The study of religion allows the exploration of the most fundamental ideas that shape women's lives. —Ann Braude, director
The Women's Studies in Religion Program (WSRP) was founded to explore the fundamental role played by religious traditions in defining roles for women and men. Research on religion and gender sheds light on questions about the changing roles of women both inside religious communities and in broader public spheres. It examines the sources of cultural beliefs about leadership, authority, and values, and offers resources to change them.
Because religion is so often offered as a rationale for proposals regarding women and the family, critical scholarship in this area is essential to women's welfare and to the formation of public policies. Feminist criticism has affected every field of religious and theological studies, calling for a rethinking of basic assumptions in view of women's presence and full humanity.
The Program's goal is the production of new primary research addressing these issues and the dispersal of that information through courses, publications, and public programs.
Founded in 1973, WSRP was the first program to focus on the interdisciplinary study of women and religion. It is the only program of its kind, focused on research that expands our base of knowledge about women in religion. Well over 100 Research Associates have participated in the program. Together, they have produced a body of scholarship that has helped transform the study of religion and the theological education of ministers and religious leaders. Their publications challenge long-held assumptions about the meaning of religious scriptures, the presence of women as religious leaders, and the significance of religious teachings and practices. In many cases, their work calls into question the universality of language and methods of past scholarship.
In addition to increasing attention to women and gender within the study of religion, the Program promotes awareness of the importance of religion for an understanding of women's situation. Program scholars come from literary studies, anthropology, law, political science, psychology, and history, as well as from theology, ethics, biblical criticism, and other fields of religious studies. The program has developed a generation of faculty expert in addressing questions of religion and gender, whose teaching spreads knowledge of the field to students across the country, and to many parts of the world. Together, this community of international scholars provides a crucial resource for religious communities, policy makers, and educational institutions.