Something’s Got a Hold On Me: Women in Power in the Peoples Temple Movement
Crowley, Kerry E.
- Almost 40 years removed from the tragedy of November 18, 1978, the shadow cast by the new religious movement known as The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ (referred to simply as “Peoples Temple”) consists mainly of the tragic nature of its end and its charismatic founder, Jim Jones, who led his members toward suicide. This thesis shifts the narrative emphasis within the history of the ... read moremovement toward the members themselves in order to understand why and to what extent women wielded power within Peoples Temple. In so doing, it contends that these women’s actions were intimately linked to the gender politics and broader historical trends of the period. The thesis presents this analysis through an in-depth examination of two of the Temple’s most significant members: Marceline Jones, co-founder of the movement and wife of Jim Jones; and Carolyn Layton, a key administrative leader and Jones’ mistress. The analysis considers both the influence that these women exercised over the course of the movement as well as the various motivations of Marceline, Carolyn, and women like them to participate in this manner as leaders (a desire for spiritual advancement, a belief in social change, and affection for Jim Jones among them). The thesis concludes with a discussion of voices that resisted such female leadership—both from within and outside the movement—as a result of various social, economic, and political factors. This study is part a growing body of research on the women of Peoples Temple and further contributes to a still emerging understanding among historians of the intersection among gender, power, and new religious movements.read less