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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 21.2 (2005) 103-106

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A Short History of JFSR

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and I leapt into founding JFSR the way many people leap into having children—without the faintest idea of what was involved! We first met and became friends at the Women Exploring Theology Conference at Grailville, Ohio, in the summer of 1972, and, as our friendship solidified over the next years, we often fantasized about creating a feminist journal in religion. The need for it was clear. Only an occasional feminist article made its way into mainline journals in religious studies. The few periodicals that dealt with women and religion were targeted to specific religious communities and published little scholarly work. And, like the field of women's studies more generally, the major feminist journals tended to be suspicious of work in religious studies, dismissing it as intrinsically patriarchal and reactionary.

We never got past the dreaming stage into actual planning, however, until, in 1982, we happened to be at an American Academy of Religion (AAR) reception with Conrad Charry, who was then the director of Scholars Press. I said to Elisabeth, "Why don't we talk to him about whether the press would be interested in a feminist journal?" Drinks in hand, we went over to him, had a chat—and the rest, as they say, is history. Charry was very receptive to the idea of an independent, pay-as-you-go journal. The press would take care of all the typesetting and printing and would maintain the subscription list and do the mailings. We would give the press a finished product twice a year. We thought, Well, if not now, when? and we began planning for a first issue. The first step was really that simple and spontaneous, although we did look into the cost of other independent printers after talking with Scholars Press.

We had a clear vision from the beginning of what we hoped the journal [End Page 103] would achieve, and I would say that attempting to realize the goals expressed in our mission statement has been the biggest challenge of the past twenty years. We wanted to provide a forum for discussion and dialogue among women and men of differing feminist perspectives in ways that would contribute to the transformation of both the academy and religious and cultural institutions. We intended to be a serious academic journal in which feminist scholars could proudly publish, and which would "count" for tenure and promotion. Yet we wanted the scholarship we published to come out of some kind of commitment to social and religious change. A male colleague of mine at Manhattan College—not a feminist but an intellectually open and curious person—subscribed to JFSR for its first several years because, as he said, the authors in it actually cared about issues they were discussing. That was our plan! We wanted to create a context in which some of the angry debates among feminists in religious studies could be aired and resolved. We wanted the work of women of color to be a central part of the journal from the beginning. We hoped that JFSR might have an appeal beyond the academy, that its articles and features might be of use to pastors, activists, and ordinary women interested in religion and feminism.

The challenge of trying to maintain a connection to the grass roots while being located in the academy has been the substantive and exciting piece of publishing a journal over the past two decades. The logistics of putting out each issue have been plain hard work, and this is where we were utterly naive. We spoke to Conrad Charry in December of 1982. The first issue of JFSR appeared in the spring of 1985—two and a half years later. In the interim we assembled a board of feminist scholars in religion, all of whom were committed to the journal's vision. We sought to put together a first issue that would be passionately feminist and academically excellent, that would reflect the religious...


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