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Garrett-Evangelical Red Shoe Tradition

Semi-circle of women at Garrett-Evangelical commencement wearing red shoes

Our red shoes are not a privilege we earn, but a history we claim. We honor Georgia Harkness, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Rosemary Skinner Keller, and so many others with our red shoes. We claim our place in their legacy, and with it we accept the responsibility to continue to move the world forward, to maintain their history, and to advance theological thinking. We proclaim our willingness to be bold, to be ourselves, and to show the world how much stick-to-itiveness we have!

If you attend a commencement service at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, you might notice a common feature among our female graduates. No, it's not the black robes or fancy hoods or expressions of eager anticipation. Glance down towards the ground and you'll see a line of red shoes. Red heels. Red flats. Red sandals. Maybe even a pair of red cowboy boots or red converse sneakers. It is a tradition at Garrett-Evangelical for women to wear red shoes at graduation as a reminder "of our place as courageous, outrageous women, and to celebrate the rich tradition of female scholarship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary."

The Tradition of the Red Shoes

red high heeled shoesThere is a beautiful tradition at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary of wearing red shoes at graduation. In the past, this has primarily been a tradition of the women of Garrett-Evangelical but in recent years we've seen some red shoes on our male colleagues too. The tradition, though, fails to be beautiful if no one knows the story behind the shoes. Our alumna, Amanda Baker, wrote the following post before her graduation in 2010 from Garrett-Evangelical and has given us permission to share.


Why do we wear red shoes?

We wear red shoes to remind us of our place as courageous, outrageous women, and to celebrate the rich tradition of female scholarship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

What does wearing red shoes have to do with female scholarship?

It begins with a story that Georgia Harkness used to tell of her great-grandmother Abigail.

As Georgia told the story, "Abigail was not only not a quaker, but was known as a 'worldly woman,' who affronted neighbors by 'appearing out of plainness' and was referred to scornfully as ' the woman in the red coat.' Whether because of the red coat or more abiding charms, she won the heart of Daniel Harkness and they were married in November, 1802."

In response, the Society of Friends presented Daniel Harkness with a letter of dismissal for marrying out of the meeting. To 'make satisfaction to the meeting' he would only have had to say he was sorry he married her. But he was not sorry, and he would not say it!" Georgia stated flatly-and proudly. (Keller, 33)

Wait . . . Who was Georgia Harkness?

Georgia Harkness has become one of the legendary personalities of Garrett-Evangelical. She was the first professional female theologian in the United States. She served as the first ever Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett Biblical Institute from 1939-1950 before moving to California to teach at the Pacific School of Religion until 1961. In addition to her teaching she was a prolific author and hymn-writer. Most telling of her character, though, is a story she told of her struggle to be accepted in the Ph.D. program of her choice.

Edgar Brightman, the distinguished professor of philosophy at Boston University and Georgia’s mentor in her doctoral program in the 1920s initially questioned whether she was that exceptional and whether he should take her as a PhD candidate. He judged that “I had the preparation, probably the brains, but that I lacked the stick-to-itiveness.” Clear in her own mind, Georgia “told him that if that was all, I would see to that.” And she did. (Keller, 35)

Click here for a link to a much more in-depth look at Georgia’s life.

So who decided we should wear red shoes?

The story of the woman in the red coat was recorded in a biography of Georgia Harkness’s life, For Such A Time As This, written by Rosemary Skinner Keller. She feared that Georgia’s story, and with it, the history of women’s entry into professional theology in the United States, might be lost. Keller was on faculty at Garrett-Evangelical from 1978-1996, and she served from 1993-1996 as the seminary’s first female Academic Dean. During her time on the Garrett-Evangelical faculty, Keller took to wearing red shoes to honor the legacy of Georgia Harkness and her great-grandmother Abigail Cochran. The tradition spread to other female faculty members, and has in recent years become a tradition of the student body.

Read more about Rosemary Skinner Keller here.

red sneakersOur red shoes are not a privilege we earn, but a history we claim. We honor Georgia Harkness, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Rosemary Skinner Keller, and so many others with our red shoes. We claim our place in their legacy, and with it we accept the responsibility to continue to move the world forward, to maintain their history, and to advance theological thinking. We proclaim our willingness to be bold, to be ourselves, and to show the world how much stick-to-itiveness we have!

*I have pulled biographical information about Georgia and Rosemary from both of the links embedded in the post. In addition both quotes above, as well as addition biographical information about Georgia are from Rosemary Skinner Keller's biography of Georgia Harkness, For Such a Time as This, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992).

Special thanks go to Dr. Lallene Rector, Dr. Gennifer Brooks, and Dr. Ruth Duck for pointing me to the origins of our red shoes.

The Courageous, Outrageous Women of Garrett-Evangelical

It is nearly impossible to highlight all of the courageous, outrageous women of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. We are very proud of our female alumni who have gone on to serve the church, academy, and world in a myriad of ways, impacting thousands of lives for the better. They are clergy, scholars, educators, musicians, denominational leaders, and more. Garrett-Evangelical has also been blessed with outstanding female faculty, staff, and administrative leadership in its long history. Below are but a few of the courageous, outrageous women from Garrett-Evangelical's past and present who have helped shaped the mission, vision, and future of the seminary and made an impact in church and society.

Eliza Garrett - Founder, Garrett Biblical Institute (Predecessor Institution)

Eliza Garrett, the wife of Chicago mayor Augustus Garrett, became convinced of the need for better training for Methodist preachers. In her will, made out in early December 1853, she left a considerable inheritance for the founding of a biblical institute. A meeting was held in Chicago on December 26, 1853, at which a group of Methodist leaders invited John Dempster to come to Chicago and organize the institute. Eliza Garrett''s will and this organizational meeting are the basis for the date of 1853 as the founding of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (then named Garrett Biblical Institute).

Lucy Meyer Rider - Founder, Chicago Training School (Predecessor Institution)

Lucy Rider Meyer was a well-known leader in Christian social service and religious education as well as a physician, chemistry professor, and hymn writer. Her deaconess work has been often compared to Jane Addams’ settlement house movement. With a vision to train lay Christian women intellectually and help them provide health and social services among the urban poor, she along with her husband, Josiah Shelley Meyer, founded the Chicago Training School for Home, City, and Foreign Missions in 1885 and served as its first principal until 1917. During her term, Meyer trained more than 5,000 students, and with the graduates, initiated the development of 40 institutions including schools, hospitals, orphanages, old people’s homes, and deaconess homes. She also played a critical role in the revival of the deaconess movement in the United Methodist Church.

Myrtle Sayler Speer - Alumna (CTS 1916), United Methodist Elder

Myrtle Sayler Speer was in the class of 1916 at the Chicago Training School after being refused admission to Garrett Biblical Institute. When she was refused ordination by the Methodist Church, she continued in the ministry. She filled out a term as pastor, after the death of her minister-husband. In 1974 she was finally fully ordained by the Missouri Conference. During 1975-1978 she was at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary to preach in chapel. While here, she fell on ice and broke her hip. Many women students visited her and got to know her. She became a great inspiration to them. She died in 1981. Soon after her visit, the women decided to name an award for her, the Myrtle Sayler Speer Award, which is now given each year to three graduating women who have contributed the most to the expansion of the vision of women in ministry and theological study. The recipients are chosen by the women of the graduating class.

Georgia Harkness - Professor of Applied Theology, Garrett Biblical Institute (Predecessor Institution)

Georgia Harkness served as professor of applied theology at Garrett Biblical Institute (GBI) from 1939-1940. She was the first female faculty member hired by GBI and was also the first woman to hold a position as professor of theology in a seminary in the United States. Harkness wrote over 30 books in her lifetime and tackled subjects from Christian ethics to equality of sexes and women’s ordination to eschatology, secularism, and apologetics.  In 1926, she was ordained by the Methodist Church (later part of the United Methodist Church), but, along with all other women, she was not admitted to any Conference (and, thus, could not function as a minister) until 1956. Today, the Chair of Applied Theology at Garrett-Evangelical is known as the Georgia Harkness Chair of Applied Theology. 

Rosemary Skinner Keller - Academic Dean, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Rosemary Skinner Keller was the first female academic dean at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, Chicago State University, and University of Illinois at Chicago, Keller wrote and edited numerous books on American culture and American women’s history, and coedited In Our Own Voices: Four Centuries of American Women’s Religious Writing with Rosemary Radford Ruether, as well as the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. She was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity from Garrett-Evangelical in 2006.

Rosemary Radford Ruether - Georgia Harkness Emerita Professor of Applied Theology, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Rosemary Radford Ruether has been a pioneer Christian feminist theologian for over five decades, and among the most widely read feminist theologians in North America. To categorize her only as a feminist theologian, however, is to risk neglecting the broad scope of her interests. With wide-ranging scholarship and a penchant for finding the hidden connections among seemingly disparate fields, Ruether is seemingly at home in such diverse fields as patristics, the historical and theological roots of anti-Semitism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the history of women in American religion, liberation theology, the mythology of the Ancient Near East, and ecology. Ruether currently serves as the Carpenter Emerita Professor of Feminist Theology at Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union, as well as the Georgia Harkness Emerita Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a scholar, teacher, and activist in the Roman Catholic Church.

Lallene J. Rector - President, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Lallene J. Rector was named president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary on May 16, 2013 and began her term on January 1, 2014. She is the first layperson and first female president of Garrett-Evangelical. President Rector has been an esteemed faculty member at Garrett-Evangelical since 1986 as Associate Professor of Psychology of Religion and Pastoral Psychotherapy and most recently held the role of Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean (2006-2013). Among her numerous achievements as academic dean, President Rector developed and implemented the seminary’s strategic plan, chaired the budget reduction task force, initiated curriculum review, and negotiated the seminary’s charter membership in the Seminary Stewardship Alliance. Her influence at the school can be further witnessed by looking at the student body. Rector is committed to creating a diverse community, which has driven her to develop strong relationships with the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE), Advanced Latino/a Theological Education Program, and the Center for African American Studies program. 

WomenIMAGES Center

Established in the early 1970s to provide programs and act as a catalyst for the whole community, WomenIMAGES (Women in Ministry at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary) provides community and educational opportunities for women and seeks to create a nonsexist context for theological education. The center offers student-organized opportunities for learning and advocacy.

For further information contact Virginia Lee, advisor, at 847.866.4549.

Myrtle Sayler Speer Award

The award goes to three graduating women who have contributed the most to the expansion of the vision of women in ministry and theological study. The recipients are chosen by the women of the graduating class.

The award is named in honor of Myrtle Saylor Speer. She was in the class of 1916 at the Chicago Training School after being refused admission to Garrett Biblical Institute. When she was refused ordination by the Methodist Church, she continued in the ministry. She filled out a term as pastor, after the death of her minister-husband. In 1974 she was finally fully ordained by the Missouri Conference.

During '75-'78 she was at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary to preach in chapel. While here, she fell on ice and broke her hip. Many women students visited her and got to know her. She became a great inspiration to them. She died in 1981.

Soon after her visit, the women decided to name an award for her. The first award was given in 1977 to Marti Scott.

Written by Vera Watts, 1994

Our Female Faculty

Cheryl Anderson

Rev. Dr. Cheryl Anderson is professor of the Old Testament at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Her research interests focus on women and biblical laws as well as liberationist readings of biblical texts. Her first book, Women, Ideology, and Violence was published by Continuum Press in 2004. Her second book, Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies: The Need for Inclusive Biblical Interpretation, was published by Oxford University Press in 2009. She has also published numerous articles, in addition to lecturing extensively in the United States and in sub-Saharan Africa.

Anderson’s current research interests includes the Church’s response to the AIDS pandemic in the African American community and in South Africa, the country with the highest number of persons in the world who are living with AIDS. She has received two major grants for her work—one was from the Louisville Institute and the other one was a Fulbright award. Anderson is committed to using her academic background to help African and African American communities face this pandemic.

Trina Armstrong

Rev. Dr. Trina Armstrong will join the faculty at Garrett-Evangelical in July 2016 as assistant professor of pastoral theology and pastoral care. Armstrong comes to Garrett-Evangelical from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, where she was assistant professor of pastoral theology and pastoral care. In addition, she served as a systemic family therapist with Nystrom and Associates. Armstrong, an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, has served on the ministerial staffs of several AME churches. She has also worked as a hospice chaplain, community-based therapist, substance abuse counselor, and a pastoral counselor to homeless families, formerly incarcerated women, and at-risk youth. She holds professional memberships in the American Academy of Religion, Society of Pastoral Theology, American Psychological Association, Association of Black Psychologists, and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

Armstrong holds a doctor of philosophy degree in spiritual care and counseling from the Claremont School of Theology, a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, a master of arts degree in psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy from California Southern University, and a bachelor of science degree in information systems from Golden Gate University. Her research intersects with practical and womanist theology, post-trauma psychology, and relational cultural theory. She also researches issues of loss, grief, death and dying, crisis care, and the impact of historical trauma on the wellbeing of African American families and interpersonal relationships.

Nancy Bedford

Dr. Nancy Bedford was born in Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. She has been Georgia Harkness professor of theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary since 2003. Previously she taught theology at Instituto Universitario ISEDET and Seminario Internacional Teológico Bautista (both in Buenos Aires). She has written or edited eight books and written over 70 book chapters and journal articles, which have appeared in five languages.

Her latest book is Galatians, A Theological Commentary forthcoming summer 2016 from WJK in the Belief series. Her current project is on the Christology of the marvelous exchange from a Latin American and Latino/a perspective. Her research interests focus on global feminist theories and theologies, Latin American theologies, Latino/Latina theologies in North America, theologies in migration, liberating readings of Scripture, hermeneutics, and the rearticulation of classical doctrinal loci from the perspective of critical, artistic and poetic reason.

Gennifer Brooks

Rev. Dr. Gennifer Brooks is the director of the Styberg Preaching Institute and the Ernest and Bernice Styberg professor of preaching at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She is an ordained elder and full clergy member of the New York Conference of The United Methodist Church. She has served local churches in the New York conference in rural, suburban, urban and cross-racial settings. She was the Assistant Dean of New Brunswick Theological Seminary from 1996-2000 and an adjunct professor in the area of Preaching and Worship at New Brunswick Seminary from 2001-2003.

Brooks holds a bachelor of business, cum laude, and a master of business administration from Pace University, a master of divinity, summa cum laude, and a doctor of ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and a doctor of philosophy in liturgical Ssudies from Drew University.

She is the author of Good News Preaching: Offering Good News in Every Sermon (Pilgrim Press, 2009), and Praise the Lord: Litanies, Prayers and Occasional Services (CSS Publications, 1996). She has been a contributor to the following texts: Companion to The Africana Worship Book (Discipleship Resources 2007), Zion Still Sings: For Every Generation (Abingdon Press, 2007), The Africana Worship Book for Year C (Discipleship Resources, 2008), Those Preaching Women: A Multicultural Collection (Judson Press, 2008), Handbook of Methodist Studies (Oxford Press, 2009).

She has also contributed to several publications including Homily Service (The Liturgical Conference), and The African American Pulpit (Generis).  She is a member of the Academy of Homiletics, the North American Academy of Liturgy, and the American Academy of Religion.

Jaeyeon Lucy Chung

Dr. Jaeyon Lucy Chung began working for the United Library at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2010 and is now the director as well as the assistant professor of pastoral theology. She earned a PhD in religion with a focus in person, community, and religious practices from Emory University in 2008. In addition, she holds a master of library and information science degree from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, a master of sacred theology degree from Boston University, and a master of arts in religion from Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Angela Cowser

Rev. Dr. Angela Cowser is the assistant professor of the sociology of religion and director of the Center for the Church and the Black Experience (CBE) at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. In the classroom, community, and church, Cowser comes as a pastor, community organizer, and sociologist. As such, she gives her students theological, ethical, sociological, and practical tools to help them do justice wherever they find themselves; that is, to reckon honestly with the world as it is, while they dream, plan, and organize toward the world as it can and should be. Her research efforts include black police officers and how they make sense of evil, suffering and death; black entrepreneurs' understanding of wealth, power, and faith; the shape of prophetic leadership in post-Christian America; public-private church; and black church leadership.

Cowser is the recipient of numerous fellowships, honors, and awards, including the William J. Fulbright Foreign Scholarship to Namibia and the Fund for Theological Education Doctoral Fellowship and the Theology and Practice Scholarship (Vanderbilt University). She has recently lectured at Louisville Seminary, Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio, Hanover College, Vanderbilt University, and Memphis Theological Seminary. Cowser is currently working on a $3 million fundraising campaign to fund the CBE.

Margaret Ann Crain

Rev. Dr. Margaret Ann Crain is professor emerita of Christian education at Garrett-Evangelical, having become a member of the faculty in 1998. An ordained deacon of The United Methodist Church in full connection with the Northern Illinois Conference, Crain’s contributions to the academy and the Church have made her one of the most well-known and well-respected scholar practitioners in her field.

Crain has served as a board member of the Christian Educators Fellowship and editor of Christians in Education, and was co-writer for the UMC Commission for the Study of Ministry in the 2008-2012 quadrennium. Her most recent publication, The United Methodist Deacon: Ordained to Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice (Abingdon Press 2014), gives a clear understanding of the order of deacon, beginning with a discussion of how its unique call sets apart persons for ordained ministry.

Ruth Duck

Rev. Dr. Ruth Duck earned degrees from Southwestern University, Memphis, Tennessee (B.A.), Chicago Theological Seminary, Illinois (M.Div.), University of Notre Dame, Indiana (M.A.), and Boston University School of Theology, Massachusetts (Th.D.). Her areas of study included Christian education, liturgy, and worship; her doctoral work was on the Trinitarian baptismal formula. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Duck served churches in Hartford and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently she is professor of worship at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois; her teaching areas have included congregational song, healing and reconciliation, and worship and the arts.

Julie Duncan

Dr. Julie Duncan is associate professor of Hebrew Bible, and director of the Masters of Theological Studies program at Garrett-Evangelical. After receiving her doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, she taught at Union Theological Seminary (New York), and Princeton Theological Seminary, before coming to teach at Garrett-Evangelical in 1996. She has recently authored a commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes, and is currently working on an edition of liturgical manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Pamela Holliman

Dr. Pamela Holliman is the associate professor of pastoral theology and pastoral psychotherapy at Garrett-Evangelical where she also serves as the Director of Clinical Training in the Doctor of Philosophy program in Pastoral Theology, Personality and Culture. Dr. Holliman is a fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, a licensed psychologist (PA), and the president of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. She is the author of numerous articles addressing issues of pastoral counseling and the role of religious experience and psychoanalytic theory. Before teaching at Garrett-Evangelical, she was Executive Director of Samaritan Counseling Center in Philadelphia and Mental Health Faculty at CREDO, a wellness program for clergy supported by the National Episcopal Church.

Wonhee Anne Joh

Dr. Wonhee Anne Joh is the associate professor of theology at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. Joh received her PhD from Drew University in 2003 in theological and philosophical studies. Her areas of teaching and research are at the intersections of feminist/womanist theology, postcolonial and poststructural theory, critical race theory, and cultural studies. Joh’s latest research areas include race and sexuality, postcoloniality and bio-politics of empire, issues of citizenship, human rights, immigration, and psycho-social-religio analysis of subjectivity.

Anna Johnson

Dr. Anna Johnson is assistant professor of reformation church Hhstory at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Johnson co-edited The Reformation as Christianization: Essays on Scott Hendrix's Christianization Thesis and has also published numerous book chapters, translations, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews. She received her doctor of philosophy in history from Princeton Theological Seminary, writing her dissertation on "Piety and Polemics: Martin Luther's Reform of Christian Practice, 1518-1520." Johnson also holds a master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a bachelor of arts from St. Olaf College.

Virginia Lee

Rev. Dr. Virginia Lee is associate professor of Christian education and director of Deacon Studies at Garrett-Evangelical and has served in various capacities at numerous churches as a deacon in full connection in the Virginia Annual Conference. Her academic accolades include receiving the Diaconal Advance Graduate Award and the Rosalie Bentzinger Graduate Award, both of which are given by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church. Additionally, Lee has published articles in both academic and lay journals and has been an active participant in educational and ministerial forums and conferences.

Lallene J Rector

President Lallene J. Rector is the first layperson to be appointed president in the seminary’s 160-year old history. She is also the associate professor of psychology of religion and pastoral psychotherapy at Garrett-Evangelical. Her background as a United Methodist who brings expertise in pastoral psychotherapy makes her an invaluable asset on the Ministerial Assessment Specialists Advisory Committee on Candidacy and Clergy Assessment for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Additionally, she has served as a convener for the United Methodist Theological Schools academic deans and regularly represents the seminary at denominational conferences.

President Rector’s educational background includes a bachelor of arts in psychology and religion from Texas Christian University, a master of theological studies from Boston University’s School of Theology, and a doctor of philosophy in psychology of religion from Boston University’s Graduate School for the Arts and Sciences. She holds memberships in the American Academy of Religion; has served on the Steering Committee for Person, Culture and Religion Section; and has been a member of the American Psychoanalytical Association and the Chicago Society for Psychoanalysis.

 


Garrett-Evangelical is proud of its long history as a pioneering institution preparing women for lay and ordained ministry. From our predecessor institution, the Chicago Training School for City, Home, and Foreign Missions, to Dr. Georgia Harkness, the first woman to hold the post of professor of theology at any seminary in the United States, and more, the empowerment of women for leadership and ministry has been embedded in our institutional DNA since our founding. Help us continue to train bold, outstanding, courageous, outrageous women who change the world with a gift to our Annual Fund.