Celebrating 50 Years of Women at Harvard Divinity School

Ann Braude-News
Ann Braude delivers the 2005 Convocation address. Photo: Steve Gilbert

The admission of women to Harvard Divinity School in 1955 set the stage for the transformation of the study of religion, of training for ministry, and of the School itself. Today, women constitute a majority of living graduates, as well as a majority of current students. Their presence at the School over the last 50 years required a rethinking of religious language, history, concepts, and categories. Women have always participated in the HDS community as sources of financial support, staff support, and personal and communal support in their roles as student and faculty wives. It is impossible to imagine the HDS of the twenty-first century without the challenges and creativity that women brought as students and, later, as faculty.

The year-long women's jubilee has afforded the opportunity both to look back at the historic pioneer efforts of HDS women and their supporters and to look forward to consider the significance of their presence over the last 50 years for the future of the School. The year-long celebration of women at HDS included delivery of all the School's prestigious named lectureships by distinguished women scholars, including alumnae of the School, as well as special events focused on the ongoing significance of women's participation and of attention to gender as an analytic category across the School's programs. The jubilee also provided an opportunity to highlight ongoing annual programs focused on women and gender.

The year was inaugurated with Professor Ann Braude's Convocation Address, which outlined the history of women at HDS. Distinguished alumnae returned throughout the year to deliver the Tillich, Ingersoll, Dudley, and James Lectures and to participate in discussions considering the contributions of women in ministry and the study of religion.

The Women's Studies in Religion Program (WSRP) celebrated its 25th anniversary with the conference "Border Crossings," which featured the work of past scholars of the WSRP, and hosted discussions on the categories of gender and nation within the context of globalization.

Also, the newly formed Committee for the Study of Women and Gender in Religion hosted events to encourage an open forum for students and faculty to discuss the use of gender as an analytic tool in the study of religion and to suggest new paths for the discipline. The year ended with an Alumni Day that celebrated pioneering women graduates who have broken new ground in issues of politics, race, social justice, and global welfare.

The year's events listed below are available online; click the appropriate title to view or listen.