• Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023


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Rosemary Radford Ruether, Feminist Theologian, Dies at 85

She entered Scripps College, in Pomona, intending to study art. But after taking a class with Robert Palmer, a classics professor, she switched majors, graduating with a degree in classics in 1958. The year before, she had married a fellow student, Herman J. Ruether, who was studying political science.

Along with her daughter Mimi, she is survived by Mr. Ruether; another daughter, Rebecca; her son, David; and two grandchildren.

She remained in Pomona for graduate school, receiving a master’s degree in classics and Roman history from the Claremont Graduate School in 1960 and a doctorate in classics and patristics from the Claremont School of Theology in 1965.

By then she had given birth to her three children, and she had also lost her job at Immaculate Heart College; it was the last time she would teach at a Catholic institution. After a summer as a civil rights worker in Mississippi, she accepted a position teaching at Howard University, a historically Black institution.

While in Mississippi, she had first encountered the early stages of the Black Power movement. She engaged with it more fully at Howard.

“What you experienced in Mississippi was looking at the United States from the Southern Black side,” she told Conscience magazine. “You see the white dominance and the racism. That has always been very important to me in terms of social justice: that you put yourself on the other side and you see things from the context of the oppressed.”

Off campus, she participated in antiwar and civil rights protests, and more than once she ended up in jail. But her scholarship was of a sufficient caliber that she was invited to be a visiting professor at Harvard Divinity School in 1972, with the understanding that she was trying out for a possible faculty job.