Sex and God in the City of the Angels: The Kidnapping of Aimee Semple McPherson and American Culture

Lecture Description

One spring morning in 1926, popular Los Angeles evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson vanished from a local beach and was thought to have drowned. A month later she reappeared in Arizona claiming that members of the Los Angeles “underworld” kidnapped and held her for ransom in Mexico. Rumors quickly spread that she had actually been vacationing with a secret lover in the beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. A year-long media frenzy ensued. Matthew Avery Sutton will discuss the kidnapping controversy, focusing on what it reveals about debates over women’s changing gender roles, the position of fundamentalism in public life, and the uses and influence of new forms of mass media in 1920s America. This talk is based on Sutton’s award-winning book Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard University Press, 2007).


Mass Communications Religion

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