Women as theological figures

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Women as theological figures have played a significant role in the development of various religions and religious hierarchies. The study of women and religion typically examines the role of women within particular religious faiths, and religious doctrines relating to gender, gender roles, and particular women in religious history. It is worth noting from a gender scientific approach, women occupy the second room in all of the following religions in the examples below, with the exception of Nakayama Miki, the founder of Tenrikyo.

George H. Gallup Jr. wrote in an analysis for the Gallup Organization in 2002 that, a mountain of evidence shows that women have more religiosity than men. Gallup goes on to say that women hold on to their faith more heartily, work harder for the church, and in general practice with more consistency than men.[1]

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

In Bahá'i writings, the Holy Spirit is often described as the "Maid of Heaven".[2]

Three women figure prominently in the history of the Bahá'í Faith: Táhirih, a disciple of the Báb; Ásíyih Khánum, the wife of Bahá'u'lláh; and Bahíyyih Khánum the daughter of Bahá'u'lláh. Táhirih and Bahíyyih, in particular, held strong leadership positions and are seen vital to the development of the religion.

Several women played leading roles in the early days of the Bahá'í Faith in America.[3][4][5] Among them are: May Maxwell, Corinne True, and Martha Root. Rúhíyyih Khanum and a mix of male and female Hands of the Cause formed an interim leadership of the religion for six years prior to the formation of the Universal House of Justice. Later prominent women include Patricia Locke, Jaqueline Left Hand Bull Delahunt, Layli Miller-Muro, and Dr. Susan Maneck, who herself wrote books documenting the role of women in the Bahá'í Faith.



Women prominent in the New Testament[edit]

Women prominent in the Early Christian Church[edit]

Women prominent in the Medieval church[edit]

Women prominent in the Catholic Church (Post-Reformation)[edit]

In 1970 three women were declared Doctor of the Church

Women prominent in Protestant Churches[edit]

Women prominent in Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

  • Catherine the Great, Russian Orthodox from 1744–1796, had been Lutheran from 1729–1744, nationalised all church lands, issued 1773 "Toleration of All Faiths" edict

Matrona Nikonova [[1]]

Euphrosyne of Polotsk [[2]]

Olga of Kiev [[3]]

Xenia of Saint Petersburg [[4]]

Пётр и Феврония [[5]]

Anna of Kashin [[6]]

Juliana of Lazarevo [[7]]

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine [[8]]

Варвара Скворчихинская [[9]]

Eudoxia of Moscow [[10]]

Иулиания Вяземская [[11]]


A number of hymns and psalms have been written by women, from the pen of Fanny Crosby and Emily Gosse, for example.


Recognition of the feminine aspect of God during the last century by Tantric and Shakti religious leaders, has led to the legitimization of the female teachers and female gurus in Hinduism. A notable example was Ramakrishna, who worshiped his wife as the embodiment of the divine feminine. [12]



The status of women in Jainism differs between the two main sects, Digambara and Svetambara. Jainism prohibits women from appearing naked; because of this, Digambaras, who consider renunciation of clothes essential to moksha, say that they cannot attain enlightenment in the same life.[10] Svetambaras, who allow sadhus to wear clothes, believe that women can attain moksha. There are more Svetambara sadhvis than sadhus and women have always been influential in the Jain religion.[11]


There are several prominent women in the Tanakh.

  • Deborah, Hebrew prophetess, fourth judge
  • Esther, Jewish heroine associated with the feast of Purim
  • Huldah, the prophetess who validated the scroll found in the Temple (thought by many to be the book of Deuteronomy)
  • Miriam, Prophetess
  • Ruth, proselyte par excellence; better than seven sons
  • Leah, beloved of God, matriarch of some of the twelve tribes
  • Rachel, matriarch of some of the twelve tribes



One of the Daoist Eight Immortals, Immortal Woman He, is a woman. Additionally, Sun Bu'er was a famous female Taoist master in the 12th century. Her work "Secret Book on the Inner Elixir (as Transmitted by the Immortal Sun Bu'er)" discussed some of the particularities of female "Inner Elixir" (Neidan) cultivation. Daoist nuns usually have equal status with monks.

Other religions[edit]

Spiritual mediums[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Roy Britt, Women More Religious Than Men, http://www.livescience.com/7689-women-religious-men.html, February 28, 2009 October 27, 2014 (2014)
  2. ^ "Female Representations of the Holy Spirit in Bahá'í and Christian writings and their implications for gender roles". Bahai-library.com. Retrieved 2010-11-19.
  3. ^ "Women in the Baha'i Faith". Planetbahai.org. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2010-11-19. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  4. ^ "Selected Topics of Comparison in Christianity and the Baha'i Faith". Bahai-library.com. Retrieved 2010-11-19.
  5. ^ "Unclipping the Wings". Bahai-library.com. Retrieved 2010-11-19.
  6. ^ Scott, Rachelle M. (2016). "Contemporary Thai Buddhism". In Jerryson, Michael (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. Oxford University Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-19-936238-7.
  7. ^ A Magnificent Faith: Art and Identity in Lutheran Germany by Bridget Heal
  8. ^ Huguenot Women of the Tower of Constance
  9. ^ "Quick Statistics on the Seventh-day Adventist Church". www.adventistarchives.org. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  10. ^ "Religion & Ethics - Women in Jainism". BBC. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2010-11-19.
  11. ^ "The Role of Women - Victoria and Albert Museum". Vam.ac.uk. 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2010-11-19.


External links[edit]