Ursula Niebuhr

Ursula Niebuhr September 7, 2019

I wonder how many scholars, including everyone from feminists to old-fashioned male chauvinist defenders of patriarchy, aren’t even aware of the scarcely-acknowledged contributions women in general and wives in particular have made to some of the best-known works in their fields.

A recent blog post by Carol Christ offers one example. She writes:

I found Rebekah Miles’ article “Was Ursula Niebuhr Reinhold’s Coauthor?” Miles suggests that after Reinhold’s stroke in 1952, it is probable that Ursula played a large role in the production of his later works. Ursula’s daughter agrees–with the caveat that her  mother played a major role in all of her father’s books. Ursula’s contribution was acknowledged by Reinhold in his 1965 book, Man’s Nature and His Communities…

Definitely read the rest of the blog post, as well as the article it mentions.

As I continue working (even now as the academic year begins!) on my book on what Jesus learned from women, I couldn’t help but notice the resonance between the that project and this blog post. Women who wanted to be rabbis in the past married one. Women who wanted to become authors pretended to be men or became the muse of a man.

Where might we detect that unacknowledged contribution in the Gospels? Do we ever find New Testament authors, and/or Jesus himself, recognizing this patriarchal social reality, and do they ever address it?


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  • John MacDonald

    An analogous thing I wonder is how many of the great insights we attribute to professors actually can be traced back to something one or some of their students said in class?

    • That’s a great question! When I get insights from students, I always seek to give them credit, but I’m sure that this is not always the case for everyone, historically or even today.

      • John MacDonald

        I’ve been listening to the late Prof. Hubert Dreyfus’s 2007 lecture course on Heidegger’s Being and Time (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in Heidegger’s magnum opus. See https://archive.org/details/Philosophy_185_Fall_2007_UC_Berkeley/Philosophy_185_Fall_2007_UC_Berkeley_Lecture_01_Phil_185-Lecture_1_20422.mp3 ), and it is wonderful to see the symbiotic relationship between teacher and students when student arguments and questions provide a catalyst for Dreyfus to clarify and hone his understanding on the fly (although actually hearing the students is tough because they don’t have a microphone, but you can infer their general points from the content of Dreyfus’s responses).