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13 Feminist Philosophers You Need to Know
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Leah Thomas
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1. Jane Addams

Credit: National Women's History Museum

Addams was a social activist and feminist philosopher in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She is known as the “mother’ of social work and became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Addams was inspired by her visit to London’s Toynbee Hall, a settlement house for the city’s poor industrial workers, and eventually brought a similar location, Hull House, to Chicago’s poor west side. Addams helped found the National Child Labor Committee and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She protested the first World War and joined and led the Women’s Peace Party.

2. Martha Nussbaum

Nussbaum is a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago. She is a published author of books like The Fragility of Goodness, Sex and Social Justice and Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law. Nussbaum has been featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Atlantic and more. As a philosopher, she has created her own definition of feminism, which leans liberal but emphasizes that liberalism incorporates radicalized thinking of gender and the family. 

3. Cori Wong

Wong received her undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Colorado State University and went on to receive her Ph.D. in Philosophy and Women’s Studies from Penn State University. In 2010, Wong wanted to make philosophical ideas and discussion more accessible to the public, so she created her YouTube channel, Time for a Change. Wong discusses gender, race, sexual orientation, homophobia, sexual violence and more and how they relate to current events.

4. Rachel Anne Williams

Credit: TransPhilosopher.com

Williams is a female transgender philosopher who discusses feminism as it relates to trans women in the world. Her new book, Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics lays out the differences between feminism and trans feminism and outlines the misconceptions about the concept of being transgender and what it means for a woman’s identity. Her blog, Transphilosopher, acts as a great explainer for those unfamiliar with terms like transgender, transsexual, gender identity, gender expression and more.

5. Shulamith Firestone

Firestone was active in the development of radical feminism and second-wave feminism in the 1960s and 70s. Firestone founded three different feminist groups: New York Radical Women, Redstockings and New York Radical Feminists. Her book, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, has been labeled as a classic book regarding second-wave feminism and was published when she was just 25 years old. 

6. Uma Narayan 

Narayan is an Indian feminist philosopher who received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Rutgers University. Narayan discusses the differences between western feminism and Indian feminism, disputing that Indian feminism is influenced by Western feminism. Narayan’s book, Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions and Third World Feminism, outlines how to avoid replicating the past’s problematic views of Western and non-Western feminism. 

7. Betty Friedan

Credit: History.com

Friedan is best known for her book, The Feminine Mystique, which has been credited for igniting the spark of second-wave feminism. Friedan also founded the National Organization for Women which sought to bring gender equality to America. In 1970, Friedan organized a national strike for women’s equality. Friedan also founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, even though she later disagreed with abortion-centered political positions of far-left liberal feminists. 

8. Patricia Hill Collins

Collins was the 100th president of the American Sociological Association, as well as the first African American woman to hold the position. Her 1990 book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, discusses the oppression of minorities by race, class, gender and more. Collins discusses the concept of intersectionality and how black women are affected while using the works of black women, like Angela Davis, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde, to illustrate her argument.

9. Simone de Beauvoir

De Beauvoir was a French writer and philosopher who focused on ethics and feminism. Her work is said to have had an influence on feminist existentialism and theory. She wrote The Second Sex, which addresses the oppression women face in relation to men, and de Beauvoir maintains that a woman is defined as the Other by a man whose role is defined as the Self. The writer outlines the physiological differences between male and female as well as explains why those differences don’t yield a subordinate position for women. 

10. Audre Lorde

Credit: Poetry Foundation

Lorde was an American poet, activist,  and intersectional feminist who addressed civil injustices in her writing. She co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, was an associate of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press, and helped launch the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix, which helped women experiencing partner violence and/or sexual abuse of any kind. Lorde fought against white feminists for intersectional feminism and the advocacy for oppression that was specific to black women in America.

11. Eva Feder Kittay

Kittay is a writer, professor at SUNY Stony Brook and feminist philosopher. Kittay has focused on feminist philosophy, ethics, social theory, political theory and more. Her book, Love's Labor: Essays on Women, Equality and Dependency (Thinking Gender) has been called “a must-read for anyone interested in feminist moral and political philosophy." Kittay was named Woman of the Year in 2003 by the Society for Women in Philosophy. She also led the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division as president from 2016 to 2017. 

12. Mary Daly

Credit: Youtube

Daly was a controversial feminist in the late 1900s who called herself a “radical lesbian feminist.” Daly taught courses on feminist ethics, the patriarchy and theology at Boston College from 1967 to 1999. Daly was met with opposition when she refused to allow male students in her advanced women’s studies classes. She was ultimately forced into retirement by Boston College but continued her activism work, speaking on college campuses in America and publishing her book in 2006, Amazon Grace: Recalling the Courage to Sin Big.

13. Angela Davis

Another controversial figure, Davis is a philosopher, activist, professor, and scholar who focused on gender equality, prison reform and civil rights. Davis was a member of the U.S. Communist Party and was even jailed for charges in relation to a prison outbreak in 1970. She spent 18 months in jail but was acquitted in 1972. She was a member of the Black Panther Party during the Civil Rights movement. Davis’s books, Women, Race, & Class, and Women, Culture, & Politics focus on intersectional feminism.

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