Women’s Studies in Religion Program (WSRP)

Women's Studies in Religion Program (WSRP)

Women’s Studies in Religion Program (WSRP)

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.

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.

Women’s Studies at HDS

The Women’s Studies in Religion Program forms one component of the Divinity School’s offerings on gender. In addition to the visiting Research Associates, several members of the permanent faculty specialize in women’s studies. The Divinity School’s nondenominational character, with approximately 30 of the world’s religious traditions and denominations represented among its students and faculty, provides an excellent base for the WSRP’s interdisciplinary and multicultural work. The school is committed to educating women and men as leaders in public life in religious and academic institutions, and in other professions enriched by the study of religion.


Each WSRP research associate designs and teaches a one-semester course related to the associate’s research project. An annual session during fall orientation provides students with the opportunity to learn about each course from the visiting scholars themselves.


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