Telling the story of extremely influential Baptist women in the Progressive Era (1880-1920), professor of Christian studies Dr. Carol Holcomb will soon see the finished project of an endeavor that has taken more than a decade to complete.
Balancing a family, teaching, researching and writing is not easy, but Holcomb has managed to pull it off for the past 11 years as she has been working on her first complete book.
“A lot of people will tell you that they get up at 5 a.m. and write for two hours and then go to class, but I’ve never been able to do that. I really have to have space and a writing zone,” she said.
With three young boys to care for, Holcomb has often put her writing on the back burner, making sure her children are well cared for.
“My family is my first priority. I’ve kind of expected that there are seasons when you can write and there were seasons when my boys were itty bitty when I couldn’t do anything,” Holcomb said.
Even though the project has taken many years to complete, her interest in the subject has been consistently strong since she first researched it in graduate school.
“I finished my dissertation in 1999, and I think that for a lot of students that’s most of their life that I’ve been working on this,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb hopes the book will reveal the motives of prominent women during the turn of the 20th century.
“The purpose of the book is really to try and see the influences of the Progressive Era and the theological currents of that time and how they influenced women when they were establishing their missionary society,” she said.
Although the work focuses on the early 20th century, Holcomb recognizes that the ramifications of this movement are evident today in many areas.
She said, “One question I had to ask myself was, ‘Why does it matter?’ What matters is that social work came from it. Baptist women started social work programs.”
Not only will her book highlight Baptist women in general, but also the role that the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor played in the formation of these programs.
“Many of the women who were active in Texas missionary activity, many of them graduated from Mary Hardin-Baylor,” Holcomb said. “Hopefully, Mary Hardin Baylor will feature more prominently in this work than I thought it would have.”
Holcomb’s husband, UMHB Associate Professor of history and political science Dr. David Holcomb is excited about the publication of his wife’s work.
“I am thrilled about Carol’s book, not only because it’s an interesting topic that will be an important contribution to religious studies and history, but also because she’s a great writer,” he said.
Since the two are both professors, they understand the time and dedication it takes to complete an undertaking like this one and adapt their lifestyles to allow for maximum concentration on projects.
“Carol and I have enjoyed a very mutually supportive relationship when it comes to our professional lives,” Holcomb said. “When one of us is trying to complete a writing project, the other will take over the lion’s share of household duties or responsibilities related to the kids.”
With some time to focus between teaching and parenting, Carol Holcomb hopes to see a publication date of 2012 with a possible title of Baptist Women, Missions & Social Reform.
After 11 years of work, she views the completion of the book with mixed feelings.
“There’s something final and terrifying about finishing. Once it’s there, it’s there forever,” Holcomb said.
A historian at heart, she said, “This is the fun of history. It’s like a mystery that you have to figure out and clues that you have to find. You’re looking for that piece of evidence that ties everything up nicely.”