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European Electronic Journal for Feminist Exegesis

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Joy Schroeder, Kristine Henriksen Garroway, Susanne Scholz, Sara Parks,
Shively Smith, Carly Daniel-Hughes and Kay Higuera Smith

Recovering Female Interpreters of the Bible.
A Panel Discussion at the SBL Annual Meeting 2019 in San Diego

 

Abstract:

Im Jahr 2019 feierte die Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) die offizielle Aufnahme von weiblichen Mitgliedern in diese renommierte, 1880 in den Vereinigten Staaten gegründete wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft, da vor 125 Jahren Anna Ely Rhoads 1894 das erste weibliche Mitglied wurde. Heute bringen Wissenschaftlerinnen verschiedener Ethnien, Rassen und geopolitischer Herkunft ihre Forschungen und professionelle Arbeit in die SBL ein. Während des jährlichen SBL-Treffens erinnerten mehrere weibliche SBL-Mitglieder, deren Forschungen und Lehre sich auf die wissenschaftlichen Gebiete der Archäologie, der Hebräischen Bibel, des frühen Judentums, des Neues Testaments und des frühen Christentums beziehen, an die Geschichte der Frauen in den mit der SBL verbundenen Forschungsgebieten. In ihren Beiträgen bedenken sie die folgenden Fragen: Vor welchen Herausforderungen standen und stehen SBL-Wissenschaftlerinnen? Welche Möglichkeiten hatten und haben sie? Welche wissenschaftlichen Leistungen erbrachten und erbringen sie? Einige der Mitwirkenden reflektieren diese Fragen, indem sie die Geschichten einzelner Wissenschaftlerinnen erzählen, weil sie zum Beispiel selbst von deren Forschungen beeinflusst wurden oder weil diese Wissenschaftlerinnen Pionierarbeit geleistet haben. Manche der Vortragenden referieren über vergessene Biographien oder sie verbinden ihre eigenen Biographien mit den wissenschaftlichen Laufbahnen der Wissenschaftlerinnen, die in den verschiedenen Bereichen der Bibelforschung arbeiteten oder weiterhin arbeiten. Die folgenden Beiträge geben der interessierten Öffentlichkeit die Möglichkeit, die im November 2019 vorgetragenen Präsentationen nun erstmals nachzulesen.

 

Joy Schroeder: Women and the Society of Biblical Literature: Commemorating 125 Years

 

In 1894, Anna Ely Rhoads (1862-1943), a Euro-American biblical scholar who held a master’s degree from Bryn Mawr College, became a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis (as it was called at the time). An expert in New Testament and patristic Greek literature, she was the first woman invited to join what had been an all-male society, “a small guild of East Coast Euro-American scholars.”[1] Later that decade, three more women joined the society: Rebecca Corwin (1862-1932), who taught Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, and Assyrian cuneiform at Mount Holyoke College; Emilie Grace Briggs (1867-1944), who – uncredited – authored many entries for the magisterial Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1906), co-edited by her father Charles Briggs; and Mary Emma Woolley (1863-1947), president of Mount Holyoke. It was not until 1913 that a woman, Eleanor D. Wood, would give a paper at a meeting of the Society.[2]

Though the number of female members grew over the first two decades of the twentieth century, women’s involvement in the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) was not a story about steady progression. According to Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, by 1920, at “the crest of the first wave of American feminism,” ten percent of the members were female. “Afterward, [the percentage] slowly declined until it achieved a low of 3.5 percent in 1970.”[3] It was not until the 1980s that significant numbers of women were able to enter the academy, receive Ph.D. degrees in biblical studies and related fields, and obtain academic positions. In Women and the Society of Biblical Literature, a volume edited by Nicole Tilford that commemorates 125 years of women’s membership, a wide array of authors – some of them feminist pioneers – reflected on their challenges: sexism, racism, anti-Judaism, and other forms of discrimination during graduate studies, on the job market, in the academy, and at SBL meetings. They also offered proposals for a more fully inclusive vision for the future of biblical studies as a discipline and for SBL as a scholarly guild.[4]

At the 2019 SBL Annual Meeting held in San Diego, the Recovering Female Interpreters of the Bible section, a program unit dedicated to retrieving the history of women biblical interpreters prior to the second wave of feminism, sponsored a session honoring 125 years of female membership in the Society. Invited panelists spoke about the contributions and legacies of pioneering women in the fields of biblical archeology, Hebrew scripture, early Judaism, New Testament, and early Christianity. In the papers that follow, you will read words of tribute, testimony, and challenge: tribute to these intrepid foremothers and the inspiration they offered to those who followed in their footsteps; testimony to their struggles; and challenge to SBL members to be tireless and vigilant in their advocacy for all who may be marginalized.



[1] Marion Ann Taylor, “Celebrating 125 Years of Women in the Society of Biblical Literature (1894–2019),” in Women and the Society of Biblical Literature, ed. Nicole L. Tilford, Biblical Scholarship in North America 29 (Atlanta:  SBL Press, 2019), 1.

[2] Ibid., 9.

[3] Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 1920.

[4] Tilford, Women and the Society of Biblical Literature, xixiv.

 


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Joy A. Schroeder (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is professor of Church History at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A, where she serves on the faculty of Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the Department of Religion and Philosophy. Schroeder chairs the steering committee of the Recovering Female Interpreters of the Bible SBL program unit.
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© Joy A. Schroeder, 2020, lectio@theol.unibe.ch, ISSN 1661-3317

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