April 26, 2009

Final Project Assignment: Due May 3

Women and Religion Major Project

UPDATED: Due May 3 (by midnight; paper attachment to e-mail).

You have a choice for this final project: (1) analyze a spiritual memoir/autobiography written by a woman, OR (2) do a research paper. Either choice will require both research and reflection. Pick a topic that deepens your inquiry in an area of interest related to the course, or allows you to explore something new that connects to the themes of the course. Some possible research topics are suggested below. There is also a list of possible memoir/autobiographies for you to consider. In both cases, alternatives will need to be approved. Your topic should be one that can be done in a 7-8 page essay form, and one where there are ample resources available.

RESEARCH PAPER OPTION: You will need to spend some time on the internet and at the library. Some topics may also lend themselves to doing primary research (interviews) for part of your information. I will help you find sources for topics where I have some expertise. Use resources listed on the course website, including a bibliography that I will post. End product: 7-8 page essay. 5-6 sources. (Note: if one of your major sources is a significant single book, such as the memoir/autobiography, consult with me on the extent of appropriate supporting sources.)

Sample Topics for Research Paper (don’t be constrained by this list):

• Women and the Problem of Evil / Theology of Sin / in Christianity
• Reclaiming Foremothers in Hebrew & Christian Scripture (Elizabeth Fiorenza is good on New Testament; Elizabeth Watson has written imaginative stories on Bible women)
• Women’s Emerging Ritual (in Wicca or Christian/Jewish/other tradition)
• Women and the Goddess
• Lesbian Voices in the Church Today
• Feminist Scholarship about Mary Magdalene, or Mary (Jesus’s mother)
• Women and Islam (or any other major world religion)
• American Indian Women and Feminism (good source is Paula Gunn Allen)
• Alice Walker’s Theology (including some fiction), or more broadly, Womanist theology
• Feminist theology and career of Ruether – McFague – Christ – or other major theologian
• Exploring Non-Sexist Language in Talking to God
• Spiritually based Peace and Justice work (WAMM, McDonald Sisters)
• Ecofeminism and Earth-based Theologies (Sallie McFague is a good source)
• Dealing with Patriarchy in Non-Western Religions (pick one)
• African American Buddhists (Jan Willlis, bell hooks, Tina Turner)
• African American Women’s Spirituality – writings, community leadership (including 19th Century recovered texts) – see My Soul Is A Witness: African-American Women’s Spirituality, Gloria Wade-Gayles, Ed.
• Re-Imagining Movement
• Woman Church
• Rosh Hodesh Groups
• Theology and Women’s roles in Gnostic Christianity (first three centuries C.E.)
• ______________: An American Religious Thinker, (primary texts by the woman, with at least a couple of short additional secondary sources for background)
• __________________: A Significant Female Religious Leader (can be based primarily on a major book-length biography, with at least a couple of additional secondary sources for background)

MEMOIR/AUTOBIOGRAPHY OPTION - **RECOMMENDED**: Once you pick your book, you will need to find at least two secondary sources about the author or about the book (good scholarly book reviews are especially helpful). End product: 7-8 page essay.

Some Women’s Spiritual Memoir/Autobiography Books
(read quick reviews on to get a sense of these books)

Adler, Margot: Heretic's Heart: A Journey through Spirit & Revolution
Armstrong, Karen The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness
Armstrong, Karen Through the Narrow Gate (much earlier - do both?)
Bolen, Jean Shinoda Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Crisis
Christ, Carol Oddyssey with the Goddess and/or the earlier one below
Christ, Carol Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections on a Journey to the Goddess
Day, Dorothy The Long Loneliness
Downing, Christine Journey through Menopause: A Personal Rite of Passage
Ehrlich, Gretel Questions of Heaven: Chinese Journeys of an American Buddhist
Feld, Merle A Spiritual Life: A Jewish Feminist
Flinders, Carol Lee At the Root of this Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger and a Feminist Thirst
Galland, China Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna
Goodall, Jane A Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey
Halifax, Joan The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth
Hampl, Patricia Virgin Time
Houston, Jean A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Story
Hurston, Zora Neale Dust Tracks on a Road
Kelly, Lorna The Camel Knows the Way
Kidd, Sue Monk The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine
Lamott, Annie Traveling Mercies (wonderful and funny!)
Linnea, Ann Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife
Lorde, Audre Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Luke, Helen Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On: The Autobiography and Journals of Helen M. Luke
Mackenzi, Vickie Cave in the Snow
Mankiller, Wilma Mankiller : A Chief and Her People (more political than spiritual)
Norris, Kathleen Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (could also do
The Cloister Walk)
O'Reilley, Mary Rose The Barn At the End of the World: A Year in the Life of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
Teish, Luisah Jambalaya (early 1990’s Black woman’s spiritual journey)
Tickle, Phylllis The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape
Williams, Terry Tempest Refuge (also a later book, Leap)
Willis, Jan Dreaming Me: Baptist to Buddhist,
Woodman, Marion Bone: Dying Into Life – or a project on Woodman’s work and other writings.

Expectations for Final Research Project – Women and Religion

Now that you have an idea about the topic you want to write about (either a research paper or memoir/autobiography topic), you will want to know how to approach this assignment to get a good grade. Keep in mind that this project is not primarily a summary of information, but an opportunity for you to do analysis by digging deeper into issues connected with women and religion as we have encountered them in reading and discussion.

For the purpose of this project, your writing should be primarily academic rather than personal. Discuss in a well-reasoned way how the topic or the primary text you are writing about connects to course themes. Of course, not all topics connect with all course themes, but you should identify at a minimum at least three or four significant course themes that you can relate your topic/text to and comment on these.

Your discussion should also make connections where appropriate to the reading we have done together in the course, showing connections between your materials and the arguments and issues that the article and book authors have presented. Use citations when referring to specific readings from the texts.

Here is a list of some of the course themes from the syllabus and reading/discussions:
• Reclaiming women’s (sometimes hidden) history in historical religions and the Bible
• Reforming religious traditions
• Creating new religious traditions
• Religious language: naming the sacred in new ways
• Self in relation (community, relationships)
• Transforming the world
• Special insights from women converting to Buddhism
• Women as religious thinkers and creators
• The ordinary and the sacred.
• Women’s strategies for acceptance, healing, and hope.
• Spiritual Seeking, pilgrimage, teachers
• Questions of inner empowerment, authority
• Women's community building, relationships with other women
• Women’s experience of and power to define “feminine” values
• Women’s use of ritual (including physical journeys/pilgrimages);
• The spiral through life stages
• The both-and nature of spiritual experience (transcendent AND immanent)
• Women's leadership roles in different religions – or limited access to leadership roles in different religious communities
• Women’s self-empowerment through study of or reinterpretation of sacred texts
• Feminine images of the divine (both inside traditional religions and in the creation of new Goddess-centered religions)
• The authority of experience rather than institutional doctrine, etc.
• Issues of backlash: religious conservatism and anti-feminist actions

March 19, 2009

Second Short Paper: Participation/Observation

Women & Religion Spring 2009
Short Paper #2 – Community Based Learning Project
Due Saturday, April 4 by Midnight – Word or RTF Document Attachment

We’ve read our text and had discussions (in person or on-line), all of which is classroom learning. For this assignment, we need to get out of the classroom and back into the world. The topic is Looking for Women’s Spirituality in the Twin Cities. You are being asked to go explore, analyze, and send in your report to share what you find.

Please choose a religious path that is different from your own background. In looking for resources, think more broadly than “church.” You may have to find women’s religious expression at a bookstore, art gallery, or ritual in someone’s home.

One approach to finding a resource is to talk to your friends or co-workers to see whether you could attend a service or event with them – or use the list below and the Web/e-mail updates that I’ll start putting out for you as a starting point. If you aren’t comfortable doing this kind of research alone, pair up with a classmate, or take a friend when you go to visit a new place.

Steps and stages:
A. Pick a topic / place to visit,
B. Find out when you can visit,
C. Commit to a time and show up,
D. PARTICIPATORY / OBSERVATION RESEARCH (record impressions right away)

Attend the service/event and participate in whatever is going on. This must be an event that communicates something about women’s experiences in religion/spirituality.

Notice the order of business, ritual, symbols, prayers, body language, gender roles, and audience participation. Notice where you are comfortable and the places where you are uncomfortable, how you are challenged, what you enjoyed. Record your observations in notes shortly after your observation. Ask your friend for their impressions. Does something stand out that reminds you of a point or experience discussed in our reading?

E. WRITING UP THE RESULTS. Your 3 page essay should include:
1. Describe the place that you visited – the physical space and who else was there,
2. Describe the religious aspects of what you observed (language, symbols, rituals, etc.),
3. Analyze your comfort level, how you were challenged, and
compare the experience with what your are familiar with,
4. Analyze in terms of what you have learned about women’s experience in religion and spirituality in through course readings and class discussion – does something stand out that reminds you of a point or experience discussed in our reading? How well does this setting / event support women’s leadership, involvement, full participation? What do you learn about women’s lives through this setting / event?

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Some events/opportunities that might work for you – though unfortunately quite a few are on Thursday evenings! I’ll keep looking for options.

Ongoing – former Amazon Bookstore, now True Colors Bookstsore – a feminist bookstore in south Minneapolis. 4755 Chicago Av S, Mpls, MN 55407 – 612-821-9630. Call to find a time when the owner Ruta Skujins is there and can talk to you about the history of the store.

Ongoing through March 27
NightLight / City Minneapolis / Place HCMC / Address 8th and Chicago Details / Inspire Arts of HCMC presents Artwork by Stephanie M Jones. Blue Building Lower Level Lobby / Start Date Friday, February 27, 2009 / End Date Friday, March 27, 2009 / Additional Information Blue Building Lower Level Lobby / Phone 612.873.2208.
Ongoing through May 24 : Changing Identity: Recent Works by Women Artists from Vietnam. This art exhibit “is the first major touring exhibition to feature Vietnamese women artists in the U.S. The exhibition explores the roles of women in Vietnamese society and challenges the stereotypes they face. By tracing the trajectories and life stories of ten artists working in a variety of media - painting, ink drawing, video performance, photography, and multimedia installations - Changing Identity reveals these women in their historical and social contexts as artists, as Vietnamese, and as individuals.” Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday ,10:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 A.M. to 5:00. Closed Mondays and major holidays. Exhibit is free; parking (below the museum at 333 E. River Road, Mpls) is $3/hour. Info:

3/12 – Thursday, at 4:00 p.m. Author and poet, Elizabeth Haukaas, will discuss her book, Leap: Poems, at the University of Minnesota Bookstore in Coffman Memorial Union. “These poems focus on the hard subjects: a child’s life-threatening illness, a mother’s struggle with the serious illnesses of all her children, the ends of marriages, the deaths of lovers—but the poems are not grim. Leap resonates with life and survival, with richness of rhythm and language. At once narrative and lyric, they express the voice and experience of a poet who has lived fully—and is now fully engaging the tools of her craft. Haukaas will sign copies of her book following the discussion.”

3/14 Saturday - International Women's Day
The 14th Annual International Women's Day Celebration is presented by The Advocates for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota. Keynote speakers are Fahima Vorgetts (right), a women's rights leader in Afghanistan, and Fionnuala Ni Aolain, a professor at the University of Minnesota and the University of Ulster in Belfast, Ireland. The day includes workshops, films and numerous information tables. Free. University of Minnesota Coffman Memorial Union, Minneapolis.

3/14 Saturday
Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival Presents: "The Secrets (Hasodot)" CityHopkins PlaceHopkins Mann Theater Address1118 Mainstreet Hopkins, MN 55343 DetailsNominated for eight Israeli Academy Awards, Hasodot is the story of a devout daughter of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and her rebellious quest for individuality. Wary of marriage in an insular community, Naomi (Ania Bokstein) convinces her father to send her to an all-female Jewish seminary in the Israeli city of Safed, a center of Kabbalistic study. There she befriends a fellow free-spirited student, Michelle (Michal Shtamler). The girls encounter a mysterious, ailing foreigner with a disturbing past (Fanny Ardant). Attempting to purge the woman’s sins through mystical rituals, Naomi and Michelle begin a risky journey into forbidden realms. A complex examination of feminism and sexuality in a repressive religious culture, Hasodot is directed by the multi-award winning Avi Nesher (Turn Left at the End of the World). (Summary courtesy of Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, 2009) Director: Avi Nesher Israel, 2007 127 minutes Hebrew and French with Eng. subtitles Minnesota Premier Start DateSaturday, March 14, 2009 Start Time8:30 PM End Time11:00 PM FFI: .

March 17-20 – Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Color Purple (Ordway theater, St. Paul – descriptions from Web site): “From Alice Walker's classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the landmark film by Steven Spielberg comes a soul-stirring new musical. The Color Purple is an inspiring and unforgettable story of a woman who, through love, finds the strength to triumph over adversity and discover her unique voice in the world. With a moving book and a score featuring gospel, jazz, ragtime, and the blues, The Color Purple is ultimately a story of hope, a testament to the healing power of love, and a celebration of life.” – This is a touring production – a bit pricey (except for standing room only seats) but sounds exciting. Info: Tickets: . Box office: 651-224-4222.

Thursday March 19 - The Green M&M Project – 6:00-8:00 p.m. / City Minneapolis / Place Hope Community, Inc. / Address 611 E. Franklin Ave. / Details A reality-based examination of myths and messages about sex, power, and growing up male and female. / Discussion/workshop with The Aurora Center. / Phone 612-435-5045 / Email / Web Address

Thursday March 26 Celebrating Our Voices – m 6:00-8:00 p.m. / City Minneapolis / Place Hope Community, Inc. / Address 611 E. Franklin Ave. / Details Performance by: Articulating Our Voices Now. Join us as we celebrate women’s history month with a performance by the young women of our community through dance, poetry, spoken word and song! / 612-435-5045 / Email / Web Address

March 28 – Saturday – 7:00-9:00 p.m / Vernalia celebration, hosted by the Lodge of Our Lady of Celestial Fire / City Minneapolis / Place Eye of Horus Metaphysical Store / Address 2717 Lyndale Ave S., Mpls., MN 55408 / Details The Lodge of Our Lady of Celestial Fire will host an open Vernalia celebration. Please feel free join in this celebration of Spring. Donations to help cover costs are cheerfully accepted. / Email / Web Address

April 2 – Thursday – 7:00-9:00 p.m. – Book Release Party and Reading - Apprenticed to Hope: with Julie Neraas / City Saint Paul / Place Carondelet Center / Address 1890 Randoph Ave / Details Join Julie Neraas, author of Apprenticed to Hope: A Sourcebook for Challenging Times, who will read from her new book. A baffling illness inspired Julie to investigate psychology, theology, and poetry for a new definition of hope. She will talk about the nature of hope and how it differs from optimism, faith and wishing. / Phone 651-696-2788 / Email / Web Address

Metro Women's History Month - March Events

Mon 16
Violence Against Women: An Overview
Forty‐one percent of Metropolitan State’s female students have experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse—about double the national average. It’s time to do something about it. The dialogue begins with speakers who are victims’ advocates, police, staff from batterers’ programs and victims/ survivors.
Founders Hall
Reception Area
11:30 AM to 1 PM
Light Refreshments

Mon 23
Men’s Responsibility in Ending Domestic Violence against Women
Twenty‐three percent of male students at Metropolitan State report that they have attacked a partner physically or verbally. What is the responsibility of men to end violence against women? The program is a dialogue among former male perpetrators, treatment professionals, change agents and others.
Founders Hall
Reception Area
11:30 AM to 1 PM
Light Refreshments

Wed 25
Women’s Showcase
• Sandra Benitez – The Saving Grace of Stories (Noon ‐ 2 PM, Great Hall)
• Fashion Show (2 – 3 PM , Auditorium)
• Women Entrepreneur Expo (3 ‐ 4 PM, Founders Hall Reception Area)
New Main
Great Hall
Noon to 4 PM
Lunch provided

Tues 31
Images of Beauty: Perceptions and Portrayal of Asian Women in the Media
Dr. Mai Moua, founder of Leadership Paradigms, will facilitate an interactive lecture on perceptions of beauty from a cultural perspective, discuss how perceptions and images of Asian women serve as barriers to their success, and explore different strategies of thinking about Asian women.
Ecolab 302
4 – 6 PM
Light Refreshments
RSVP to EOD to or at 651‐793‐1270.
Persons with a disability who need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this event must call Disability Services at 651.793.1549 (voice) or 651.772.7687 (TTY) two weeks prior to event.

Continue reading "Second Short Paper: Participation/Observation" »

February 5, 2009

First Short Paper Assignment: Foremothers

First Short Paper Assignment
Foremothers, Movers and Shakers: The Life & Work of One
Influential American Woman in American Religious History


From the list below choose one significant woman to investigate about her life and work and where she fits into American religious history. Using a variety of sources (encyclopedias, biographical references, books, internet), create a brief biographical portrait to send in to be posted as a resource on the class web site.

Each class member will have a different subject so that we can cover more women and religious backgrounds. By midnight of February 28, e-mail me a copy (either as an attachment in Microsoft Word or RTF format, or pasted into the body of an e-mail message to

Focus on two goals: (1) to provide biographical information about the person you have chosen, and (2) to present your understanding of why this person is significant in understanding women’s religious history.

Your paper should be a minimum of 3 pages, double spaced. I prefer Times New Roman font and 12 point type.

The content of the essay should include basic biography (parents, birth, where born & raised, education, religious upbringing) and some highlights of the woman’s religious life and contributions (religious institutional participation or experience, spiritual awakenings, religious leadership and creativity) and a summary assessment as to why this woman deserves to be remembered.

Your essay should include a short BIBLIOGRAPHY. MLA style works well; you can find numerous examples through google. Works cited within the text can generally take the form of (author, p._) after the quotation or paraphrased information. Here’s more information and examples of in-text citations:

Here’s a good on-line site for citing your sources at the end:

Questions you might consider as you read about this person:
- Are there any contradictions between how this woman was viewed during her own lifetime and what we know about her now?
- Is this woman someone you’d want to know personally? Why, or why not?
- Is there anything unique about this person that can help you articulate what her significant contribution has been?

Some of the women on the list have excellent autobiographies. Most have biographies. However, you don’t need to read a book-length piece, as there should have information available via encyclopedias and biographical references for most (especially the early women, who are largely at the front of the list). Let me know if you have trouble finding sources or want to propose a different foremother. The starred (**) names would be especially nice to have someone cover. NOTE: you MUST have some references from printed sources (or the electronic equivalent available through Metro’s library services); doing this research completely on-line through Web-based sources will not be acceptable.

Woman and Religion Notables:
- Sarah and Angelina Grimke -
- Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz - Jeannie
- Jane Addams - Jessica
- **Anne Hutchinson—banished for heresy - Tyrk
- Margaret Sanger - Christine G
- Anne Lee—co-founder of the Shakers - Hellen O
- Emma Goldman -
- Ellen White—co-founder of Seventh Day Adventists - Mike
- Margaret Mead - Natasha W
- **Susan B. Anthony - Adam
- Mary Baker Eddy – founder Church Christ, Scientist - Wendy
- Dorothy Day - Dylan
- Madame Blavatsky – founder of Theosophy
- **Lucretia Mott - Terri
- **Elizabeth Cady Stanton - Tiffany
- Helen Cohn Schucman -- "channeled" author of the A Course in Miracles
- Aimee Semple McPherson—founder of Church of Foursquare Gospel - Krystal
- Elizabeth Ann Seaton – Catholic Saint - Natalie
- Rosemary Radford Ruether --theologian
- Barbara Harris--first Episcopal female bishop
- Pema Chodron - Tenzin
- Antoinette Brown Blackwell – first woman to be ordained & to have her own congregation
- Marjorie Matthews – first woman bishop, United Methodist Church
- Sally Priesand – first woman to be ordained as rabbi (Reform) - Elena
- Marija Gimbutas
- Luisa Teish
- Mary Daly
- Paula Gunn Allen
- Audre Lorde
- Judy Chicago - Cassondra
- Dhyani Ywahoo
- Starhawk - Stephanie
- Katie G. Cannon
- Mary McLeod Bethune
- Rabbi Laura Geller
- Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
- Carter Heyward—Episcopal priest
- Charlotte Joko Beck
- Elizabeth Dodson Gray –Harvard theologian
- Sojourner Truth - Neka
- Winona LaDuke - Dean