We often assume that a highly ascetic, analytical and rational field like philosophy is meant for men, because women are considered to be more emotional beings. Our attitudes could be one of the reasons why the image old men, with flowing beards, flash on our vision when we think of philosophers. How surprising it is to realize that long before the Father of Philosophy- Plato, could make his mark on the field, a woman, En Hedu’Anna, was doing philosophy in 2285–2250 BCE in the area now designated as Syria/Iraq. Many women have overcome the obstacles like alienation, loneliness, implicit bias, stereotype threat, micro aggression, and outright discrimination to set milestones in the field of philosophy. It was a woman who established the distinction between philosophy and empirical science and it was also a woman who introduced professional philosophy in USA. Here is the list of 8 widely popular female philosophers of all time, who left an inedible mark on the field of philosophy.
Born as Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, Ayn Rand was a Russian born novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter who has two best sellers – The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged- under her belt. Educated in Russia, she later took the citizenship of USA. She is pioneer of the philosophical field called Objectivism which is about individualism of people.
Hypatia was referred to as ‘The Philosopher’ by Alexandrians. Apart from being a renowned philosopher, she was also a great astronomer and mathematician of her times. Unfortunately the Christians felt so threatened by her philosophy that they tore her death. Her killers included monks who were armed with oyster shells. It is mentioned that after her gruesome murder, when her body was torn to pieces, her mangled limbs were carried to place called Cinaron, and burnt.
Dame Mary Warnock is a great British educationalist, writer and philosopher who reflected on morality, mind and existentialism. No man has influenced on the philosophy of Britain like Mary Warnock has done. She fought for the cause of women’s right to become philosophers shunning the societal stereotyping. Her contribution as an educationalist of philosophy is unmatched.
Hildegard of Bingen was a German Writer, Mystic, Visionary, Composer and Philosopher (1098 – 1179). She was also known as Saint Hildegard and Sibyl of the Rhine, Hildegard is the renowned composer of Ordo Virtutum, which is considered to be the oldest surviving morality play and three volumes of visionary theology: Scivias. It is said she had divine visions since her childhood.
Born Jew, Edith Stein, later took on atheism and later Christianity after reading the works of the reformer of the Carmelite Order, St. Teresa of Avila. After receiving her doctorate of philosophy from University of Gottingen, she became a member of the faculty at the University of Freiburg to work under her mentor Edmund Husserl. Unfortunately, Edith Stein was gassed to death at Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland for her Jewish birth.
Harriet Taylor Mill was a British philosopher who is known to be one of the earliest advocates of women’s rights. A prolific writer, her book ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ published in 1792 challenged the inferiority of women to men. Many of her manuscripts remained unfinished due to her untimely death due to septicemia following childbirth.
Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe is the unsurpassed British philosopher of the 20th century whose philosophical treatise involved the definition of nature of mind and morality. Known for her rigor and quick wit, Anscombe acquired a reputation as a formidable debater who disputed C. S. Lewis’s argument that naturalism was self-refuting.
Though Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir’s lover stole some of the limelight, she made a mark in the field of philosophy by delving into issues of human freedom, radical explorations of feminism and existentialism. Her popular works include The Ethics of Ambiguity and The Second Sex; the latter being her arguments about feminist ideology.