Linda McAlister, Founder of Feminist Philosophy Journal Hypatia, Dies at 82Historians in the News
tags: feminism, philosophy, womens history
Linda Lopez McAlister, a philosophy and women’s studies professor and a founder of Hypatia, a feminist journal that was the first major publication of its kind, died on Nov. 9 at her home in Albuquerque. She was 82.
The cause was heart failure, said Sharon Bode, her wife and sole survivor.
Philosophy, like most disciplines in academia and beyond, was very much a man’s world when Dr. McAlister began her studies in the late 1950s. (It had been so since antiquity; Aristotle famously had some rather peculiar ideas about female anatomy, averring that women had fewer teeth than men and a lower body heat, conditions that he believed disqualified them from serious endeavors like philosophy.)
Dr. McAlister recalled in an essay for Hypatia in 1989 that when she entered the doctoral program in philosophy at Cornell in 1964, the administration broke its rule of admitting just one woman each year and “took a chance,” as she was told, by admitting four.
After earning her Ph.D., she was hired as a professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College and quickly became invigorated by the women’s movement. With her peers around the country she began challenging sexism in their field. They wanted to publish work from a feminist perspective, but there was no place to do it.
So in 1972 they formed the Society for Women in Philosophy and began to strategize on how to fund and produce a journal. It took more than a decade before Hypatia debuted, first appearing as an insert in the Women’s Studies International Forum, an academic journal. Its first editor was Azizah Al-Hibri, now professor emerita of law at the University of Richmond.
By the late 1980s, Hypatia had a dedicated publisher, Indiana University Press, and was presenting scholarly writing on topics like Foucault and feminism, French feminist philosophy, motherhood and sexuality, and reproductive technologies.
It was the first journal of philosophy to address feminist issues, said Mary Ellen Waithe, professor emerita of philosophy at Cleveland State University and the editor of the four-volume anthology “A History of Women Philosophers.”
“Mainstream philosophy in the 1970s did not consider feminism a valid topic,” she said in an interview. “It was looked down on as girl stuff, with all the diminished capacity aspects you can imagine.”
Dr. McAlister was adamant that the journal be called Hypatia, for the fourth-century Alexandrian mathematician, astronomer and Neoplatonist philosopher who was skinned alive and burned by Christian zealots outraged by her pagan beliefs.
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