The Year of Women at Yale: YDS contributions to the 50/150 initiative

By Moriah Lee ’20 M.A.R.

Over the next year, Yale Divinity School is honoring the women of YDS, past and present, as part of the 50WomenAtYale150 initiative to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women entering Yale College and the 150th year of women first enrolling as graduate students.

“The history of women at YDS is rich and worthy of remembrance,” says Carolyn Sharp ’94 M.A.R., ’00 Ph.D., Professor of Homiletics and coordinator of the Divinity School’s 50/150 celebration. “Many educational institutions and faith traditions were rife with unexamined androcentrism, sexism, and misogyny through much of the twentieth century, and YDS was no exception.

“Brilliant and gifted women have had to fight for access to theological classrooms, ministerial formation processes, doctoral programs, and leadership roles. That history of women’s suffering, resilience, creativity, and triumph should be told and retold—for the struggle is far from over.” 

Here is some of what YDS is doing this year to celebrate the anniversaries of women at Yale:

Endowed lectures

At Opening Convocation, YDS Dean Greg Sterling announced that in honor of the 50/150 initiative every endowed lecture at YDS this year will be delivered by a woman. Teresa Morgan of the University of Oxford opened the slate with her Bainton Lecture on September 16, titled “Travels in the Interior: The Evolution of Fides Qua.” (Watch her lecture on the YDS YouTube page.)


RELATED STORY: Teresa Morgan joining the YDS faculty in 2022


Still to come this year are:

  • Mona Siddiqui, Professor at the University of Edinburgh, who will give the Bartlett Lecture October 9
  • Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, YDS Professor of Homiletics Emerita, who will give the three-part Beecher Lectures October 16-18
  • Monica Duffy Toft, Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, who will give the Ensign Lecture October 16
  • Debra Samuelson, Senior Pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Minneapolis, who will be the Luccock Visitor April 21-23
  • Paula Fredricksen, Professor Emerita at Boston University, who will give the three-part Shaffer Lectures February 24-26 
  • Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, who will give the Parks-King Lecture February 4
  • Jane McAuliffe, Islam scholar and President Emerita of Bryn Mawr College, who will give the Sorensen Lecture (date to be announced)

Visit the lectureships page on the YDS website for more information of each of the above series.

Charlotte Lichtblau art exhibit

This fall, the Divinity School’s Sarah Smith Gallery is hosting an exhibition of the work of a pioneering women artist, the Vienna-born Charlotte Lichtblau. The exhibition, “Exile and Revelation: The Art of Charlotte Lichtblau,” features a selection of the artist’s religiously themed paintings and sketches.

Lichtblau’s art speaks to themes of cruelty, grief, hope, and joy in human existence, motifs that reflect the artist’s harrowing encounter with World War II and subsequent emigration to the United States in 1940.

The Lichtblau display at YDS is a milestone in its own right, as 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of an exhibition in honor of Lichtblau at Yale’s Pierson College in 1969—a time when women artists fought an uphill battle for recognition and respect. Lichtblau’s art will continue to line Sarah Smith Gallery walls until November this year. Learn more about the Lichtblau exhibit.

Yale Divinity Library exhibit

Under the direction of curators Christopher Anderson and Elizabeth Peters, the YDS Library has prepared an exhibit showcasing the influential women who have spearheaded events, activities, and organizations throughout YDS history. The exhibit opened on September 20 on the first floor of the library, directly adjacent to the periodicals. (See below for a photograph of a key piece in the exhibit.)

Reflections magazine

Reflections, the Divinity School’s magazine of theological and ethical inquiry, is participating in the 50/150 anniversary by devoting the Fall 2019 issue to the women of YDS. Every article in the magazine is written by or about women associated with the Divinity School. Titled “Resistance and Blessing: Women, Ministry, and YDS,” the issue highlights the story of YDS women and the unfolding history of women in theology and ministry. Read the new issue.

New appointments and hires

YDS welcomed 10 new faculty and staff members at the opening of the academic year, seven of whom are women. This seven include three new members of the faculty and four additions to senior the staff. For more information on the women who have joined YDS this year, read here.)

In his address at Opening Convocation, Dean Greg Sterling drew rousing applause when he noted that the new academic year marks the first time in the Divinity School’s history when the tenure-track faculty is more than 50 percent women.


RELATED CONTENT: Watch the video of Opening Convocation


Alumni/ae recognition

Celebrations of the 50/150 initiative have taken on special poignancy at the Divinity School thanks to the recent research of Ann-Catherine Wilkening ’19 M.A.R., who discovered women have been attending YDS classes as early as 1907 even though they were not allowed to enroll at YDS until 1932.


Read Wilkening’s article “Before co-education: The forgotten women of YDS”


While Wilkening’s research honors women from the past, the Divinity School’s alumni/ae awards in October will recognize four contemporary graduates for their work today and over the course of their careers. All four major award recipients at Convocation and Reunions next month are women. They are:

  • Kristin Foster ’77 M.Div.—Distinction in Congregational Ministry
  • Neichelle Guidry ’10 M.Div.—William Sloane Coffin ‘56 Award for Peace and Justice
  • Serene Jones ’85 M.Div. ’91 Ph.D.—Distinction in Theological Education
  • Kathy A. Turner ’69 M.Div.—Lux et Veritas

Read more about this year’s alumni awards recipients.

The author of this article, Moriah Lee ‘20 M.A.R. is interested in the intersection of biblical studies and current theological structures within American evangelical Christianity. She writes as a freelance journalist for Business Insider, with work also appearing in the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News.

September 20, 2019