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When God Was a Woman Hardcover – June 1, 1990
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About the Author
Merlin Stone became interested in archaeology and ancient religions from her study of ancient art. She taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo. From 1958 to 1967 she worked as a sculptor, exhibiting widely and executing numerous commissions. She spent a decade on research before writing the book published in the UK as The Paradise Papers and then in the U.S. as When God Was a Woman (1976). It describes her theory of how the Hebrews suppressed allegedly goddess-based religions practiced in Canaan and how their reaction to what she asserts as being the existing matriarchial and matrilineal societal structures shaped Judaism and, thus, Christianity. Her other major work, Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood (ISBN# 0-8070-6751-2) collects stories, myths, and prayers involving goddess-figures from a wide variety of world religions, ancient and otherwise. Stone's hypotheses are radical and challenging to the accepted views of antiquity, and as such they remain controversial. She is the author of numerous short stories, book reviews, and essays, including "3,000 Years of Racism." Stone's book When God Was a Woman had a profound effect on the emerging Goddess Culture of the 1970s and 80s in the US. It spoke clearly and simply to women raised in traditional Judeo-Christian traditions, and made the concept of a female deity accessible
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I love religious history, because it restores my faith. In reality, that is.
I read this when it first came out in the 70s. I was already a feminist, & still am, but this was a bit of an exploration in another direction from 'equal pay' or 'take back the night' and other pressing contemporary women's concerns.
It was also one of the books that spurred my intense interest in cultural anthropology, women's history, and their place in religion (which was already of great interest).
You may not like her scholarship--it was, after all something like 40 years ago! We don't fault former scholars and paleontologists (pretty much all male, mind) ad hominum for their multitude of oops! moments and misinterpretations, so to do so for Stone seems almost to single her out for. . .gasp! thinking like a girl! Imagine.
And you may not like her premise nor her conclusion about the sort of society mom-goddesses produced. But there is no getting around the fact that women in ancient society were vastly under-studied, unknown, and ignored. This might have been the book that changed that.
If nothing else, it fostered an interest in and greater respect for ancient women, and called into question the findings and conclusions drawn by generations and generations of male archaeologists. Not to demonize those guys, but they were products a male-dominated academic system, in which everything from science to literature was dominated by men. A centuries-long +++ bias, of course. And pervasive bias should always be challenged by a bit of out-of-the-box musing.
Amusingly, some of Stone's seemingly unusual ideas have borne out in modern studies of what impact women-run organizations have on the tenor of business, and on why the Wild West was wild. . . and what calmed it down. DNA studies and sophisticated technology are fleshing out the picture. But Stone was one of the first to acknowledge it existed.
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Merlin Stone (September 27, 1931 – February 23, 2011) was an American...Read more