The womanist idea emerged from the visionary thinking of three notable women of African descent — Alice Walker, Chikwenye Okongo Ogunyemi, and Clenora Hudson-Weems — in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since then, it has grown into a global, anti-oppressionist standpoint rooted in the perspectives and practices of Black women and other women of color and embraced by people of all genders and ethnic backgrounds. Womanism offers a culturally-informed and spiritualized perspective on human life as well as social and ecological change. The unique perspectives that womanism brings are invaluable in helping us understand what a world of justice, peace, and wellbeing looks like, and how we achieve it.
Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director Layli Maparyan is one of the world’s foremost experts on womanism and has played a key role in building and defining the field. She mentors emerging womanist scholars and consults on a variety of projects using an “applied womanism” framework. She is also the author of two groundbreaking texts: The Womanist Reader (Routledge, 2006), which documents the first quarter-century of womanist scholarship from an interdisciplinary perspective and is the first volume to treat womanism “on its own,” and The Womanist Idea (Routledge, 2012), a comprehensive treatment of womanist worldview and spiritual activist methodology. Her third book, Womanism Rising (University of Illinois Press, forthcoming), is a collection of new essays and artwork by emerging womanist scholars and visual artists.
By looking at gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing through the lens of womanism, we deepen our understanding of the challenges we face and see new paths forward. We believe that a world that is good for women is good for everyone, and we must consider the perspectives of all women as we shape that better world.