“There are no women on my theology bookshelf…”

by maggi dawn

Last year on Twitter, someone wrote to me “there are no women on my theology bookshelf. Who should I read?”. I followed up with a blog list, and was pleased to discover that without even looking up from my screen I could easily think of well over a hundred female theologians, ecclesiastical historians, biblical scholars, sociologists of religion, and others who figure on the theological landscape. More names appeared when I actually looked at my own bookshelf.

Replies flooded in through the comments, adding many more names of women authors – both academic and devotional, theoretical and practical, in every area of the theological landscape. Now this has become something of a go-to resource – so, incomplete though it is, here it is again, still being updated from time to time with names added from the comments section.

This list was not carefully compiled, it started simply as a ‘brain dump’ of everyone I could think of in a first shot, then with a second round of additions. Of course, since then I’ve thought of many more who were omissions to my original list, but rather than make this blog a lifelong project, I am collecting all the additions –including those suggested by you in the comments — to create a more comprehensive list for use as a bibliographical resource. More news on that soon – watch this space!


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 women’s voices in theology are not necessarily writing on “women’s issues” per se, they are simply writing theology. Certainly their experience of theology will be colored by the fact they are a woman. But there is something insidious about assuming that women are there to add ‘women’s issues’ to what is otherwise neutral theology. It implies that theology written by men (mostly white men, incidentally) is neutral theology, while women add 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, German, 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 particular setting. There is no such thing as neutral theology. There is theology done by people who may be male, female, or non-binary; by people who may be white, black or Latinx, people in North or South America, Antarctica, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, by people who may be disabled or not, Western or not, poor or rich. And theology by women is not done just for women, nor is it only about women; neither should it be treated as a secondary tier of theology. It’s theology for everyone, done by 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 renowned 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 that stuff. They spend so much time on that, their real area of interest is swamped, 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 feminist theory; do one well, but don’t do both of them badly. Whatever area of interest you choose, you are being a feminist anyway.”

There are so many women with interesting things to say, some writing about feminism in particular, 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 names some of them. It is very far from a complete list, as I am jotting these down off the top of my head – but the fact that I can come up with a list of more than a hundred without even looking at my bookshelf is evidence enough that there are plenty of places to go if you realize 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 will, of course, be many omissions – if someone’s name isn’t here it is due to my ignorance or forgetfulness, not a reflection on their work! Please do add your recommendations in the comments – Note – this is about ‘women on your bookshelf‘ – a bibliography resource rather than a hagiography of amazing women, of whom there are many, and that could be another post all of its own!

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)
Mechthild (Mechtild/Matilda) of Magdeburg (c. 1207 – c. 1282/1294)
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)

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)

biblical studies
Margaret Barker
Jo Bailey-Wells
Lynn Cohick  (Philippians, Ephesians)
Adela Yarbro Collins
Ellen Davis
Katharine Dell
Michal Beth Dinkler
Mary Douglas
Wil Gafney
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
Dorothy Lee (Transfiguration, 2004)
Judith Lieu
Lucy Peppiatt
Pheme Perkins
Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
Carolyn J. Sharp
Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Elsa Tamaz
Phylis Trible
Gale A. Yee, Hebrew Bible

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

early christian art and culture 
Felicity Harley-McGowan
Susan Ashbrook Harvey

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)

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)
Janice McRandal (see Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Difference)
Sara Maitland – (my favourite: 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
Cathy Thomson https://www.sbc.edu.au/faculty-members/profiles/the-revd-dr-cathy-thomson/
Heather Thomson
Susannah Ticciati (apophatic theology, Barth, Augustine)
Angela Tilby
Medi Ann Volpe
Frances Ward
Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendell
Anna Williams

theological memoir (strong in theological content but doubly interesting for their literary form)
Karen Armstrong
Nadia Bolz-Weber
Dorothy Day
Anne Lamott
Rachel Mann – Dazzling Darkness
Chine Mbubaegbu Am I Beautiful
Kathleen Norris
Katherine Jefferts Schori
Lauren Winner

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

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

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

asian christianity and theology
Chloe Starr
Melba Padilla Maggay
Violeta T. Bautista
Pui-Lan Kwok – postcolonial theology

liturgy, worship, musicology
Kimberley Belcher
Teresa Berger
Marva Dawn (no relation!)
Siobhan Garrigan
Maeve Louise Heaney
Monique Ingalls
Janet Morley — All Desires Known
Gail Ramshaw
Tanya Riches
Melanie Ross The Serious Business of Worship (ed., 2010)
Nicola Slee

ethics/political theology
Susannah Cornwall (theological ethics, sexuality)
Keri Day
Kelly Brown Douglas (Sexuality and the Black Church)
Margaret Farley
Carrie Pemberton Ford
Jane Foulcher http://readingreligion.org/books/reclaiming-humility/
Amy Laura Hall (also writes on Kierkegaard)
Melanie Harris
Jennifer Herdt
Ann Morisy
Rachel Muers
Esther Reed
Anna Rowlands
Emilie Townes
Deanna Thompson (Lutheran, feminist religion)
Ruth Valerio
Traci. C. West

faith and media
Heidi A. Campbell

Olive Fleming Drane
Angela Gorrell — Always On (2019)
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

devotional writing and pastoral/applied/practical theology (including education, youth) (you’re right, this category needs dividing up! watch this space …)
Dorothy Bass
Christina Baxter
Charisse Barron
Zoe Bennett
Elizabeth Caldwell
Joan Chittister
Katie Cross (Practical Theology)
Becca Dean — Be, Live, Pray
Rachel Held Evans
Barbara Glasson, A spirituality of survival
Elaine Graham (Practical Theology)
Janet Henderson
Vanessa Herrick
Jane Keiller
Anne Kitch
Joyce Mercer (Practical Theology)
Bonnie Miller-McLemore
Mary Kate Morse
Mary Clark Moschella (Practical Theology)
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

feminist/liberation/womanist/queer theology
Marcella Althaus-Reid
Ann Loades (see – Feminist Theology: A Reader)
Mary Daly
Ruth M. B. Gouldbourne
Jacquelyn Grant: White women’s Christ, Black Women’s Jesus was the first? (or among the first?) womanist book, 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
Eboni Marshall-Turman (Toward a Womanist Ethic of Incarnation…)
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 classic intro)
Kirsty Thorpe
Linn Tonstad
Renita Weems (also in biblical studies)