Her•Story Secular Woman

Introducing the Her•Story Project

Her•Story Secular Woman

The mission of Secular Woman is to amplify the voice, presence and influence of non-religious women in all aspects of society. Ironically, one formidable obstacle to accomplishing this is a perception among some in the broader secular movement that women activists are some new and exotic species whose insistence on being heard and recognized as equals can be ignored or even brutally punished without any great loss to the secular movement itself. While this perception is plainly incorrect, the obstacle nevertheless persists.

It can take many shapes and forms. One particularly illustrative example is the pushback to instituting anti-harassment policies at secular conferences in order to address and mitigate the harassment and sexual assault many people have experienced in these venues, and that many others say drove them from the movement entirely. In one of the more hilarious and revealing instances, a prominent atheist dude proclaimed that such policies are fun-prohibiting rules promulgated by “dull,” “hypersensitive pencil-necked PC jockey” “killjoys”—despite the fact that conferences in virtually any other area of endeavor have instituted anti-harassment policies for the safety and enjoyment of all participants. Well, all participants except toxic and entitled creeps.

The Her•Story Project aims to counter the ahistorical narrative underlying this obstacle with an ongoing series of posts highlighting the contributions of secular women throughout history and into the present day. A second but no less important aim of The Her•Story Project is to inform and inspire younger generations of secular women activists. A chance encounter proved just how necessary this effort is.

Presentations at a CFI Women in Secularism conference by both Susan Jacoby and Jennifer Michael Hecht touched on contributions of women being routinely written out of historical narratives in favor of (no more or less worthy) men. A woman’s erasure turns out to be even more likely when she is a nonbeliever or otherwise unorthodox. (Similarly, atheist men also tend to be erased from historical narratives in favor of believers—this is religious privilege at work.) On a break after the talks, several attendees were perplexed—a few actually incensed—that they had never even heard of the extraordinary women discussed by Jacoby and Hecht. One way to remedy this is to read the book No Gods — No Masters: Women Without Superstition by Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), as well as FFRF’s daily e-newsletter Freethought of the Day, which regularly highlights secular women. Thus we are positively thrilled that FFRF has agreed to contribute profiles of secular women to The Her•Story Project. Said Annie Laurie Gaylor:

“We all owe a debt to the freethinking feminists who have dared speak truth to patriarchal religion, and who sparked and have nurtured the feminist movement. I’m delighted to see attention to the contributions and lives of secular women.“

Kim Rippere, President and Founder of Secular Woman added:

“The last place these women belong is the dustbin of history. Their contributions stand as a ringing testament to their wisdom and strength, all the more so for obstacles they so often faced solely on account of their gender. We celebrate their lives in the hope that each new generation of secular women activists need not keep fighting the same battles, over and over again, for the recognition and respect they deserve.“

We are committed to telling these stories, even as we forge our own. We will dispel the myth that secular women activists are a new phenomenon, and simultaneously expose the truth that women in the secular movement have been—and will continue to be—forces to be reckoned with. Our activism has always been a source of tremendous power, and like our many sisters who came before us, we fully intend to unleash it in the service of a more just, more secular world.

For everyone.



P.S. If you have read this far, consider this your invitation to contribute a profile of the secular woman of your choice. See here for publication guidelines and to submit a profile. For more information, contact Kim Rippere at [email protected].

Secular Woman Award Nominees Wanted

It’s that time of year again! Through the month of August Secular Woman will be collecting nominations for our annual Secular Woman Awards.

We have five categories: Secular Woman of the Year, Activist of the Year, Blog of the Year, Man of the Year, Member of the Year.

If you missed last year’s awards you should check out our 2013 winners, which include activists like Sikivu Hutchinson. Check out their accomplishments in the secular movement and then fill out this form* to nominate folks this year who are working hard embracing and living the mission and values of Secular Woman, and when you’re done encourage your friends to nominate too!

*We do ask that all nominees aside from the Man of the Year identify as women.

Secular Woman Celebrates Second Year

We can hardly believe it, but Secular Woman is celebrating its two year anniversary today! Over the past two years we’ve been lucky enough to establish a wonderful and supportive member base who continually remind us of what secular women can accomplish and why Secular Woman was founded in the first place – so that secular women could have a dedicated voice.

Over the past two years, we’ve been privileged to be able to take part in many actions that support secular women. This year we participated in Free Thought Blog’s online conference by running a track of panels on topics from sexual harassment and the law to religion and homeschooling. We’ve organized and taken part in numerous twitter chats to provide a space for and encourage women to talk about issues of importance to them. Among our favorite recent chats are Secular Mental Health (#SecularMH) – where we focused on dealing with mental health without religion, Women’s History Month (#HerStoryNow) – which focused on current women’s accomplishments, and our co-sponsorship of Stop Street Harassment – where we led a chat on harassment at conferences.

This year we also began supporting Rebecca Watson’s Patreon video project, where she makes hilarious videos on science, feminism, and skepticism. And we are a sponsor of the secular magazine The Celestial Teapot. Most recently, we are proud to support a new LA Women’s Atheist Group started by Amy Roth, whose purpose is to foster a safe/supportive space for atheist/agnostic women.

We are very proud of the projects developed over the last year, such as @AbortTheocracy – a project created to advocate for reproductive rights and fight against theocratic encroachment and the campaign aimed at ending stigma over abortion that @AbortTheocracy began running in the summer of last year, our ShameLESS campaign. Also, as part of @AbortTheocracy we’ve participated in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

We’ve voiced our support for women in other ways as well. In February, Secular Woman, under @AbortTheocracy, signed on to the National Women’s Law Center’s amicus brief in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. And last fall Secular Woman members spearheaded a petition to the Southern Poverty Law Center urging them to list Gender Identity Watch (a group that targets trans people for harassment) as a hate group.

We are excited to begin our third year working to amplify the voices of secular women and the issues important to them. Our focus this year is on advocating for the bodily autonomy of women and providing ways for women to better connect with one another.

Thank you to our members and supporters for another wonderful year!


The Secular Woman Board of Directors
Kim, Elsa, Becca, Brandon, Nicole, and Monette


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit: www.SecularWoman.org.

@AbortTheocracy is a project focused on the intersection of religious power over women’s bodily autonomy and sovereignty, dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government.

Unfamous (as opposed to infamous) Secular Woman

by Dan Allosso, find him on Facebook, Twitter, and on the web.

As I was preparing a list of the freethinking women I plan to profile over the next few months, it occurred to me that my subjects are mostly well-known women, who hold some special place in American History in addition to being freethinkers.  While it’s clearly important to remember these women, and even more important to understand (and tell the rest of the world) how their freedom from religion influenced their lives and helped motivate them to do the things for which they’re famous – still, there’s another whole group of people who led more-or-less normal, unremarkable lives, who were freethinkers.

For example, 1848 is remembered in Europe as the year of revolutions.  Throughout the continent and the British Isles, radicals and reformers fought the old ruling classes for rights, representation, wages, and bread.  Most of these revolts were crushed, which led to a wave of emigration.  Many of the revolutionaries came to America, at a time when the Midwest was just being opened to settlement.

Throughout the plains states, it’s common to find towns and small cities that trace their roots to European immigrants from this period – often specifically to radicals and freethinkers.  New Ulm, for example, was settled when Minnesota was still a territory by a land society that specifically excluded clergymen and lawyers from membership.  Sauk County, Wisconsin, similarly, was settled by German immigrants who were members of a Freie Gemeinde.  This “free congregation” published its Fundamental Principles in the Milwaukee Banner in August, 1851:

We call our society the United Free German Congregation.  Its purpose is to unite the foes of clericalism, official dishonesty, and hypocrisy, and to unite the friends of truth, uprightness, and honesty – all those holding the same views, but now found scattered among all religions, churches, and sects.  By such a union of our strength we intend to erect a firm bulwark against the pernicious system of church, sect, and clerical domination.  While making our first appeal to the Germans we do not wish to be understood as excluding other nationalities; rather we shall make it our business to enter into fraternal relations with others who are aiming at reforms similar to our own.

There were communities like these all over the United States, during a period when the growing nation was seen by many in the old world as a land of freedom and opportunity.  Many of these towns (such as New Ulm) were later taken over by religious immigrants who followed the first wave of settlers.  Others have simply forgotten their freethought heritage.  But if you look closely, there are still traces.

In Sauk County, for example, there’s an old Freigemeinde Cemetery.  It’s located in Honey Creek Township, Wisconsin, at Lat: 43° 19' 52"N, Lon: 89° 52' 48"W, for freethought tourists.  About a hundred freethinkers have been buried there, between the cemetery’s opening in 1861 and the 1990s, including:

Andersen, Oca Annalee, b. 1909, d. 1984, wife of Lester S. Andersen, Row 5

Bezold, Louise, d. Aug 19, 1902, 82y 11m 4d, wife of Andreas, Row 7

Buelow, Emma, d. Aug 24, 1895, 35y 10m 2d, wife of Albert, Row 6

Campbell, Bertha (Ochsner), b. Jul 26, 1900, d. Sep 7, 1942, Row 9

Emond, Marguerite, b. 1908, d. 1993, wife of Oscar O. Emond, Row 4

Ferber, Frieda, b. Jul 5, 1888, d. Aug 16, 1962, wife of Henry Ferber, Row 9

Grotophorst, Gertrude, b. Apr 20, 1820, d. Aug 30, 1885, wife of J. H. Grotophorst, Row 6

Hill, Louisa, b. Sep 22, 1861, d. Mar 30, 1888, daughter of A. & L., Row 7

Keller, Rosina (Stucki), b. Sep 15, 1819, Zurich, d. Aug 5, 1888, Honey Creek Twp, wife of Carl Keller, Row 5

Lemm, Lena F., b. 1880, d. 1959, mother, wife of Fred J. Lemm, Row 5

Nattermann, Christina (Markert), b. 1865, d. 1911, wife of John Markert, Row 6

Ochsner, Marion (Mitchell), b. Jan 2, 1857, d. Jan 4, 1932, wife of Albert J. Ochsner, Row 6

Schara, Cora H., b. Sep 19, 1891, d. Jul 15, 1970, Row 5

Wolf, Caroline, b. Nov 29, 1848, d. Aug 8, 1885, mother of 11 children, was struck by lightning, wife of Gottlieb Wolf, Row 5

Although most of these women lived what historians would call unremarkable lives, they lived and died as freethinkers.  The existence of secular women all over America, throughout our history, may come as a shock to those who insist the nation has always been firmly religious – especially outside of the big cities.  Secularists might also be surprised, and should probably be reminded, that the movement has been broad and deep throughout American history.

An Interview with a Secular Mother on Drunk Driving

Interview by Kim Rippere, President of Secular Woman

Angela Champaneria is secular mother who is battling her family and community regarding teenage drunk driving.  Her daughter was recently in a car accident. Angela’s decision to have her daughter take responsibility for her actions was not universally well received.  Adults were supportive, but not all the kids! Here is a recent interview:

How is your daughter? And the other teenagers? Is everyone ok?

My daughter is physically ok now. She had the worse of injuries. All the other kids are fine.

What do you have to say about teenage drinking? Teenage driving? Teenage drinking and driving?

I personally feel that drinking before the legal age is wrong, period. I feel parents need to take more precautions to prevent this. I feel teenagers should not be allowed to drive till age 18. I have always felt this way. Aside from alcohol, teenagers just don't make good choices.

Do you see any roll in this for peer-pressure or bullying?

I feel peer pressure exists, for the good and for the bad. There are good role models and there are bad. When we are around people we like and look up to, we tend to follow them, even if it's not right.

What has been the most surprising thing in the wake of the accident and the position you have taken?

The most surprising thing in general is the lack of lessons learned. My daughter for example has learned not to get in a car with someone who is drunk. She has not learned that drinking as a minor is wrong and dangerous, period!

What are three things you want teenagers and parents to know about teenage drinking?

Teenage drinking is a major problem that affects us all in the end. Just because your child says he or she is not drinking, does not mean they are not! take away opportunities by taking away communication at night (cell phone, electronics etc). As a parent you need to be firm because these kids will find a way to do it if you as a parent are not on top of it. Trust me, it was a lesson for me personally.

What three resources do you recommend regarding teenage drinking? Why do you recommend them?

I recommend getting involved with MADD. They have support and resources for everyone involved. It is by far one of the best organizations out there and I don't know where I would be without their support. Establishing your own network of friends and family to have gatherings with and to be involved with regularly would help in the sense that you can pull together as a village to help a teen who is going on the wrong path. Get involved with whatever spiritual outlet you have or non spiritual network, in assistance with the teens inner being.

How can a community “pull together and do something?” How are you leading this in your community?

By pulling together as a community, we as parents need to start in our own homes. If the parents take firm action in their homes, this will cut the issue in half, I guarantee! We also need to have stricter laws in Montana in order to wake these kids and some parents up. Start fining the parents if the teen is caught drinking underage. Allow law enforcement more mobility when it comes to catching minors. Make harsher consequences for minors so that they really think before doing it again. Laws need to be changed, this is a fact. I have started the ball rolling by speaking up and taking action. I am far from done. I plan on assisting in legal changes as well.

What are the next steps for you? Your family? Your community?

The next steps for me are getting involved with changing laws. I will continue to express the importance of parenting in every way possible. My family will be getting involved in support of fundraisers for victims of Auto related accidents. The community has been very supportive minus the kids involved/ indirectly involved.

What was the role of social media in supporting (or not) you and your decisions?

The media has been super supportive. Many people have contacted the Shelby Promoter and myself expressing their gratitude that the Promoter took action and did something. I have had been contacted by many sources wanting the story for their paper as well. People feel it's a Nationwide issue and that no ones ever stands up and addresses the issues. They feel this story will benefit everyone everywhere and give strength to parents who are feeling weak with no outlet or support.

How has this changed you?

1My being has changed in so many ways. I have become stronger and more active due to almost losing my baby. I have realized that this has happened to so many people and that they need assistance. I've learned that addressing the issue publicly has given so many people relief and comfort. We can now as a community move forward…together!

Angela’s Biography:

The Majority of people find their support and guidance from a Church. Given that I don't belong to any particular Religious group I have found it very hard to find a support group. I have morals and values and a sense of right from wrong without a book. I feel like our voices, as secular woman, are not heard unless there is a religion to thank for saving us. I have been an example to my children, family and friends that non religious woman are just as moral as any woman who follows rules from a book. So many people have mistaken me as being very religious due to my lifestyle and beliefs. I have found that they end up respecting and trusting me more due to that. I feel that secular woman also should be given credit for being good moral Mothers, wives, sisters and friends. We are good people, there is nothing to fear of us