This Week in History


Women of Faith conference convened

January 11, 1984

Religious women of many backgrounds gathered on January 11, 1984 for a Women of Faith conference at Marymount College (now Marymount University) in Virginia. The three-day conference was sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and brought together 100 Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish women. Those in attendance shared personal stories of bias and exclusion within their churches and synagogues and searched for new ways to empower women within communities of faith, linking the struggles of women for parity in religious settings to the broader feminist struggle for economic and political justice.

The conference reflected two important and growing trends. On the one hand, many of the women found that their faith influenced their thinking as feminists and their commitment to broad social change. At the same time, they brought their critical feminist thought to both their understanding and practice of religion. As women began to look at religion through feminist lenses, they insisted—not always successfully—that communities of faith adopt a less hierarchical, more egalitarian approach, and were adamant that the views and needs of women be taken seriously. According to conference organizer Inge Gabel, many women in fact became more involved in religion because of their feminist social activism. She explained, "It isn't just that women are dealing with emotions, but we have something just as important to say intellectually, theologically, politically, and morally."

Sources: New York Times, January 14, 1984;

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Women of Faith conference convened." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <>.