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Rosemary Radford Ruether (born 1936) is an American feminist scholar and Catholic theologian.
Ruether is an advocate of women's ordination, a movement among Catholic religious persons who affirm women's capacity to serve as priests, despite official sanction. Since 1985 Ruether has served as a board member for the pro-choice group Catholics for Choice.
Ruether was born on November 2, 1936, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to a Roman Catholic mother and Episcopal father. She has reportedly described her upbringing as free-thinking and humanistic as opposed to oppressive. Ruether's father died when she was 12 and afterwards Ruether and her mother moved to California. Ruether attended several Catholic schools staffed by the Sisters of Providence from St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, who, in conjunction with her mother's friend group, offered Ruether a strong feminist and activist foundation that informed her later work. She pursued a college education at Scripps College from 1954 to 1958. She entered with an intention to study art, but one professor, Robert Palmer, influenced her decision to switch to classics. Palmer's passion for classical Greek and Roman culture introduced Ruether to the philosophies and histories of the era. She received an MA in classics and Roman history, and later a doctorate in classics and patristics at Claremont School of Theology.
Ruether participated in civil rights activism during the 1960s in Mississippi and Washington, DC. She worked for the Delta Ministry in Mississippi where she was exposed to the struggles of African American communities and the realities of racism. She became immersed in black liberation theology literature during her time of teaching at the Howard University, School of Religion. She dedicated her time to the peace movement in Washington, DC, and she often went to jail with other radical Catholics and Protestants because of marches and demonstrations.
Despite her radicalism, Ruether remained in the Catholic Church alongside other religious activists. Her first book, The Church Against Itself (1967), criticizes the doctrine of the church and the church's views of sexuality and reproduction.
She is married to the political scientist Herman Ruether. They studied their different interests alongside each other after their marriage during Ruether's last year of college. They have three children and live in California.
In 1977, Ruether became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP). WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organization. The organization works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of women-based media.
Also see biographical information in Emily Leah Silverman, Whitney Bauman, and Dirk Von der Horst, ed., Voices of Feminist Liberation: Celebratory Writings in Honor of Rosemary Radford Ruether (London: Equinox Press, 2012).