Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

(1924-1988) Sociologist of religion whose scholarly contributions focused on the effects of social change on institutional religion. Specific concerns involved the rural environment, the impact of new religious movements of the 1970s and 1980s, and women entering the ministry. Her prolific scholarship, which included being author, coauthor, or editor of 7 books and 52 articles or chapters in books within a career span of 20 years, was particularly unusual for a second-career scholar who began her academic professional life after age 40.

After "raising chickens and kids and gardens," and intrigued by the dynamics of conflict within rural congregations and communities between those eager for change and those resistant to it, she returned to college in 1960 and, as a single parent following the death of her husband, earned the first Ph.D. in sociology at Colorado State University. Teaching and chairing the Sociology Department at Hollins College (Virginia), her first monograph, The Reformation of the Holy: A Sociology of Religion (Davis 1971), attracted the attention of sociologist Rodney Stark, resulting in a postdoctoral appointment at the University of California at Berkeley with Charles Glock and Robert Bellah (1972-1973). There, her study of the effects of new religious movements on mainline churches, through research on youth and campus ministries, transformed her ensuing research commitments. Her subsequent academic appointments were at the University of North Florida (1973-1975), where she founded and chaired the Department of Sociology and Social Welfare, Yale Divinity School (1975-1979), and finally as Professor of Sociology of Religion at Iliff School of Theology (Denver) from 1979 until her death.

Following her Berkeley experience, Hargrove's scholarship focused on the nexus of new religious movements and mainline denominationalism. Prominent in the sociology of religion academy, she edited Sociological Analysis (now Sociology of Religion ), the official journal of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, from 1985 until her death. She also served as President of the Religious Research Association (1978-1979) and Vice President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion (1984). Illness and death prevented her delivery of the Religious Research Association's H. Paul Douglass lecture for which she had been selected in 1989 (see Long et al. 1989). Hargrove was widely known for her mentorship of junior colleagues and graduate students, and acclaimed as a role model for women scholars starting their careers. As a committed Presbyterian, she was widely known for her denominational and ecumenical activity, including work with the National Council of Churches.

Immediately prior to her death, Hargrove had been researching religion's role in U.S. rural communities facing the farm crisis, and had planned to examine the diversity of socioeconomic issues in the rural West for which theological education needed to prepare future ministers, a research interest integrating her sociological expertise, religious commitment, and passion for the rural environment.

Paula D. Nesbitt


R. Fernandez-Calienes, "Bibliography of the Works of Barbara J. W. Hargrove," Sociological Analysis 51(1990):315-329

B. J. W. Hargrove, Religion for a Dislocated Generation (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson, 1980)

B. J. W. Hargrove, "Free to Be Me," in A Time to Weep, A Time to Sing , ed. M. J. Meadow and C. A. Rayburn (Minneapolis: Winston, 1985): 64-78

B. J. W. Hargrove, The Emerging New Class (New York: Pilgrim, 1986)

B. J. W. Hargrove, The Sociology of Religion , 2nd ed. (Arlington, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1989)

R. S. Jarles, "Barbara June Watts Hargrove," in An Intellectual History of the Iliff School of Theology , ed. J. A. Templin (Denver: Iliff School of Theology, 1992): 359-373

T. E. Long et al., "In Memoriam," Review of Religious Research 30(1989):321-328.

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500