Philosophy and History
Mentor: Dr. Stephen Trzaskoma, UNH Department of Language, Literature and Culture
Women's Participation in Philosophy during the Hellenistic Period
In the 1980's, women's participation in philosophy became a topic of interest to historians. This process began with Mary Ellen Waithe's A History of Women Philosophers 600 BC-500 AD in 1987. Waithe showcased women's intellectual involvement in philosophy, and after her work, numerous articles and books appeared. These primarily focused on women's philosophical thought and their actual participation in philosophy in antiquity. Although these writings are available, work on women's participation in philosophy during the Hellenistic period has yet to be fully explored. In the Hellenistic period, males advocated traditional female roles, however, women were found in many, if not all, schools of thought. One must ask why then, were women able to participate in philosophy. In this paper I provide four explanations that answer this question. The conquests of the Macedonian Kings resulted in the spreading of Macedonian culture and Macedonian ideologies. Particularly, the spreading of Macedonian ideologies about women; the independence expressed by royal women of the Macedonian realms resulted in the allocation of rights and privileges to non-royal women. In addition, the ideologies expressed by philosophers about their “ideal states” or republics also played a part. Lastly, marriage acted as an opportunity and an obstacle for women's philosophical participation.