Books about women philosophers – always forgotten, always remembered

Why we almost always think of philosophy and philosophers as male is one of the great mysteries of history – especially when you consider how many women have been involved in thought since ancient times.

Books commemorating the philosophers appear regularly – and have been for centuries: from lists of learned women in the 15th and 16th centuries to Gilles Ménage’s detailed “History of the Philosophers” from 1690 to the Standard Works of Marit Rullmann and Mary Ellen. Waithe published in the 1980s and 1990s – at the height of the rise of women’s studies in universities.

Three new titles on the subject, aimed at a wide audience, show that female philosophers must be remembered again in 2021.

Armin Strohmeyr: “Great Philosophers. How Their Thoughts Shaped the World”
Piper, Munich 2021
320 pages, 12 euros

Armin Strohmeyr’s recently published book, “Great Women Philosophers. How Their Thinking Shaped the World. 10 Portraits,” is the most conventional. The non-fiction author has also written titles such as “Influential Women. 12 Portraits”, “Adventures of Traveling Women. 15 Portraits”, and “Mysterious Women. Rebels, mistresses, impostors”.

From Hildegard von Bingen to Hannah Arendt

He tells the life and work stories of ten well-known thinkers in a beautiful way, but without a particular feminist impulse: from the medieval mystic and founder of German-language philosophy Hildegard von Bingen to the expected greats of the 20th century, Simone de Beauvoir and Hannah. arendt.

Rebecca Buxton/Lisa Whiting (eds.): “Women Philosophers. From Hypatia to Angela Davis: Outstanding Women in the History of Philosophy.”
Mairisch Verlag, Hamburg 2021
240 pages, 22 euros

The 20 short portraits of female thinkers in the collection “Female Philosophers. From Hypatia to Angela Davis: Outstanding Women in the History of Philosophy” are academically more ambitious, even if their form is even more popular. The collection starts with two old philosophers and then relatively quickly ends up in the 20th century.

In the introduction, the editors, the two young British philosophers Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting, reflect explicitly on the frustrating experience that even female thinkers who were influential in their own time barely make it to the great “Histories of Philosophy”.

Forced from canon formation

It is an annoying circumstance that in addition to the hurdles of time that women had to overcome in order to participate in the scientific public, there was another hurdle: historical displacement of the formation of the canon.

The collection is also characterized by the effort to include non-European philosophers, such as the ancient Chinese thinker Ban Zhao or – for the time being – the Nigerian philosopher Sophie Bosede Oluwole, who is enthusiastically praised by the Finnish-Nigerian journalist Minna Salami.

Ingeborg Gleichauf: “We want to understand. History of the philosophers”
With illustrations by Peter Schössow
dtv, Munich 2021
256 pages, 16.95 euros

The greatest overview of the history of female thought is probably obtained from Ingeborg Gleichauf, whose book “We want to understand. History of women philosophers” traces the entire history of European thought from antiquity to the present day and a wealth of women for every era . Attached are portraits of the philosopher in question by illustrator Peter Schössow and a box with an easy-to-consume work fragment.

Accessible and illustrated

This also makes the volume extremely accessible. He presents the history of women philosophers in its entirety: from ancient Pythagoreans to medieval mystics, Renaissance feminists, polymaths of the 17th century, enlighteners and forerunners of the modern women’s movement to the influential thinkers of the 20th century.

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