Fifteen Years of Ferment

By Kalven, Janet | Monthly Review, July-August 1984 | Go to article overview

Fifteen Years of Ferment


Kalven, Janet, Monthly Review


Religious feminists are a minority of a minority, distrusted by their co-religionists because of their feminism and regarded with some suspicion by other feminists because of their religious loyalties.

But in the past 15 years, the rising tide of feminist consciousness has had an effect on all significant religious traditions in the United States--Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish, Mormon. And the tribe of religious feminists has continued to increase, drawing more and more support from one another as they continue to apply a feminist analysis to religious traditions.

The First Stirrings: Voices in the Wilderness

How did feminist theology originate? What factors have contributed to its development? The first American to voice a feminist criticism of religion was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who in 1898 published The Women's Bible, convinced that women would never gain their rights so long as the Bible was used to legitimate their inferiority as "Adam's rib" and "seductress and source of sin." Among Catholics, the first voices spoke out in the early 1960s, stimulated by negative events at Vatican II: the exclusion of Catholic women as auditors; the refusal to let distinguished economist Barbara Ward address the assembled fathers (her paper was read to them by a man!); the refusal to allow women journalists to attend the council mass along with their male colleagues. Under the title Wir Schweigen Nicht Langer (We Won't Keep Quiet Any Longer) Swiss lawyer Gertrud Heinzelman formally petitioned the council in 1962 to open priesthood to women, pointing out the oppressive character of church teaching and practice with regard to women. German theologian Josefa Munch and the St. Joan's Alliance, originally a Catholic lay women's suffrage organization, also petitioned the council. There was no specific response.

By the mid-1960s, a scattering of articles criticizing the status accorded to women in the church had appeared in American Catholic publications such as Commonweal. Among the emerging authors were Rosemary Lauer, of the philosophy department of St. John's University; Rosemary Ruether, who would soon join the school of religion faculty at Howard University, which brought her into the thick of civil rights, black and liberation theologies and the growing peace movement; sociologist Sister Mary Augusta Neal; Sidney Callahan, who held up an ideal of full human development for women from her perspective as Catholic wife and mother; and Mary Daly. Daly, of St. Mary's/Notre Dame, had gone on for her advanced theological degree at the University of Freiburg, Germany.

Daly's The Church and the Second Sex was published in 1968. Its effect in the U.S. church was almost immediate. And Daly herself would become an increasingly controversial figure through the next half-dozen years as she fought for tenure in the theology department of Boston College and expanded her feminist position until she stood beyond Catholicism and even Christianity as generally understood.

Meanwhile, the general feminist movement, which traced its genesis to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique in 1963 and the creation of the National Organization for Women in 1966, was becoming increasingly active and vocal. The civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam protests, the political activity of the new left were the training ground, or at least the example, for many of its leaders. But it had touched a raw nerve and aroused enthusiasm among many who did not consider themselves politically or sexually radical and who, by 1970, represented a wide cross section of women.

Awareness of the feminist critique of the churches was also spreading. In 1969 Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, of the Grail, and Catherina Halkes, a Dutch lay woman on the pastoral theology faculty of the Catholic University of Nijmegen, brought together about 35 people--mostly women, mostly Catholics, Dutch, Belgian, French, Swiss, German, American--at the Grail Center in the Netherlands to consider "The Cooperation of Men and Women in Church and Society. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Fifteen Years of Ferment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.