Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship: Phyllis Trible

Our last post (for now) highlighting our virtual exhibit of the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship focuses on the great feminist theologian, Phyllis Trible.

From the exhibit:

Phyllis Trible (1932- ). Originally from Virginia, Phyllis Trible earned a B.A. degree at Meredith College and then the Ph.D. from Union Seminary/Columbia University (1963) with an emphasis in Old Testament. By the time she earned her Ph.D., there were regularly 300+ women enrolled at Union Seminary—but women were still not correspondingly visible in the faculty. Trible taught at Wake Forest University and Andover-Newton Theological School before being appointed Professor of Old Testament at Union, and later the Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature (1980). She became the first woman to hold that post. Trible has become a leading authority on what is now known as feminist interpretation of biblical texts, as well as literary and rhetorical methods of biblical criticism. She is an internationally known lecturer, and also has served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature (1994). Professor Trible left Union in 1998 to pursue a deanship at the new Wake Forest School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, NC. Her papers constitute the inaugural collection of the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship.

For more, please visit the exhibit.

Sophia Lyon Fahs (1876-1977), Trailblazer for Enlightened Childhood Religous Education

Our blog series highlighting the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship virtual exhibit has come to Sophia Lyon Fahs.
Born to Presbyterian missionaries in China, Sophia Lyon’s family returned to America when she was a young girl. She graduated with a B.A. from Wooster College (1897), took the M.A. at Teachers College, Columbia University (1904), and graduated with a B.D. from Union (1926). With Mary Ely Lyman, she became one of the first women faculty members at Union in 1927 as Instructor in Religious Education. She was also principal of the Union School of Religion in the building that is now part of Teachers College for the last three years of its operation, and a Sunday school teacher at Riverside Church. Sophia Lyon Fahs was frequently the subject of controversy due to her approach to teaching children about the Bible. She left Union in 1944 to become editor of Parents Magazine and of children’s material for the American Unitarian Association, and editor of the Association’s Beacon Series of educational books.  She became the first woman professor to be ordained to the Unitarian-Universalist ministry (as such) in 1959 at the age of 82 (the first female Universalist minister, Olympia Brown, was ordained in 1863, long before the formation of the UUA).  Rev. Fahs continued to write, edit, and teach for the rest of her life. She died at the age of 101 in 1977.
For more, please visit the exhibit.

Mary Ely Lyman (1887-1975), first of two female Union faculty members.

This post on May Ely Lyman continues our highlighting of The Burke Library’s virtual exhibit of materials from the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship (AWTS). We maintain these archives “to collect, process and preserve the papers of at least twenty prominent women in theological scholarship and religious studies who have gained prominence since the 1960s, when women began to enter theological education in significant numbers. The mission of the AWTS, though, is implicit in such collection: that we do not lose the memory of women who have made a difference, and that we do our best to preserve the precious legacy of Christian feminist and womanist discourse and practice.”

From the AWTS Virtual Exhibit on Mary Ely Lyman:

Mary Ely Lyman (1887-1975) graduated with a B.D. from Union Seminary in 1919, and was also was the first woman to receive the Traveling Fellowship for the highest academic honors in the graduating class that year. This award sent her to Cambridge, England, for one year. The work she did there was applied toward the Ph.D. in New Testament, which she received from the University of Chicago in 1924. She had two separate appointments at Union. She became the first of 2 women (with Sophia Lyon Fahs) to teach on the faculty and be counted among their number (1927). She ‘retired’ from that position in the 1940s when her husband and professor of the philosophy of religion, Eugene Lyman, retired. She then became dean of Sweet Briar College for Women in Virginia, until her appointment to Union in 1950 as Jesup Professor of English Bible. Dr. Lyman was the first woman to hold a full professorship and an endowed chair. She also held the inaugural deanship for women students until her resignation from both positions in 1955. She remained in close contact with Union until her death in 1975.

Lyman was the author of several books, including Paul the Conquerer and The Fourth Gospel, and numerous articles. Her published dissertation, “Knowledge of God in Johannine Thought,” is in The Burke Library, as well as Jesus, a commissioned book from the Hazen Foundation. “The True and Lively Word of God,” her inaugural lecture as Jesup Professor of English Bible, was published in the Union Seminary Quarterly Review. Lyman was a meticulous exegete whose focus was interpretation of biblical texts in their contexts and the relevance of biblical texts for contemporary lives and communities. An ordained Congregational minister (1949), she also wrote many articles in support of the Social Gospel movement and women’s inclusion in church leadership.

For more, please visit the exhibit.

Emilie Grace Briggs (1867-1944), First Woman Graduate of Union – Her Unpublished Masterpiece and Snubbed Doctorate

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting Burke’s virtual exhibit of materials from our Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship. We begin with the first female graduate of Union Theological Seminary, Emilie Grace Briggs, B.D.(1867-1944).  Despite being at the top of her class, she was forbidden from appearing in the graduation photograph and, like the first few trailblazing woman to follow, is eerily absent from official records.

Briggs was a brilliant scholar. Nonetheless, her doctoral dissertation, “The Deaconess in the Ancient and Mediaeval Church: A Study in the History of Christian Institutions,” was rebuffed by publishers making demonstrably manufactured excuses. This resulted in her never receiving the higher degree (which at the time was contingent on the publication of one’s thesis).  She often played the role of amanuensis and editor for her father, the famous Union “heretic,” Charles Augustus Briggs (1841-1913) , who officially recognized her hand in the two volume, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms.

Please visit the exhibit.  May it be a step towards Emilie Briggs receiving more of the recognition she deserves.

From Printing to Pacifism: Christianity in Post-Meiji Restoration Japan 明治維新

by Anthony Elia, Public Services Librarian, Burke Library

[Please visit The Burke Library to see our curated exhibit on Toyohiko Kagawa]

Toyohiko Kagawa (賀川豊,)

July 10, 1888 – April 23, 1960

Christian activist, reformer, missionary, and leader in Japanese Christian pacifism, Kagawa’s legacy has begun to be recognized more broadly in the United States. Books from Kagawa were recently acquired by the Burke Library, from a friend of Kagawa and we share some of these items here.

We recognize this remarkable individual today for all that he has done to better society and the world as a whole.



Japanese Printing Block (Wood)

Gospel of John, Chapter 6

ca. 1870-1900

This wood block represents a method of printing in Japan during the later 19th century. Though an established printing method, this block contains a portion of the Gospel of John, which would have been available only after the Meiji Restoration (明治維), from around 1868. The block demonstrates the three major orthographic representations in the Japanese language–Kanji, Hiragana (ひらがな, 平仮名), & Katakana (カタカナ, 片仮名). The last of these, Katakana often represents loan words. In this block, if you look closely, you will see these represented by a single or double line next to them, usually next to biblical proper names. Additionally, many of the proper names found here are represented in the Spanish or Portuguese forms, most likely the remnants of the Portuguese Jesuit presence in Japan during the Muromachi-Ashikaga Era, which lasted through the 16th century. The Japanese transliteration in Katakana, for example, would give us something like“Pa-bu-lo”like “Pablo,” rather than “Paul.”