Nancy Koester, Ph.D., author, speaker
Nancy Koester, Ph.D.,  author, speaker

Welcome to Nancy Koester's website


Dr. Koester is an author and professor who specializes in the history of religion in America. She has published several books, most recently a biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe.  She has lectured on college and seminary campuses, at continuing education events and in church forums. She lives in St. Paul, MN and is available to speak to your class or church forum, or meet with your book club. Please take a moment to explore this website for more information on Koester’s work and for general resources on Harriet Beecher Stowe and church history. For comments and questions, please email    Thanks for visiting!


2015 Minnesota Book Award for General Nonfiction

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life.  As a middle aged mother, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her anti-slavery novel made her famous overnight. She toured Europe as a celebrity and became the best-selling author of the century.  But she also suffered personal tragedy and loss: one of her children died very young in a cholera epidemic, and years later another son died in an accidental drowning.  During the Civil War, a third son was wounded at Gettysburg.  Over her long lifetime, Stowe wrote many books.  She met Abraham Lincoln and knew personally some of the most famous people of her era.  Through it all, she pursued her spiritual quest from stern New England Calvinism to a broader, more open form of Christianity.  This book traces her spiritual journey through the most tumultuous decades in American history, showing how Stowe shaped her own times and was shaped by them.  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 

Congratulations Harriet!  You won the 2015 Minnesota Book Award!  


Coming soon from Fortress Press! 


The history of Christianity in the United States is a fascinating and lively story.  In this revised and expanded account, Nancy Koester introduces students to the major events and movements that influenced the tradition.

“Engaging, informative, and skillfully written, Koester’s work provides a panorama of the history of American Christianity, adding just the right amount of nuance and detail to reveal the depth and color of the landscape.  Teachers as well as students and other interested readers will be grateful for this substantive, clear, and useful account.”

       Russell Kleckley, Augsburg College


“Many general readers and beginning students want a concise, basic overview instead of a massive, detailed volume about the historical development of Christianity in the United States.  That is just what this book provides – a brief survey, in understandable language, based upon respected academic sources.  The breadth of content covered in so few pages is remarkable.  Koester is balanced and judicious in her narrative, and she is aware of the themes and issues of current scholarship.  The excerpts from primary documents and the additional illustrations in this revised edition are significant enhancements that help bring the story to life.”

      Bruce David Forbes, Morningside College



Fortress Intro to the History of Christianity in the United States.

"Many general readers and beginning students want a concise, basic overview instead of a massive, detailed volume about the historical development of Christianity in the United States.  That is just what this book provides--a brief survey, in understandable language, based on respected academic sources.  The breadth of content covered in so few pages is remarkable."  Bruce David Forbes.  Read more and order a copy from Fortress Press.

Journeying Through Lent With Luke 
  Vivid word pictures, crisp retelling of text, and creative allegory spark delight in the beauty of Luke's Gospel and a desire to follow Christ.  Each of the forth-seven devotions (one for each day of Lent and Holy Week) is free-standing, but themes--such as prayer, healing, forgiveness, and teaching-link groups of devotions together, lending depth and continuity to them.   Questions for individual reflection or small group discussion are offered, with a prayer for each day. Click here to order.

New Proclamation is a highly practical resource for clergy. Includes: --new references to culture, media, and contemporary events with practical suggestions for incorporating these into sermons; --wide margins for making notes while you work; --a lay-flat binding for hands-free use; --brief exegesis of the lessons and expanded homiletical reflections on the themes; --introductions to the liturgical seasons with an eye toward preaching; --a new one-volume format.  The "Epiphany" section is by Nancy Koester.  This book is for "Year B" in the Lectionary of preaching texts.  Click here to order.

Christian History Tutor: online learning

Want to learn the basics of Christian History?  Try the online History Tutor from Luther Productions.  This ecumenical study tool appeals to a broad range of learners.  It provides short summaries of key people, places, and stories in Christian history.  Visuals enliven most pages and links let you toggle back and forth between related topics.  Self tests make this a great tool for independent study or for online classes.  Click here to try it out.  Then click on any one of the icons that appears in the box and you're on your way.  


1 "Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Christian Life," Journal of Lutheran Ethics
2 "Harriet Beecher Stowe on Slavery," Word & World
3 "The Future in our Past: Post Millenialism in American Protestantism," Word & World

4 & 5:  Two articles on Samuel Simon Schmucker, a 19th century Lutheran clergyman.  Schmucker founded Gettysburg Seminary, he was a professor and seminary president who promoted cooperation across denominational lines and was an outspoken foe of slavery.  He may have hidden runaway slaves in his basement.  During the battle of Gettysburg, his home was ransacked by Confederate soldiers. 


These articles were researched at Gettysburg College and Seminary.  Yes, I visited the battlefield and Schmucker's house, which stood behind Confederate lines.   My thanks to Lutheran Quarterly for permission to offer these articles as downloads.

Schmucker's Benevolent Unity.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [9.6 MB]
Schmucker Civil War Realities.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [10.1 MB]

Downloadable Group Studies

 "Meet Abraham Lincoln" WJK Press.  Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) did not belong to a church, but used biblical insights to give meaning to the Civil War.  This one-session study for adults, "Meet Abraham Lincoln," explores what can be known about Lincoln's beliefs.  

"What do Lutherans Believe?" WJK Press.  This two session study provides a brief history of Martin Luther and a glimpse of Lutheran belief and practice since the Reformation.  

"What's Behind Left Behind "(co-authored with Craig Koester) WJK Press  This two-session study explores the  assumptions of the Left Behind novels (by LaHaye and Jenkins).  The second session asks what the Biblical writer of Revelation really meant to convey.

Book Reviews

Here are two samples from  book reviews I've written.  


Review of Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe, by Joy Jordan-Lake, Word & World 2009.  This book explores pro-slavery fiction provoked by Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. First click the link, then scroll down to page 100 to see this review.  


Review of A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, by David Chappell, Word & World 2005.  First click the link, then scroll down to page 101 to see this review.  Chappell makes a powerful case for the role of Black Christianity in the Civil Rights movement. 

Sermon Helps: Working Preacher

Working Preacher is a comprehensive website that offers resources for pastors to use in preparing their sermons.  Nancy Koester has written several pieces on preaching the Psalms, and three articles on preaching to different "theological worlds" in Working Preacher. 

News and events

I always love to hear from my readers. Please contact me at 


New book release!
Intro to History of Christianity in the U.S., 2nd Edition, Fortress Press August 15, 2015


Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life   wins  the  2015 Minnesota Book Awards,   for general nonfiction.   April 18, 2015

Need book club discussion questions?  send request to


MN Historical Society, short film on "Women Warriors" includes Harriet Beecher Stowe.



Christianity Today:
Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life is the "best overall account of Stowe's spiritual interests and thought."

Christian Century: "Stowe [is] brought to life in relationship with others and with her God."

Sojourner's magazine lists Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life as New and Noteworthy.

Video Interview
with Eerdmans

Past Presentations on Harriet Beecher Stowe
5th grade Elementary School class in New Hope, MN;
numerous book clubs;
Seminary Ridge Museum, Gettysburg PA; 
Grace Lutheran Church, State College PA; 
First Presbyterian Church, St. Paul MN;
Reading at Luther Seminary, Library Reading Room, 2481 Como Ave in St. Paul MN   Wed. Oct 8, 1:30 - 3:00 PM;
University of Northwestern, St. Paul MN;
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis, MN;
Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN
Colonial Church of Edina, MN;. Mt. Carmel, Alexandria MN;
St. Anthony Park Church, St. Paul MN;
Dead Feminists Society, Salon for Uppity Women, Barnes & Noble, Roseville, MN;
551 Club, Lyngblomsten, St. Paul MN;
Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley MN;
University Lutheran Church, Minneapolis MN


US Religion blogspot with Jonathan Den Hartog

The Way of Improvement Leads Home about history and time travel.

My Life with Harriet Beecher Stowe:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.



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© Nancy Koester April 14, 2013.