Today, June 24th, marks Theano’s Day, the international day to blog in honor of a favorite female philosopher or thinker. This year I’m celebrating women with very humane, gentle sensibilities and social consciences, along with intellectual capabilities.
First off, there’s Ireland’s second patron saint, Brigid, a nun, artist, writer, and leader known for helping develop the historically more balanced, more gentle and egalitarian Celtic Christian theology. Brigid chose the contemplative religious life after realizing she felt a calling to help the local poor and sick, which she started by giving away her and her father’s possessions, including his valuable jewel-encrusted sword. Throughout her life, she organized efforts to care for the sick, educate children, and build and develop the nunnery.
Ireland’s pre-Christian past also involves a goddess named Brigid, and some historians observe commonalities among the saint and the goddess’ lives and interests. Brigid the goddess serves as patron of wisdom, learning, writing, poetry, motherhood, and children – and is known for compassion towards the poor and sick. She taught people how to raise cattle and forge iron tools, while defending the rights of women, including single mothers and their children.
Links to the story of Goddess Brigid and St. Brigid:
Then, there’s the English theologian and poet Anne Kingsmill Finch, born in 1661 and highly educated in literature, history, and the classics. Known for her humor, wit, and energy, Finch satirized social customs which she felt overly restricted or protected women. She also expressed her love for her husband, her religious faith, and her struggle to overcome serious depression, while earning scores of admirers, including Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift.
University of Pennsylvania’s Women Writers page for Anne Finch, complete with samples of her poems: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/finch/finch-anne.html
And, there’s Julian of Norwich, an anchoress (a nun choosing to almost totally isolate herself from society to meditate and pray) who developed a kind of Christian theology which focused more on living out a response to God’s love than on following rules for their own sake. She spoke often of divine love and welcome for all living beings, not just those of any one particular faith or culture, and emphasized learning from mistakes rather than strict penitence. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, is the first published English-language book known to be written by a woman.
Lady Julian of Norwich said, famously, and in the midst of the Black Death, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Article on Lady Julian’s spirituality and how to reconcile ‘all shall be well’ with the world’s obvious suffering: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3885/is_200104/ai_n8931020/
Finally, we come to Theano herself, Pythagoras’ wife and the mother of his five children. She wrote extensively on intellectual topics, such as geometry, mathematical proportion in art, and literary critiques of books and treatises. And, she could transition well from practical life to high-minded academia and back again – she also wrote much about raising children and managing a household and treating servants with respect and professionalism.
Link to a short biography of Theano and the Pythagorean School: http://www.women-philosophers.com/Theano.html
As an extra treat, here’s a list of thirty great books for and about girls, courtesy of Care2.com: http://www.care2.com/causes/womens-rights/blog/30-great-books-for-girls-8-14/