Breaking Through the Stained Glass Ceiling

Women Religious Leaders in Their Own Words

Maureen E. Fiedler, editor

Jun/2010, 240 Pages, PAPERBACK, 6 x 9

ISBN-13: 9781596271203



This collection of lively Q&A interviews with key contemporary female religious leaders focuses not only on the discrimination faced by some of the most important women in religion, but documents the emerging leadership of women in several faith traditions.


Maureen Fiedler's public radio show, Interfaith Voices, is now heard in seventy markets throughout the country. Fiedler holds a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University and is a Sister of Loretto. Prior to her radio career, she was a recognized religious feminist in the Roman Catholic Church. She was also an interfaith activist for the Equal Rights Amendment (1978-82) and head of Catholics Act for ERA. In 1982, she was one of eight women who fasted for thirty-seven days for ratification of the ERA. She lives in Maryland.


“For Fiedler, a feminist Roman Catholic nun, interfaith work seems as important as personal faith. Here, she conducts long, impassioned interviews with women religious and spiritual leaders, scholars and activists, finding common threads in their efforts to ensure women’s full participation in their realms of worship and belief.”
MS Magazine

“This compelling collection of interfaith women’s voices signals the various ways women have and will continue to step into leadership roles in their religious communities. We should listen closely to these powerful voices of the future.”
—Emilie M. Townes, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology, Yale Divinity School
“In bringing together a stunning array of some of America’s most influential and inspiring religious women’s voices, Maureen Fiedler captures both the frustrations and inspiring progress on the path to full gender equality. Fiedler, one of America’s most respected public interpreters of religious issues through her public radio show “Interfaith Voices,” has woven through these voices a compelling argument for women’s equality and leadership—and a moral and spiritual eye-opener to all men who continue to dominate too many religious institutions.”
—Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center

“In writing this book, Fiedler has a bird’s eye view of the gender rights struggle in a wide variety of faiths. She sees not just the beauty but also the difficulties; the core commonalities and the delicate differences. Breaking Through the Stained Glass Ceiling is a testament to women’s resilience across faith communities as they struggle to serve both God and society.” —Asma T. Uddin, Editor-in-Chief, exploring both sides of the gender divide

“Surely one of the defining breakthroughs of the last century has been the ascendancy of women into places of leadership, not least in the various religious traditions around the world. Maureen Fiedler’s new book not only documents this advance, but gives voice to a number of such faithful and courageous women ‘in their own words.’ This is a fascinating and important book.”
—The Right Reverend Christopher Epting, Former Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, The Episcopal Church

“As a Christian reader, it is vital, in the literal meaning of the word, that Maureen Fiedler gives voice to the biblical proposition that women as well as men are created in the image of God. That is life transforming for both and thus our world. This book of religious women’s stories makes my heart sing; I believe it will do the same for you.”
—The Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, Pro tempore, Retired

Foreword by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Introduction *  Acknowledgments  *  A Word about Interfaith Voices

Chapter 1 – Women in Denominational or Organizational Religious Leadership
•    Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church
•    Rev. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, Preacher at Inaugural Service of President Obama
•    Bishop Vashti McKenzie, First Woman Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal Church
•    Rev. Susan Andrews: First Woman National Moderator of the Presbyterian Church/USA
•    Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America
•    Swami Krishna Priya Bognavati: First Woman Hindu Acharya (Teacher/Guide) in the U.S.
•    Ishani Chowdury, the “face of Hinduism” in Washington: Director of Public Policy for the Hindu American Foundation
•    The Mourchidates of Morocco: Fatima Zahra Salhi, Ilham Chafik, and Nezha Nassi
•    Starhawk: Leader of the Earth-Based Wiccan/Goddess Tradition 

Chapter 2 – Women Theologians and Scripture Scholars
•    Dr. Amy Jill Levine on The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus
•    Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker on Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of this World for Crucifixion and Empire 
•    Dr. Elaine Pagels on Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
•    Dr. Karen King on the Nag Hammadi Library and The Gospel of Judas
•    Dr. Julie Galambush on The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book

Chapter 3 – Women in Feminist Theology
•    Dr. Mary Hunt and Dr. Judith Plaskow on Christian & Jewish Feminist Theology
•    Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether on Goddesses & the Divine Feminine
•    Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether and Dr. Delores Williams on Feminist and Womanist Theologies
•    Dr. Amina Wadud on Inside the Gender Jihad
•    Dr. Elizabeth Johnson on She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse
•    Dr. Rena Pederson on The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth About Junia
•    Dr. Phyllis Trible on Hagar, Sarah and Their Children

Chapter 4 – Religious Feminist Activists
•    Rabbi Eveline Goodman-Thau, First Woman Orthodox Rabbi
•    Aisha Taylor, former Executive Director, Women’s Ordination Conference on the Archeological Evidence for Women’s Leadership
•    Rev. Andrea Johnson, Roman Catholic Woman Bishop
•    Rabbi Susan Talve, Central Reform Congregation, St. Louis, MO
•    Asra Nomani on Standing Alone at Mecca
•    Daisy Khan, Executive Director of ASMA, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and Muslim Women Organizing for Empowerment      

Chapter 5 – Women Leaders in Spirituality
•    Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB on Called to Question: Her Memoir
•    Barbara Brown Taylor on Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
•    Ann Lamott on Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
•    Immaculee Ilibagiza, on Left to Tell: Finding God in the Rwandan Genocide
•    Sharon Salzburg (with Robert Thurman) On Buddhism in America
•    Sallie Tisdale on Women of the Way: Buddhist Women though 2500 Years
•    LaDonna Harris on Native American Spirituality
•    Rev. Dr. Renita Weems on Womanist Spirituality
•    Jean Houston on Mystical Dogs: Animals as Guides to our Inner Life 
•    Dr. Jeanette Rodriquez on Our Lady of Gaudalupe in Mexican-American Spirituality

Chapter 6 – Women Leaders in Social Justice, Peace and Ecology
•    Layli Miller-Muro: Caring About Women’s Rights in the Baha’i Tradition
•    Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ on The Death of Innocents
•    Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Reclaiming the Catholic Social Justice Tradition
•    Julia Butterfly Hill: Out on a Limb, Saving the Redwoods
•    Kim Bobo: Defending the Rights of Working People
•    Lutheran Bishop Margaret Payne: Seeking Peace and Human Rights in the Middle East
•    Leymah Gbowee and Abigail Disney: Christian and Muslim Women in Liberia “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”

Chapter 7 – Women Leaders in Interfaith Relations
•    Diana Eck of the Pluralism Project
•    Mary Helene Rosenbaum on the Challenges of Interfaith Marriage
•    Dr. Susanna Heschel on the Interfaith friendship of her father and Dr. Martin Luther King
•    Ranya Idilby (Muslim), Suzanne Oliver (Christian), Priscilla Warner (Jewish) on The Faith Club - an Interfaith movement in their living rooms
•    Kathy Giese, a Christian, Olivia Berardi, a Jew and Nafees Ahmed, a Muslim Conducting Teenage Interfaith Dialogue

Chapter 8 – Women Leaders in Religious Media
•    Barbara Bradley Haggerty, NPR Religion Correspondent, On Fingerprints of God (on the Science of Spirituality)
•    Krista Tippett On Speaking of Faith


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