“There are no women on my theology bookshelf…”

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 the academic year is about to begin again, one or two people have mentioned the post again as a resource – so, incomplete though it is, here is the updated blog post with names added from the comments section.

10897776_469733266514841_7639664988515007378_nWhen 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 necessarily writing about “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 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 particular setting. There is no such thing as neutral theology. There is theology done by people who happen to be male, 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 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 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 –in women’s voices– 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 is very far from a complete list, I’m jotting these down off the top of my head – but the fact that I can come up with a list like this without thinking too hard 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 them! Please do continue to add your recommendations in the comments – Note – this is about women on your bookshelf – so this is not a list of wondrous women (of whom there are many), but published women.

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)

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
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

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
Sara Parvis
Karen Torjesen
Christine Trevett — Late Antique religion (also 17th-century sectarianism)
Frances Young

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
Grace Jantzen — Becoming Divine; Power, Gender and Christian Mysticism
Elizabeth Johnson
Karen Kilby
Renate Kobler
Catherine Mowry LaCugna
Sallie McFague (also in ethics) – Models of God & The Body of God
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
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
(oh, and yours truly, Maggi Dawn!)

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

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
Linda Woodhead
Kristin Aune
Eileen Barker
Grace Davie
Penny Edgell
Sally Gallagher
Slavica Jakelic
Bernice Martin
Sarah Jane Page
Laurel Schneider
Sonya Sharma

asian christianity and theology
Chloe Starr
Melba Padilla Maggay
Violeta T. Bautista

Teresa Berger
Marva Dawn (no relation!)
Siobhan Garrigan
Janet Morley — All Desires Known
Gail Ramshaw
Melanie Ross The Serious Business of Worship (ed., 2010)
Nicola Slee

ethics/political theology
Susannah Cornwall (theological ethics, sexuality)
Kelly Brown Douglas, (Sexuality and the Black Church)
Margaret Farley
Carrie Pemberton Ford
Amy Laura Hall (also on Kierkegaard)
Jennifer Herdt
Ann Morisy
Rachel Muers
Esther Reed
Anna Rowlands
Emilie Townes

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

devotional writing and pastoral/applied theology (including education, youth)
Dorothy Bass
Christina Baxter
Zoe Bennett
Elizabeth Caldwell
Joan Chittister
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
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 theology
Ann Loades (see – Feminist Theology: A Reader)
Mary Daly
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

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 / Marcella Althaus-Reid / 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 /

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 / Jane Heath / Gina Hens-Piazza (biblical studies) / Carter Heyward / Sheryl Kujawa Holbrook / Bell Hooks /

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

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 /

N/ Sarojini Nadar (from South Africa) / 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) /

P/ Elaine Pagels / 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) / Kwok Pui-Lan – postcolonial theology /

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 / Joyce Rupp – contemplative writing

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

T Elsa Tamez, from Mexico – on scriptural interpretation  / Marianne M Thompson /Fredrica Harris Thompsett / Deanna Thompson (http://hopingformore.com/) is a Lutheran theologian and professor. She writes on feminist religion and has a memoir on dealing with cancer. / Kristin de Troyer /

U / Bridget Gilfillan Upton /

W/ Heather Walton / Frances Ward / Helen Wareing / Marina Warner (cultural/historical studies) / Renita Weems, biblical 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 / Lauren Winner – memoir / Ellen van Wolde / Mildred Wynkoop – theology / Flora Wuellner

Y / Michaela Youngson /