Must good Christian women be submissive to their husbands' leadership? Many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians certainly seem to think so. Christianity has not been very supportive of women's equality, historically speaking. Much of the time women have been denigrated and forced into a second-class status. This was true right from the earliest years of Christianity and has continued down through today with it being enshrined as a principle for the Southern Baptist Convention.
Demands that women "submit" to their husbands isn't just about men and women, though. Religious conservatives argue that the family, as the smallest social unit, is the foundation for society generally and their desire that women submit to men is representative of a broader agenda to get people to submit to higher authorities generally. Efforts to keep women "in their place" are thus merely part of a larger desire to keep everyone "in their place" through stricter power relationships.
Conservative evangelical Christians believe there exists a strict hierarchy between God and humans which must be replicated in the social and political spheres. Children must obey parents; wives must obey husbands; Christians must obey ministers; citizens must obey leaders. Men, of course, are in charge of it all and the Christian Right gets traction for these views by appealing to men's desire to have more power and control over what's happening in their lives. The Christian Right tells men that they must be in charge of their family, of their church, and of society in general.
The Christian Right is thus closely connected with conservative political forces which promote "masculine" politics (and war) over "feminine" submission, defeatism, and compromise. Many conservative evangelicals believe that problems in society stem from the chaos of too much freedom, too much license, and weakened expectations about one's social role. Women who voluntarily enter or remain in extremely patriarchal religious communities cite as one of their primary reasons the fact that their social and familial roles are clearly laid out, as are their expectations of husbands, children, and neighbors. Clarity of purpose, place, and direction mean a lot to some people.