Women's History Month Reading

Some Suggested Titles from AAR's Reading Religion

Reading Religion is an open book review website published by the American Academy of Religion. The site provides up-to-date coverage of scholarly publishing in religious studies, reviewed by scholars with special interest and/or expertise in the relevant subfields. Reviews aim to be concise, comprehensive, and timely.

Below, the editors of Reading Religion have selected some books and reviews from the site and have shared some titles available to review. If you’re interested in reviewing books for Reading Religion, take a look at the guidelines. If there are any books missing from the Reading Religion site that you think should be there, email [email protected].

Reviews to Read

The Only Woman in the Room: Golda Meir and Her Path to Power

By Pnina Lahav

From the review:

"Yet [this book]is the first biography to critically examine [Golda Meir’s] early life and political career through the lens of gender. Such an approach helps make sense of divergent and seemingly contradictory representations of her." - Philip Hollander

The Souls of Womenfolk: The Religious Cultures of Enslaved Women in the Lower South

By Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh

From the review:

"[This] is not a quick introduction to the lives of enslaved people, but rather a deep and at times disturbing dive into the lives of enslaved women and how they led their communities. . . . This book will be difficult for many, but it is very important for the understanding of the enslaved community and its descendants." - Maggie Finch

Invisible: Theology and the Experience of Asian American Women

By Grace Ji-Sun Kim

From the review:

"Asian American women in America have often found themselves with no voice and no choice in how they arrived there. Grace Ji-Sun Kim uses her own Asian American voice . . . to challenge this invisibility, and encourages other Asian American women to do the same." - Joy Clarisse Saavedra

The Bible, Gender, and Sexuality: Critical Readings

Edited by Lynn R. Huber and Rhiannon Graybill

From the review:

"This collection is a tour de force on gender and sexuality in biblical studies. Its strength lies in the rich and extensive approaches that the contributing authors employed in filling crucial gaps on interpretation and contextualization of this topic in biblical studies." - Florence Egbeyale

The Struggle to Stay: Why Single Evangelical Women Are Leaving the Church

By Katie Gaddini

From the review:

"Gaddini’s self-reflection about the personal cost of both evangelicalism and her research into it is also worthy of emulation. That one’s scholarship can be painful (and healing) when it draws out former identities is an often-overlooked component of scholarly research. Gaddini navigates this insider-outsider world with incredible skill." - Mandy McMichael

Available for Review

Women Healers: Gender, Authority, and Medicine in Early Philadelphia

By Susan H. Brandt

From the publisher:
"[...] Although the history of women practitioners often begins with the 1850 founding of Philadelphia’s Female Medical College, the first women’s medical school in the United States, these students merely continued the legacies of women like Paschall. Remarkably, though, the lives and work of early American female practitioners have gone largely unexplored. While some sources depict these women as amateurs whose influence declined, Susan Brandt documents women’s authoritative medical work that continued well into the nineteenth century. Spanning a century and a half, Women Healers traces the transmission of European women’s medical remedies to the Delaware Valley where they blended with African and Indigenous women’s practices, forming hybrid healing cultures.

Drawing on extensive archival research, Brandt demonstrates that women healers were not inflexible traditional practitioners destined to fall victim to the onward march of Enlightenment science, capitalism, and medical professionalization. Instead, women of various classes and ethnicities found new sources of healing authority, engaged in the consumer medical marketplace, and resisted physicians’ attempts to marginalize them. Brandt reveals that women healers participated actively in medical and scientific knowledge production and the transition to market capitalism.”


We Will Be Free: The Life and Faith of Sojourner Truth

By Nancy Koester

From the publisher:
"Though born into slavery, Sojourner Truth would defy the limits placed upon her as a Black woman to become one of the nineteenth century’s most renowned female preachers and civil rights advocates. In We Will Be Free, Nancy Koester chronicles her spiritual journey as an enslaved woman, a working mother, and an itinerant preacher and activist.

On Pentecost in 1827, the course of Sojourner Truth’s life was changed forever when she had a vision of Jesus calling her to preach. Though women could not be trained as ministers at the time, her persuasive speaking, powerful singing, and quick wit converted many to her social causes. During the Civil War, Truth campaigned for the Union to abolish slavery throughout the United States, and she personally recruited Black troops for the effort. Her activism carried her to Washington, DC, where she met Abraham Lincoln and ministered to refugees of Southern slavery. Truth’s faith-driven action continued throughout Reconstruction, as she aided freed people, campaigned for reparations, advocated for women’s rights, and defied segregation on public transportation."


The Women's Mosque of America: Authority and Community in US Islam

By Tazeen M. Ali

From the publisher:
“The Women’s Mosque of America (WMA), a multiracial, women-only mosque in Los Angeles, is the first of its kind in the United States. Since 2015, the WMA has provided a space for Muslim women to build inclusive communities committed to gender and social justice, challenging the dominant mosque culture that has historically marginalized them through inadequate prayer spaces, exclusion from leadership, and limited access to religious learning.

Tazeen M. Ali explores this congregation, focusing on how members contest established patriarchal norms while simultaneously contending with domestic and global Islamophobia that renders their communities vulnerable to violence. Drawing on textual analysis of WMA sermons and ethnographic interviews with community members, and utilizing Black feminist and womanist frameworks, Ali investigates how American Muslim women create and authorize new conceptions of Islamic authority. Whereas the established model of Islamic authority is rooted in formal religious training and Arabic language expertise, the WMA is predicated on women’s embodied experiences, commitments to social and racial justice, English interpretations of the Qur’an, and community building across Islamic sects and in an interfaith context.”


The Lives of Jessie Sampter: Queer, Disabled, Zionist

By Sarah Imhoff

From the publisher:
“In The Lives of Jessie Sampter, Sarah Imhoff tells the story of an individual full of contradictions. Jessie Sampter (1883–1938) was best known for her Course in Zionism (1915), an American primer for understanding support of a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1919, Sampter packed a trousseau, declared herself “married to Palestine,” and immigrated there. Yet Sampter’s own life and body hardly matched typical Zionist ideals. Although she identified with Judaism, Sampter took up and experimented with spiritual practices from various religions. While Zionism celebrated the strong and healthy body, she spoke of herself as “crippled” from polio and plagued by sickness her whole life. While Zionism applauded reproductive women’s bodies, Sampter never married or bore children; in fact, she wrote of homoerotic longings and had same-sex relationships. By charting how Sampter’s life did not neatly line up with her own religious and political ideals, Imhoff highlights the complicated and at times conflicting connections between the body, queerness, disability, religion, and nationalism.”


Mary Magdalene: A Cultural History

By Philip C. Almond

From the publisher:
“Mary Magdalene is a key figure in the history of Christianity. After Mary, the mother of Jesus, she remains the most important female saint in her guise both as primary witness to the resurrection and 'apostle of the apostles'. This volume, the first major work on the Magdalene in more than thirty years, focuses on her 'lives' as these have been imagined and reimagined within Christian tradition. Philip Almond expertly disentangles the numerous narratives that have shaped the story of Mary over the past two millennia. Exploring the 'idea' of the Magdalene – her cult, her relics, her legacy – the author deftly peels back complex layers of history and myth to reveal many different Maries, including penitent prostitute; demoniac; miracle worker; wife and lover of Jesus; symbol of the erotic; and New Age goddess. By challenging uniform or homogenised readings of the Magdalene, this absorbing new book brings fascinating insights to its subject.”