“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 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.


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 necessarily writing about “women’s issues” per se, they are simply writing theology.  Certainly their experience of theology may be coloured 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 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; neither should it be treated as a secondary tier of theology. It’s theology, 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 theology; 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 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
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
Pheme Perkins
Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
Carolyn J. Sharp
Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Elsa Tamez
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

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
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
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

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

Teresa Berger Gender Differences and the Making of Liturgical Tradition: Lifting a Veil on Liturgy’s Past (2011)
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)
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
Pauline Hope Cheong
Bex Lewis
Pam Smith (@revpamsmith)
Rachel Wagner

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
Joan Chittister
Barbara Glasson, A spirituality of survival
Elaine Graham
Janet Henderson
Vanessa Herrick
Jane Keiller
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

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
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 verygood 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
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 I missed on my first think through – thanks to all  commenters for adding to the list, and please read and add to the growing comments list below!

 / Marcella Althaus-Reid /Sarah Apetrei – ecclesiastical history and Reformation /

B / Jenny Baker / Lytta Basset “Holy Anger. Jacob, Job, Jesus” / Adele Berlin, biblical studies /Myra Blyth /  Marcia Bunge /  Athalya Brenner / Alice Bach / Lynn Bechtel / Roberta Bondi / Rita Nakashimi Brock / Catherine Bushnell /

C / Lisa Sowle Cahill / Susannah Cornwall /

D / Dana Robert Daneel / Lilian Daniel / Mary Albert Darling “The God of Intimacy and Action” (co-author)  / Kenda Creasy Dean – youth ministry / Adrienne Dengerink-Chaplin for philosophical aesthetics / Verna Dozier/ Musa Dube from Botswana –  post colonialism /

E / Elizabeth Elliott / Rachel Held Evans /

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

G / Freda Gardner, Christian education / Julie Gittoes (ecclesiology, eucharist) // Lisa Goddard and Clare Hendry “The gender agenda” / Ruth Gouldbourne  / Mary Grey /

H/ Joann Hackett, biblicalstudies // Georgia Harkness / Jane Harrison / / 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 / Serene Jones

K/ Namsoon Kang – Cosmopolitan Theology / Sylvia Keesmaat, biblical studies & cultural/reformation studies / Catherine Keller / Tikva Frymer-Kensky / Patricia O’Connell Killen  / Judith Kovacs – patristics and biblical studies / Chung Hyun Kyung

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

M/ 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 /  Alison Morgan – The Wild Gospel /

N/ Beth Newman  / Hulda Niebuhr / Irene Nowell – OT/Biblical studies / Ann Nyland “The Source”  /

O/ Kathleen O’Connor /

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 / Helen Pearson / Kristina LaCelle-Peterson – church history/theology / Elizabeth Phillips — political theology / Christine Pohl pastoral theology/Kwok Pui-Lan – postcolonial theology /

R/  Randi Rashkover (Jewish Philosophy in conversation with Christian Theology) / / Ilona Rashkow / Esther Reed /  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 / Edith Stein / Dorothy L. Sayers / Suzanne Scholz / Dorothy Solle / Dorothee Sölle / Edith Stein /

T / Marianne M Thompson /

W/ Heather Walton / Frances Ward / Helen Wareing / 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 / Michaela Youngson / Lauren Winner – memoir / Ellen van Wolde /
Mildred Wynkoop – theology

Dorothy Sayers (The Mind of the Maker, Creed and Chaos, etc.)
Tammi Schneider (“Mothers of Promise”)
Susie Stanley – church history/theology
Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki,
Fredrica Harris Thompsett
Elsa Tamez, from Mexico – offers wonderful scriptural interpretation.
Kristin de Troyer
Flora Wuellner

Karen Marie Yust on children/youth and spiritual formation/theology
Elizabeth Caldwell on children/youth and spiritual formation/theology
Elaine Ramshaw, on children/youth and spiritual formation/theology
Anne Kitch on children/youth and spiritual formation/theology

Great list –  Riet Bons-Storm, Jeanne Stevenson Moessner, Bonnie Miller McLemore, Brita L.Gill-Austern… Joann Hackett,   …. most of the theologians on my bookshelf are women (no Barth in sight!!)

Fantastically helpful list. Can add:
Nancy Eiesland – The Disabled God;
Kathy Black – A Healing Homiletic;

Awesome list! I’d also add HDS practice of ministry prof, Stephanie Paulsell.

Gail O’Day, Ruth Edwards, Helen Bond, Ella Nutu, Ingrid Kitzberger, Mary Coloe, Wendy Sproston North, Bridget Gilfillan Upton, Jane Heath, Loveday Alexander, Cheryl Exum, Elaine Graham, Frances Young, Maggi Dawn, Ruth Etchells…there are thousands…and thats just Johannine and Biblical scholars who popped into my head… and I’m so happy that my bookshelves are bursting with them!

from south africa: Denise Ackermann, Sarojini Nadar
from ghana/nigeria Mercy Amba Odoyoye (The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians).

Deanna Thompson ( is a Lutheran theologian and professor. She writes on feminist religion and has a memoir on dealing with cancer.

Kimberly Belcher – Liturgical studies/sacraments

Kristin Du Mez, A New Gospel for Women

Jan Berry, British liturgist

Priscilla Pope-Levison, theologian and historian (Building the Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era)

Kelly Brown Douglas, for the ethics/political theology camp (Sexuality and the Black Church)

Mary Evans – OT/biblical studies

Margot Kässmann,

Hetty Lallemann – OT/biblical studies

Joy Davidman, “Smoke on the Mountain – An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments in terms of today”, first published by Hodder in 1955

Jeannine Olson – Reformation history

Brita Stendahl – Women’s ministry