Kate Lindeman has created a really wonderful website on women philosophers. Just a few seconds of reading got me all these great facts, previously unknown to me:
A few thousand years before Pythagoras (the Father of Philosophy), a woman known as En Hedu’Anna was doing philosophy. She lived in the Middle East, in the area now designated as Syria and/or Iraq. A woman who became Empress of the Roman Empire restored philosophy to Rome after all the active philosophers had been killed or exiled by Nero. A woman philosopher is one of Japan’s great epic authors. The work of a female British philosopher established the distinction between philosophy and the empirical sciences that is generally accepted in Western universities.
The site is a part of a large-scale project that Lindeman hopes to expand to include more and more women philosophers. This is really important stuff, even if you’re not a historian. Sally Haslanger has argued, drawing on the work of Virginia Valian, that women in philosophy may be hampered by the fact that many of us have unconscious schemas for woman and philosopher that are incompatible. One thing that can help to undermine this is awareness of all the philosophers who have been women. So sites like this can potentially make a real difference. (By the way, there’s some more discussion of Haslanger’s excellent paper starting here and here. Head on over and join in!) Lindeman is looking for people to help in the Women Philosophers project. If you have something to offer, go here.
Update: yet more discussion of Haslanger’s paper here.