headshots of female philosophers

New website aims to transform the philosophy canon by highlighting women

"Madame du Châtelet at her desk," detail, Maurice Quentin de la Tour, mid-18th century

“Madame du Châtelet at her desk,” detail, Maurice Quentin de la Tour, mid-18th century

Project Vox is a new website that “seeks to recover the lost voices of women who have been ignored in standard narratives of the history of modern philosophy.” 

Led by a Duke philosophy professor with a team of staff and students, along with colleagues at Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, the site aims to intervene at a few different points in the “vicious cycle” that keeps early women philosophers’ work marginalized within the canon.

From Lady Masham, Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway in England to Émilie Du Châtelet in France, many women played significant roles in the development of modern philosophy, but their contributions have often gone unnoticed. The website has three primary goals. First, it seeks to provide students at all levels with the materials they need to begin exploring the rich philosophical ideas of Cavendish, Conway, Du Châtelet and Masham. Second, it aims to provide teachers with the material they need to incorporate these four figures into their courses. Third and finally, it aims to help transform our current conception of the canon.

This is an impressive and much-needed project that seems like it could make some real progress in transforming the dude-dominated discipline. It also has the happy side effect of making loads of information—biographies, out-of-print texts, sample syllabi—easily accessible to those of us who aren’t in academia. So if you want to get your self-taught Ph.D. in early modern women’s philosophy, get on it.

Header image: Jonathan Lee

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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