Matthew Avery Sutton is the Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Washington State University. He is the author of Double Crossed: The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War (2019), American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (2014), Jerry Falwell and the Rise of the Religious Right: A Brief History with Documents (2012), and Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (2007). His articles have appeared in diverse publications, ranging from the Journal of American History to the New York Times, and he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Fulbright Commission, and the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation. In 2016, he was appointed a Guggenheim Fellow.
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).