A Terrific Resource For Including Women Philosophers in Your Syllabi

As part of their “Seeing Herself as a Philosopher” project, Cynthia Townley, Mitch Parsell and Albert Atkin have created a terrific database of works by women philosophers for use in undergraduate teaching.

Womens Works‘ creators report that they were inspired to create the site

by the realisation that women philosophers are much less visible in the undergraduate curriculum than they need to be, and in many cases, appropriate and interesting work by women is available. The site aims to make it easy to identify potential work by women to use for teaching.

Check it out!

(Thanks, S.)

12 thoughts on “A Terrific Resource For Including Women Philosophers in Your Syllabi

  1. This has been kicking around for a while now. (It was first posted to this blog in 2010: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/womens-philosophical-works/ ) While I appreciate the idea behind it, I have serious reservations, based mainly on the implementation. Following is a comment I posted elsewhere (http://whatweredoingaboutwhatitslike.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/putting-together-a-database-of-work-by-women/ ). I note now that the same four papers continue to make up the whole of the ‘epistemology’ section.

    “While I sympathize with the motivation, and generally applaud the idea, I think the database as it now stands may be of limited value. Maybe some areas are better represented than others — I’ve only examined a couple — but representation seems to be extremely thin. The ‘epistemology’ section, for instance, includes only four papers, one of which (Zagzebski’s) is an overview, and one of which (Gendler’s) is only tenuously related to epistemology. (Both of these authors have excellent unlisted work in epistemology that is both relevant and representative of their own research.) Unless it were more comprehensive — frankly, by orders of magnitude — I just don’t see this helping someone who is putting together a syllabus. It may even contribute to the impression that women have little to contribute, if someone came to this database expecting it to provide an accurate representation of the important work done by women. This is of course not correct — there’s lots of good mainstream epistemology done by women. (A few obvious names that come to mind are Jessica Brown, Carrie Jenkins, Jennifer Lackey, Miranda Fricker, Jennifer Nagel, and Sally Haslanger.) I see that one can suggest additions to the database, but the scope of the deficit is a bit daunting.

    I wonder whether it might be worth inquiring into integrating a procedure for searching for publications by women in an extant, more comprehensive database, like PhilPapers?”

  2. I check in on this resource every once in a while but I have never found it useful. In the areas I teach the articles are not good choices for undergraduate instruction, and I have hesitated to recommend this site to my colleagues because I expect it would only frustrate them. It’s a great idea but needs something more.

  3. It is actually quite frustrating, I agree. It’s a great idea, but my impression is that it’s understaffed. So sadly when people send in suggestions I don’t think there’s anyone there to deal with them and nothing happens. I also hesitate to recommend it, as it gives the impression there’s not much written by women.

  4. I share the same concerns as Jonathan and Jender. Indeed, notwithstanding the quality of the papers, many of them are not useful at all for undergraduate teaching. We need a list of classics in the field. I have sent a large list of papers and authors to the site administrators over a year ago, but they never incorporated my suggestions.

  5. Is there any reason this isn’t a wiki? Then anyone who had a suggestion could just add it themselves. If people already have lists of papers that they would want to have appear on the wiki, it wouldn’t be much trouble to set it up.

  6. I’ve now been given permission to explain a bit more regarding Women’s Works: The person running it has left the profession, and what’s up there is a pilot with nobody maintaining it. Others involved are working to get it taken down as they too worry about the impression it gives. They’d very much like people to stop discovering it.

  7. I’ve made an editable google spreadsheet that would allow for compiling such a list, with fields for author name, publication details, link to freely available online paper if available, area of research etc. Before posting the link to it (or before deciding to post it at all) I’m waiting now to hear about other efforts, as I think it’s important to have one well-coordinated list, rather than diverse, scattered initiatives. A wiki would be fine too, but I’ve no experience with implementing this.

  8. If anyone does create a new resource along these lines, one potentially helpful function might be to have an option where users can “like” a reading if they’ve had a successful teaching experience with it. my guess is that this would be useful information to many, especially if the lists get long.

    (I can think of disadvantages to this option too, e.g. it might underestimate the teaching potential of new / less-well-known papers, since already well-known papers would get more likes. but my sense is that the advantages would outweigh these.)

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