Introducing the Women and Theology Research Database

What if we included women’s theological work precisely because of how mainstream and ordinary it is? What if we included the writings of women, not because of peculiarity or controversy, but because they represent key interpretive ideas?
March 29, 2022 | Amanda Hackney

In her essay on issues of historiography, Margaret Lamberts Bendroth writes: “few people would argue against including women in history, but not everyone can agree on where to include them or how their inclusion should change the story as a whole” [1].

This question is not limited to the field of history. The same question is being asked today in relation to the field of theology: How might we include women’s writings in a discussion of theology?

There are several possibilities. First, we may include women’s theological writings because they speak to women’s issues. Thus, we might include a woman’s work because of her theological anthropology of womanhood, marriage, children, etc and her interpretation of texts like Titus 2, 1 Timothy 2:9–15 or Ephesians 5, or because she directly addresses the role of women in the church and in society. While important, this can pigeonhole women, and give the appearance that, as representatives of female theological scholarship, these women only spoke to a narrow topic. They are then excluded from the bigger themes and issues of their day by modern scholars who are tasked with teaching the history of theology with broad strokes [2].

Second, we might include women’s work because their writings represent something unique or niche. In this case, we might include a female theologian because she presents an idea that is obscure, and modern scholars can use her to demonstrate a theological curiosity that is not meant to be taken seriously or incorporated into the mainstream presentation, but is included instead to create controversy or intrigue. We see this very often in theological surveys or volumes on the development of theology. There may be a chapter tacked on near the end on Feminist theology. This framing then gives the appearance that women have only be interested in theology since the 1970s and only do theology as a means to create controversy and upend the patriarchy.

Third, and closely related to the second option, we might include a woman’s theological treatise as an example of theology gone wrong. Thus, we might include the writing as a way to show the dangers of uneducated, or unauthorized ideas. This risks shutting the door on further inclusion of women’s theological treatises, because her ideas (and, through guilt by association, other female theologians) are too far outside the scope of mainstream or orthodox theology.


But what if there was a fourth option? What if we included women’s theological work precisely because of how mainstream and ordinary it is? What if we included the writings of women, not because of peculiarity or controversy, but because they represent key interpretive ideas?

But how do we take this fourth option seriously and put it into practice? This research database is a good first step! To find out more, check out the inaugural episode of "Theology with Dr. AM Hackney" in which I introduce the database and sketch the rationale and steps to get this project off the ground.



[1] Margaret Lamberts Bendroth, “Men, Women, and God: Some Historiographical Issues,” in History and the Christian Historian, ed. Ronald A. Wells (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 91.
[2] An example of this is Stephen Westerholm and Martin Westerholm, Reading Sacred Scripture: Voices from the History of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016). There is not a single female represented in the “history” of voices.