Barbara Hargrove

Dr. Barbara June Watts Hargrove was Professor of Sociology of Religion at The Iliff School of Theology from 1979 until her death in 1988 from an inoperable brain tumor. She was 64. Throughout her career, Hargrove was a prolific writer, a leader in women’s issues, and active in Church and social concerns.

Her archival collection contains some 49 boxes of materials chronicling her time at Iliff, including correspondence, subject files, course notes, and church affairs documents. For more detailed information, please go to:

Biographical Sketch of Barbara Hargrove

Barbara June Watts Hargrove was born April 10, 1924 in Timnath, Colorado (near Fort Collins, Colorado), and attended grade school and high school there. She began college at Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (now Colorado State University), but in her sophomore year, 1943, she left school in order to get married. She and her husband, Howard Hargrove, bought a small farm, and she spent the next seventeen years as a housewife and mother.

She returned to academia in 1960, and received her bachelor’s degree is social sciences (with distinction) in 1961.

She had already begun working toward her Master’s degree when, in 1963, her husband died suddenly. Nevertheless, she persisted, and received her Master of Science degree in 1963. Her first book – a text on the sociology of religion – was written during this same time; titled Reformation of the Holy, it was published in 1971.

After completing her Master’s degree, Dr. Hargrove went on to earn her Ph.D. in sociology. When her classwork was completed she applied for employment at Hollins College in Virginia, and was hired there in 1967. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from C.S.U. (the first Ph.D. in sociology awarded by that school) in 1968, and Hollins promoted her to assistant professor of sociology. In 1971, she became the chair of the department of sociology at Hollins.

While at Hollins, Dr. Hargrove became interested in new religious movements, and she contacted Charles Y. Glock and Robert N. Bellah at Berkeley, who were heading a research project on countercultural religions. She obtained a grant to work with them at Berkeley, and spent the 1972-1973 school year in Berkeley. This work led to the publication of the book, The New Religious Consciousness, for which Dr. Hargrove contributed a chapter entitled “Church Student Ministries and the New Consciousness.” This experience led her into the mainstream of the sociology of religion, and she obtained positions on the Council of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and on the Board of the Religious Research Association.

In 1973, Dr. Hargrove moved to the University of North Florida, where a sociology department was just forming, and served there as Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Sociology and Social Welfare until 1975. In that year, Yale Divinity School offered her a position as Associate Professor of the Sociology of Religion. However, due to the school’s financial problems, Yale denied tenure to Dr. Hargrove, even though she had been recommended for tenure. So, when she was asked by Iliff to recommend someone for a new position in Sociology of Religion, she suggested herself. She was hired for the position and moved to Denver to begin teaching at Iliff in 1979.

Dr. Hargrove was a prolific writer: eight books, fifteen chapters in books, and thirty-seven articles, and thirty-three book reviews attest to her deep scholarship. In addition, she served as editor, of Sociological Analysis, the Journal of the Association of the Sociology of Religion; she served as vice-president of this organization from 1983-1984, and president 1977-1979. Dr. Hargrove also served as Editor-at-Large of Presbyterian Outlook (1987); she served on the editorial board of Negro Educational Review (1975-1979); and she served on the editorial board of Reflection (1976-1978), and as editor (1976).

Dr. Hargrove was very active in Church and social causes, even prior to her entry into academia. After dropping out of college to get married, she and her husband attended a church in which a new minister was espousing some ‘modern’ ideas, which caused some conflict in the congregation. The resulting split of the congregation was one of the factors that led Dr. Hargrove into the study of sociology. When she worked at Hollins College in the early 70’s, she involved herself in a socially-active church group, and this in turn led her to participate in the Concerned Citizens of the Roanoke Valley, dealing with issues of interracial relations. From her unique perspective, she was able to bring to the Berkeley project fresh insights, such as the role that new religions were playing in motivating the established churches to address new issues; and the way in which the process of socialization in academia was actually leading some students away from community involvement.

Dr. Hargrove was a leader in women’s issues, though she recognized that her own experience was relatively atypical. As a successful academician, she served as a role model for other women in the academy.

At the time of her death in 1988, Dr. Hargrove’s work turned back to her roots: she was analyzing the sociological and religion structures of rural life. She saw in modern rural communities a growing tendency to utilize the rhetoric and agendas of Third World countries, and she commented on the growing trend of rural and urban congregations joining in trying to influence government policy.

Dr. Hargrove was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in September 1988, and she died on October 15, 1988, at the age of sixty-four.