction of children. On the contrary, they systematically organized and eventually dominated both areas. Early deaconesses had performed these services in the eighteenth century and ladies' aid societies carried on their work in the nineteenth, but both those groups suffered from the limited size and poor organization typical of most Baptist churches. They accomplished the tasks on an intermittent basis and they shared the responsibilities—particularly the religious instruction of the young—with men. But with the separation of the economic and domestic functions of the family and the development of churches large enough to sustain the same division of labor, these ministries eventually became the province of women, as the managerial became the men's. Exceptions were made in the case of institutional, large-scale benevolence (orphanages and hospitals) and the direction of Sunday school boards—men provided leadership in both areas—but the carrying-out of the work on a personal and congregational basis was left to women.

The majority of Christian women felt more comfortable with benevolent tasks than with presiding over a meeting or leading a public prayer, since many forms of charity were extensions of domestic expertise. Women were encouraged to consecrate their everyday activities to God, thereby adding to their significance.

Just a visit with the darning bag, dear mother, to the lonely heart next door--just a cheery greeting over the telephone when it rains. . . .Just a bowl of soup or apple pie passed over the back fence, means so much when done for the Master,
explained one who found satisfaction in her traditional role. BS , February 3, 1916, p. 22. Women escaped tedium and solitude by imagining their efforts joined not only with the deity, but with their Christian sisters, each stitch they took in an orphan's garment forming
a link in the chain of good work that our noble women are doing.
BS , May 11, 1899, p. 10. The familiarity and acceptability of women's ministering and being ministered to with personal attention and assistance led them to refer to it as a "sweet work":

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Source:  OpenStax, Patricia martin's phd thesis. OpenStax CNX. Dec 12, 2012 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11462/1.1
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