Early Modern Women Philosophers, Theologians, and Scientists

March 27-29, 2014

Renaissance Society of America would like to propose a series of panels on women’s participation in the areas of philosophy, theology, and science (natural philosophy) in the early modern period.

As more information comes to light about women’s participation in philosophical debates, activities involving religion and religious controversy, and their engagement in natural philosophy during the early modern period, it becomes clear that we have much to learn about the women who incorporated such interests into their lives, and, in some cases, dedicated their lives to such pursuits, whether in convents or secular society.

From the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, from Italian humanists such as Laura Cereta, Ippolita Sforza, and Cassandra Fedele, to the German reformer Katharina Schutz Zell, to French and Dutch savantes such as Marie de Gournay and Anna Maria van Schurman, to French salonnièreswhose salons were in large part dedicated to politics, religion, and natural philosophy, such as the Vicomtesse d’Auchy, Mme de Loges, Mme de la Sablière, and Mme Deshoulières, to English women engaged in protestant or recusant causes, such as Mary Sidney’s work on the Psalms, Anne Vaughan Locke’s engagement in Calvinism, Gertrude More, Mary Ward, and Elizabeth Cary’s recusant writings, and Margaret Cavendish’s pursuit of natural philosophy, we can see how women were critically involved in these areas of interest.

How were such women accepted or rejected in the contexts of their activities? What means of participation did they utilize—writing, conversation, oratory, experimentation? Where do recipes and medical experimentation intersect? What other figures have work that has been “lost” and only recently recovered in these critical areas of early modern history? Where did natural philosophy and religion intersect for such women? What sorts of educations enabled such women to participate in these areas?

– Julie D. Campbell
Professor of English
Eastern Illinois University

– Anne R. Larsen
Professor of French
Hope College

– Diana Robin
Scholar-in-Residence, Newberry Library

– Anne R. Larsen
Lavern ’39 and Betty DePree ’41 Van Kley Professor of French
Department of Modern and Classical Languages
Martha Miller Center 222
Hope College
Holland, MI 49422-9000

Posted: September 13, 2013