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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.

Bahá'í Faith

In Bahá'i writings, the Holy Spirit is often described as the "Maid of Heaven".[1]

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.[2] [3][4] 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

Women prominent in the Early Christian Church

Women prominent in the Medieval church

Women prominent in the Catholic church (Post-Reformation)

In 1970 three women were declared Doctor of the Church

Feliksa Kozlowska was involved in the establishment of the Mariavite Church, a Catholic-based church one part of which accepts women priests and bishops.

Women prominent in Protestant Churches

There have been a number of hymns written by women, and also psalms, 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. [{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_shattuck]



The status of women in Jainism differs between the two main sects, Digambar 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 Moksha.[5] Svetambaras, who allow sadhus to wear clothes, believe that women can attain Moksha. Some Jains consider women to be inherently inferior, but most do not. Nevertheless, there are more Svetambara sadhvis than sadhus and women have always been influential in the Jain religion.[6]


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, prosleyte par excellence - better than seven sons.
  • Leah, beloved of God, matriach of some of the twelve tribes.
  • Rachel, matriach of some of the twelve tribes.



One of the Taoist Eight Immortals, Ho Hsien-ku, 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. Taoist nuns usually have equal status with Taoist monks.

Other religions

Spiritual mediums

See also


  1. Female Representations of the Holy Spirit in Bahá'í and Christian writings and their implications for gender roles
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. BBC - Religion & Ethics - Women in Jainism
  6. The Role of Women - Victoria and Albert Museum
  1. Joan Breton Connelly Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece Princeton University Press March 2007
  2. Evangelisti Silvia Evangelisti Nuns: A History of Convent Life, OUP 2007
  3. ^  Pechilis, Karen. The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States ISBN 0–19–514538–0
  4. ^  Shattuck, Cybelle and Lewis, Nancy D. The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Hinduism (2002). ISBN 0–02–864482–4
  5. being the webpage of the History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland, which has a number of entries on the links page.

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