Rosemary Radford Ruether

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Rosemary Radford Ruether
Born (1936-11-02) November 2, 1936 (age 84)
Herman Ruether
(m. 1957)
Academic background
Alma mater
Academic work
School or tradition
Doctoral studentsGina Messina Dysert
Main interests

Rosemary Radford Ruether (born on November 2, 1936) is an American feminist scholar and Catholic theologian known for her significant contributions to the field of feminist theology.[1][2]

She has been referred to as one of the major Christian feminist theologians of our time.[3] Her field of knowledge and writing is vast, with subjects ranging from feminist theology and ecofeminist theology, to topics such as antisemitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[4]

Ruether is an advocate of women's ordination, a movement among Catholic religious persons who affirm women's capacity to serve as priests, despite official sanction. Since 1985 Ruether has served as a board member for the pro-choice group Catholics for Choice.[5]


Ruether was born on November 2, 1936, in Saint Paul, Minnesota,[1] to a Roman Catholic mother and Episcopal father. She has reportedly described her upbringing as free-thinking and humanistic as opposed to oppressive.[6] Ruether's father died when she was 12 and afterwards Ruether and her mother moved to California. Ruether attended several Catholic schools staffed by the Sisters of Providence from St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, who, in conjunction with her mother's friend group, offered Ruether a strong feminist and activist foundation that informed her later work.[7] She pursued a college education at Scripps College from 1954 to 1958. She entered with an intention to study art, but one professor, Robert Palmer, influenced her decision to switch to classics. Palmer's passion for classical Greek and Roman culture introduced Ruether to the philosophies and histories of the era. She received an MA in classics and Roman history, and later a doctorate in classics and patristics at Claremont School of Theology.[8]

Ruether participated in civil rights activism during the 1960s in Mississippi and Washington, DC. She worked for the Delta Ministry in Mississippi where she was exposed to the struggles of African American communities and the realities of racism. She became immersed in black liberation theology literature during her time of teaching at the Howard University, School of Religion. She dedicated her time to the peace movement in Washington, DC, and she often went to jail with other radical Catholics and Protestants because of marches and demonstrations.[8]

Despite her radicalism, Ruether remained in the Catholic Church alongside other religious activists. Her first book, The Church Against Itself (1967), criticizes the doctrine of the church and the church's views of sexuality and reproduction.[8]

She is married to the political scientist Herman Ruether.[1] They studied their separate interests alongside each other after their marriage during Ruether's last year of college.[8] They have three children and live in California.[9]


Ruether holds a BA in philosophy from Scripps College (1958), an MA in ancient history (1960) and a PhD in classics and patristics (1965) from Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California.

She is Visiting Professor of Religion and Feminist Theology at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University. Her first appointment was as professor at Howard University in Washington, DC, from 1965 to 1975.[10] She was Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology at the Pacific School of Religion and Graduate Theological Union, and retired from her long-term post as Georgia Harkness Professor of Applied Theology at the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.[11] Ruether is the author of 36 books and over 600 articles on feminism, eco-feminism, the Bible, and Christianity.[12]

In 1977, Ruether became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP).[13] WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organization. The organization works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of women-based media.

On January 22, 2000, Ruether received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Theology at Uppsala University, Sweden.[14]

In 2012, Ruether received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD) degree from Whittier College.[15]

Ruether's work has been influential in the field of feminist theology,[16][17][18] influencing scholars such as Beverly Wildung Harrison[19] and Pauli Murray.[20]

Feminist theology[edit]

According to Ruether, women are excluded in academic and leadership roles within theology, which has led to the proliferation of male-centric attitudes and beliefs. Without women able to contribute to the important discussions and decisions surrounding Christian theology and practice, there will never be an equal representation of women's experience in theological beliefs and traditions.[21] Ruether believes that classical theology and its traditions ignore the female experience, which perpetuates the idea that women are secondary in relation to men. As stated by Ruether, feminist theology can expose and work to change the inherently discriminatory system. Her belief is that anything that lessens the humanity of women must not be a reflection of divine intent. The most important principle of feminist theology, according to Ruether, is the promotion of the full humanity of women in Christian theology and traditions. To do this, not only does the female experience have to be acknowledged and codified, but the very understanding of things such as experience and humanity must be reevaluated.[2]

Selected writings[edit]

  • The Church Against Itself. New York: 1967, Herder and Herder.
  • Gregory of Nazianzus. Oxford: 1969, Oxford University Press.
  • The Radical Kingdom, The Western Experience of Messianic Hope, New York: Paulist Press, 1970 ISBN 0809118602
  • Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism. New York 1974, Seabury Press, ISBN 978-0-8164-2263-0.
  • "Courage as a Christian Virtue" in Cross Currents, Spring 1983, 8-16
  • Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology, Beacon Press (1983) ISBN 0-8070-1205-X
  • Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing, Harper-Collins (1994) ISBN 978-0-06-066967-6, ASIN 0-06-066967-5
  • In Our Own Voices: Four Centuries of American Women's Religious Writing (ed. with Rosemary Skinner Keller), Harper-Collins (1996) ISBN 0-06-066840-7
  • Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and Religion. New York, March 1996.
  • Introducing Redemption in Christian Feminism (editor), Continuum (1998) ISBN 1-85075-888-3
  • Christianity and the Making of the Modern Family, Beacon Press (2001), ISBN 978-0807054079
  • Fifth chapter of Transforming the Faiths of our Fathers: Women who Changed American Religion, edited by Ann Braude. (2004) ISBN 1403964602
  • The Wrath of Jonah: The Crisis of Religious Nationalism in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Augsburg Fortress (2002) ISBN 0-8006-3479-9
  • Integrating Ecofeminism Globalization and World Religions, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (2005) ISBN 0-7425-3529-0
  • Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2005, University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23146-5
  • America, Amerikkka: Elect Nation & Imperial Violence, Equinox (2007) ISBN 1-84553-158-2
  • Women and Redemption: A Theological History. Fortress Press. Minnesota, (2012).
  • My Quests for Hope and Meaning: An Autobiography. Wipf & Stock. Oregon (2013).
  • Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century: Technology, Dialogue, and Expanding Borders (ed. with Gina Messina-Dysert), Routledge (2014). ISBN 9780415831949.


  1. ^ a b c "Rosemary Radford Ruether". Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. 2001. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b Ackermann, Denise (2008). "Rosemary Radford Ruether : themes from a feminist liberation story". Scriptura: Journal for Biblical, Theological and Contextual Hermeneutics. 97 (0): 37–46. doi:10.7833/97-0-712. ISSN 2305-445X.
  3. ^ Bouma-Prediger, Steven (1995). The greening of theology: the ecological models of Rosemary Radford Ruether, Joseph Sittler, and Juergen Moltmann. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press. ISBN 978-0-7885-0163-0. OCLC 33105042.
  4. ^ "Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology: Rosemary Radford Ruether". Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  5. ^ Hunt, Mary E. "The Life of 'Scholar Activist' Rosemary Radford Ruether." National Catholic Reporter, October 15, 2014. Accessed January 4, 2016.
  6. ^ "Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology".
  7. ^ "The life of 'scholar activist' Rosemary Radford Ruether". National Catholic Reporter. 2014-10-15. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  8. ^ a b c d "Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology: Rosemary Radford Ruether". Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  9. ^ Website of Claremont School of Theology
  10. ^ LaRosa, Patricia. "Finding Aid for Rosemary Radford Ruether Papers, 1954–2002" (PDF). Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Website of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary".
  12. ^ LaRosa, Patrician. "Finding Aid for Rosemary Radford Ruther papers" (PDF). Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Associates |  The Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press". Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  14. ^ "Honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden".
  15. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Whittier College". Retrieved 2019-12-06.
  16. ^ Miller, Patti (June 2011) [2010]. "Rosemary Radford Ruether" (PDF). Conscience. Vol. 32. Washington: Catholics for Choice. ISSN 0740-6835. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  17. ^ Ackermann, Denise (2008). "Rosemary Radford Ruether: Themes from a Feminist Liberation Story". Scriptura. 97: 37. doi:10.7833/97-0-712. ISSN 2305-445X.
  18. ^ "Renowned Professor Improving After Accident". United Methodist Insight. August 29, 2016. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  19. ^ Jarl, Ann-Cathrin (2003). In Justice: Women and Global Economics. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-8006-3568-8.
  20. ^ Pinn, Anthony B. (1999). "Religion and 'America's Problem Child': Notes on Pauli Murray's Theological Development". Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 15 (1): 29. ISSN 1553-3913. JSTOR 25002350.
  21. ^ RUETHER, ROSEMARY RADFORD (1981). "THE FEMINIST CRITIQUE IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES". Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 64 (4): 388–402. ISSN 0038-1861.

Further reading[edit]

  • Also see biographical information in Emily Leah Silverman, Whitney Bauman, and Dirk Von der Horst, ed., Voices of Feminist Liberation: Celebratory Writings in Honor of Rosemary Radford Ruether (London: Equinox Press, 2012).

External links[edit]