“There are no women on my theology bookshelf…”

by maggi dawn

… so said a twitter friend this week. What is there (who is there?) he asked. And a trickle of responses came back from all over the twittersphere. When people ask about “women theologians” the subtext is often “I need to read about “women’s issues” in theology so I need a female author”.  But the most interesting women’s voices in theology are not writing about “women’s issues” per se, they are simply writing theology.  Certainly their experience of theology will be coloured by the fact they are a woman. But there is something insidious about assuming that women are there merely to add a section on “women’s issues” to what is otherwise “neutral” theology. It implies that theology written by men (mostly white men, incidentally) is neutral, and women add on the other stuff, the on-the-side issues that are not central. But in fact, no one gives you neutral theology. Barth gives you male, Swiss, post-war, post-liberal theology – strongly inflected by his historical setting and personal circumstances. Rahner gives you the perspective of a 20th century male celibate catholic priest, wrestling with language after Wittgenstein. Hauwerwas gives you white, American, Protestant theology; James Cone gives you black American Protestant theology – it’s all theology, but every one of them writes in a way nuanced by their life experience and particular setting. There is no such thing as neutral theology. There is theology done by people who happen to be male, female or non-binary, by people who may be white, black, or asian, by people who may be disabled or not, poor or rich, Western or not. And theology by women is not done just for women, nor is it only about women. It’s theology – regular theology – being done by people who happen to be women.

As I set out on my PhD studies a few years ago, with my first degree behind me, I began to get calls from publishers asking me to write about women in theology, feminist theology, what is it like to be a woman and a theologian. I took these very flattering letters along to my supervisor, herself a seasoned writer and very fine theologian. “You have a choice,” she said. “You can write about women’s issues as they relate to theology, and that is a fine thing to do. Or you can just carry on doing theology in your area of interest. But you can’t do both.”
“Why not?” I asked. I never forgot her reply:  “I’ve seen so many women start out with such promise,” she said. “Then they are asked to write about being a woman, about being a feminist, and all of that, and they spend so much time on that it overshadows their primary area of interest, and then they don’t do so well on their first call. Then guess what happens? – men, behind closed doors, say to one another – ‘told you so! women can’t cut it in theology!’ So you choose: read Coleridge, or read feminism; do one well, but don’t do both of them badly.”

There are so many women with interesting things to say, some writing about feminism but many more simply writing about areas of theology that used to be thought of as a male preserve – or, the earlier you go, writing theology against the culture that denied them access to what was assumed to be a male preserve. This list is very far from complete – I am jotting names down off the top of my head – but the fact that I can come up with a list like this without even thinking too hard is evidence enough that there are plenty of places to go if you realise there are no women on your bookshelf. My categories are not perfect – and some of these writers could appear in two or three categories, but such is the impossibility of lists. I’ve read a lot of books, but I haven’t read everything in every field so there are, of course, many omissions – if someone’s name isn’t here it is due to my ignorance or forgetfulness, not a reflection on them! (And please make up for this by adding more suggestions in the comments.) My purpose here, though, is not to provide an exhaustive list, but to indicate that it really doesn’t take a lot of work to find women writing in theology. It only takes a little.

Note – this is about women on your bookshelf – it’s not a list of novelists, philosophers, ministers, or other wondrous women, but published female theologians.

ancient voices 
Hildegaard of Bingen (12th Century, German)
Héloïse (Heloise, Héloyse, Helouisa, Eloise, among other spellings) – famed for letters between her and Peter Abelard 12th Century (see also a number of women who have written about them)
Clare of Assisi (13th century Italian)
Julian of Norwich (14th century English mystic) – also note the excellent Frances Beer who writes about her
Margery Kempe
Catherine of Siena (14th Century Italian)
Theresa of Avila (16th century Spanish)
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

19th and early 20th century 
Katharine Bushnell
Phoebe Palmer (1807 – 1874, American)
Catherine Mumford Booth (19th century English)
Jessie Penn Lewis (1861–1927, Welsh) 
Simone Weil (1909 –1943, French)  
Charlotte von Kirschbaum (1899-1975,  German)
Evelyn Underhill (1875 –194, English)
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

biblical studies
Margaret Barker
Jo Bailey-Wells
Lynn Cohick  (Philippians, Ephesians)
Adela Yarbro Collins
Ellen Davis
Katharine Dell
Michal Beth Dinkler
Mary Douglas
Beverly Gaventa
Deirdre Good – biblical studies
Paula Gooder
A. Katherine Grieb – Romans
Judith Gundry Paul and Perseverance: Staying in and Falling Away, 1990
Jane Heath
Morna Hooker
Denise Dombkowski Hopkins – Hebrew Bible
Catherine Kroeger – Biblical studies
Judith Lieu
Lucy Peppiatt
Pheme Perkins
Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
Carolyn J. Sharp
Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Elsa Tamaz
Phylis Trible
Gale A. Yee, Hebrew Bible
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

early christianity (AKA patristics)
Pamela Bright – on Tychonius, Augustine
Roberta Bondi (To Pray and to Love; To Love as God Loves, and other titles)
Virginia Burrus
Liz Clark
Kate Cooper
Nicola Denzey
Susanna Elm
Carolyn (Cally) Hammond
Meira Kensky (biblical studies/early christianity – see “Trying Man, Trying God: The Divine Courtroom in Early Jewish and Christian Literature”)
Morwenna Ludlow
Patricia Cox Miller
Elaine Pagels
Sara Parvis
Karen Torjesen
Christine Trevett — Late Antique religion (also 17th-century sectarianism)
Frances Young
Susan Wood
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

early christian art and culture 
Felicity Harley-McGowan
Susan Ashbrook Harvey
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

Julie Canlis (writes on Calvin)
Christine Helmer (16th-C religion, Reformation, Schleiermacher, Luther, philosophy of religion, constructive and systematic theology)
Charlotte Methuen
Jeannine Olson – Reformation history
Susan Schreiner (Calvin Scholar)
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

philosophical/systematic/dogmatic/historical theology
Marilyn McCord Adams
Lorraine Cavanagh
Sarah Coakley
M. Shawn Copland
(yours truly) Maggi Dawn
Grace Jantzen
Elizabeth Johnson
Karen Kilby
Renate Kobler
Catherine Mowry LaCugna
Sallie McFague (also in ethics)
Sara Maitland – (my favourite of hers is A Big-Enough God: Artful Theology, 1994)
Margaret Miles (history of theology)
Nancey Murphy
Catherine Pickstock
Amy Plantinga Pauw
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Letty Russell
Marika Rose
Tracey Rowland
Anna Rowlands – Catholic theology
Sandra M. Schneiders
Suzanne Selinger
Kate Sonderegger
Janet Soskice
Kathryn Tanner
Susannah Ticciati (apophatic theology, Barth, Augustine)
Angela Tilby
Medi Ann Volpe
Frances Ward
Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendell
Anna Williams
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

theological memoir (strong in theological content but doubly interesting for their literary form)
Karen Armstrong
Nadia Bolz-Weber
Rachel Held Evans
Dorothy Day
Anne Lamott
Rachel Mann – Dazzling Darkness
Chine Mbubaegbu Am I Beautiful
Kathleen Norris
Katherine Jefferts Schori
Lauren Winner
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

theology, literature and the arts (including novels, poetry and literary critique of notable theological content)
Gillian Boughton – Literature and Christianity
Ruth Etchells (a pioneer in Literature and Theology)
Kathy Galloway (would also figure in systematics) 
Mary Karr Sinners Welcome 
Sarah Miles – Take this Bread
Flannery O’Connor
Marilynne Robinson – Gilead, Home
Dorothy L. Sayers – The Mind of the Maker, Creed and Chaos
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

ecclesiastical history
Caroline Walker Bynum (medieval history and theology)
Rona Johnston Gordon
Judith Herrin
Frances Knight
Judith Maltby
Jessica Martin
Jane Shaw
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Monks and Markets: Durham Cathedral Priory 1460-1520
Hannah Thomas – early modern English Catholicism
Christine Trevett — 17th-century sectarianism (also Late Antique religion)
Megan Williams
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

sociology of religion/religious studies
Kristin Aune
Eileen Barker
Grace Davie
Penny Edgell
Sally Gallagher
Slavica Jakelic
Bernice Martin
Sarah Jane Page
Laurel Schneider
Sonya Sharma
Linda Woodhead
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

asian christianity and theology
Chloe Starr
Melba Padilla Maggay
Violeta T. Bautista
Pui-Lan Kwok – postcolonial theology
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

Kimberley Belcher
Teresa Berger
Marva Dawn (no relation!)
Siobhan Garrigan
Monique Ingalls
Janet Morley — All Desires Known
Gail Ramshaw
Melanie Ross The Serious Business of Worship (ed., 2010)
Nicola Slee
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

ethics/political theology
Susannah Cornwall (theological ethics, sexuality)
Keri Day
Kelly Brown Douglas (Sexuality and the Black Church)
Margaret Farley
Carrie Pemberton Ford
Amy Laura Hall (also on Kierkegaard)
Melanie Harris
Jennifer Herdt
Ann Morisy
Rachel Muers
Esther Reed
Anna Rowlands
Emilie Townes
Deanna Thompson (Lutheran, feminist religion)
Traci. C. West
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

faith and media
Heidi A. Campbell

Bex Lewis
Pam Smith (@revpamsmith)

Barbara Brown-Taylor
Kate Bruce – Igniting the Heart: Preaching and Imagination
Anna Carter Florence
Susan Durber
Fleming Rutledge
Nora Tubbs Tisdale
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

devotional writing and pastoral/applied/practical theology (including education, youth)
Dorothy Bass
Christina Baxter
Charisse Barron
Zoe Bennett
Elizabeth Caldwell
Joan Chittister
Katie Cross (Practical Theology)
Barbara Glasson, A spirituality of survival
Elaine Graham
Janet Henderson
Vanessa Herrick
Jane Keiller
Anne Kitch
Joyce Mercer
Bonnie Miller-McLemore
Mary Kate Morse
Mary Clark Moschella
Kathleen Norris
Evelyn L. Parker
Elaine Ramshaw, Ritual and Pastoral Care
Janet K. Ruffing
Margaret Silf
Rosie Ward, Growing Women Leaders, nurturing women’s leadership in the Church
Lucy Winkett
Margaret Whipp
Almeda M. Wright
Karen Marie Yust
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

feminist/liberation/womanist/queer theology
Marcella Althaus-Reid
Ann Loades (see – Feminist Theology: A Reader)
Mary Daly
Wil Gafney
Jacquelyn Grant: White women’s Christ, Black Women’s Jesus (a womanist thesis, and a notable corrective to some aspects of feminist theology)
Daphne Hampson
Elaine Kaye (with Janet Lees & Kirsty Thorpe – Daughters of Dissent)
Janet Lees
Serene Jones
Mercy Amba Oduyoye Daughters of Anowa: African Women and Patriarchy (1995)
Julie Faith Parker
Judith Plaskow
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
Elaine Storkey (her What’s Right with Feminism is a good intro)
Kirsty Thorpe
Renita Weems (also in biblical studies)
(and more in the alphabetical list at the bottom of the page)

some books that attempt to highlight women in theology who were completely overlooked because it was a man’s man’s world:
Teresa Berger Gender Differences and the Making of Liturgical Tradition: Lifting a Veil on Liturgy’s Past (2011)
Reuther, Rosemary R. and Rosemary S. Keller, Women & Religion in America: The Nineteenth Century.
Janet Soskice: Sisters of Sinai
Marion Ann Taylor: Handbook of Women Bible Interpreters
Marion Ann Taylor and Heather Weir – “Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on Women in Genesis”

One begins to wonder how anyone could have a theological bookshelf that has *no* female authors on it…

Read on below for more names added since my original list, including many recommendations from recent comments, Twitter etc., some of whom I have not come across before. Thanks to all  commenters for adding to the list–please do read and add to the growing comments list below!

Denise Ackermann (from South Africa) / Miriam Adeney / Loveday Alexander /  / Sarah Apetrei – ecclesiastical history and Reformation /

B Alice Bach /  Jenny Baker / Lytta Basset “Holy Anger. Jacob, Job, Jesus” / Lynn Bechtel / Kimberly Belcher – Liturgical studies/sacraments / Alison Benders (systematics) / Adele Berlin, biblical studies / Jan Berry, British liturgist / Myra Blyth / Marcia Bunge /  Athalya Brenner / Kathy Black – A Healing Homiletic / Helen Bond / Roberta Bondi / Riet Bons-Storm / Kate Bowler (history) / Rita Nakashimi Brock / Catherine Bushnell /

 C / Lisa Sowle Cahill / Susannah Cornwall / Kate Coleman – Black Women and theology / Mary Coloe /

D / Dana Robert Daneel / Lilian Daniel / Mary Albert Darling “The God of Intimacy and Action” (co-author)  / Joy Davidman, “Smoke on the Mountain – An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments in terms of today”, first published by Hodder in 1955 / Maggi Dawn / Kenda Creasy Dean – youth ministry / Adrienne Dengerink-Chaplin for philosophical aesthetics / Lorraine Dixon / Rose Dowsett / Verna Dozier/ Musa Dube from Botswana –  on post colonialism / Kristin Du Mez, A New Gospel for Women /

E / Ruth Edwards /  Elizabeth Elliott / Rachel Held Evans / Nancy Eiesland (The Disabled God) / Mary Evans – OT/biblical studies / Cheryl Exum

F/ Danna Nolan Fewell (“Gender, Power, and Promise, co-authored with David Gunn) / Sarah Foot – ecclesiastical history / Lisa Fulham (ethics) / Esther Fuchs / Mary McLintock Fullerton /

G / Freda Gardner, Christian education / Julie Gittoes (ecclesiology, eucharist) // Lisa Goddard and Clare Hendry “The gender agenda” / Ruth Gouldbourne  / Elaine Graham / Mary Grey / A. Katherine Grieb. – Romans / Brita L. Gill-Austern /

H/ Joann Hackett, biblical studies / Georgia Harkness / Jane Harrison / Jennifer Harvey (ethics) / Jane Heath / Gina Hens-Piazza (biblical studies) / Carter Heyward / Sheryl Kujawa Holbrook / Bell Hooks / Mary Hunt (ethics)

I/ Ada María Isasi-Díaz, biblical studies / Lisa Isherwood “Companion to the Bible”/

J/ Mignon Jacobs (“Gender, Power, and Persuasion”) /   Sara Japhet, biblical studies / Kelly Johnson / Karen Jobes (Biblical studies) / Serene Jones

K/ Namsoon Kang – Cosmopolitan Theology / Margot Kässmann / Sylvia Keesmaat, biblical studies & cultural/reformation studies / Catherine Keller / Tikva Frymer-Kensky / Patricia O’Connell Killen  / Ingrid Kitzberger / Judith Kovacs – patristics and biblical studies / Chung Hyun Kyung / Pui-lan Kwon (Feminist theology)

L Hetty Lallemann – OT/biblical studies / Mary Jo Leddy “Radical Gratitude” / Lilly Lewin – youth ministry and worship  / Hannah Lewis, Deaf Liberation Theology / Diana Lipton /

M/ Bonnie Miller McLemore / Kathleen McVey, church history / Catherine Madsen / Jacqueline Mariña, on Schleiermacher / Hilary Marlow – OT / Frederica Matthews-Greene / Charlotte Methuen – Reformation / Carol Meyers  biblical studies / Alison Milbank  /  Margaret Mitchell, biblical studies /  Jeanne Stevenson Moessner / Alison Morgan – The Wild Gospel / Monique Moultie (ethics)

N/ Sarojini Nadar (from South Africa) / Susan Nelson. Beyond Servanthood / Beth Newman  / Carol A. Newsom / Hulda Niebuhr / Wendy Sproston North / Irene Nowell – OT/Biblical studies / Ella Nutu / Ann Nyland “The Source” /

O/ Kathleen O’Connor / Gail O’Day / Mercy Amba Odoyoye (The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians) / Kate Ott /

P/ Kimberley Patton, Comparative and Historical Study of Religion, (ancient Greek religion and archaeology, research interests in archaic sanctuaries and in the iconography of sacrifice)  /  Rebecca Ann Parker / Stephanie Paulsell, practice of ministry / Helen Pearson / Kristina LaCelle-Peterson – church history/theology / Elizabeth Phillips — political theology / Christine Pohl pastoral theology / Priscilla Pope-Levison, theologian and historian (Building the Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era) /

R/  Randi Rashkover (Jewish Philosophy in conversation with Christian Theology) / / Ilona Rashkow / Esther Reed / Sandra Richter “The Epic of Eden” / Mayra Rivera, postcolonial theology /Gillian Rose /Helen Rosevere – missionary, devotional-formational writing / / Catherine Ross (COntextual Theology/missiology) / Joyce Rupp – contemplative writing / Letty Russell / Andrea Russell (Richard Hooker and Anglican identity)

S/ Catherine Doobs Sakenfeld, biblical studies / Maria Skotsoba (Orthodox) –Essential Writings / Angela Shier-Jones / Angela D. Sims (womanist and social ethicist) / Edith Stein / Suzanne Scholz / Dorothy Solle / Dorothee Sölle / Brita Stendahl – Women’s ministry / Tammi Schneider (“Mothers of Promise”) / Susie Stanley – church history/theology / Mary Streufert / Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, /

T Elsa Tamez, from Mexico – on scriptural interpretation  / Marianne M Thompson /Fredrica Harris Thompsett / Kristin de Troyer /

U / Bridget Gilfillan Upton /

V / Aana Vigen (ethics) / Ruth Valerio (titles?) /

W/ Heather Walton  / Helen Wareing / Marina Warner (cultural/historical studies) / Sharon Welch (Unitarian theologian) / Pamela Cooper White – pastoral care/psychotherapy / Johanna van Wijk-Bos (“Making Wise the Simple: The Torah in Christian Faith and Practice”) / Jane Williams / Ellen van Wolde / Mildred Wynkoop – theology / Flora Wuellner

Y / Michaela Youngson /

One begins to wonder how anyone could have a theological bookshelf that has *no* female authors on it…