The Third Wave of Feminism

The most recent development of feminism is often referred to as Third Wave feminism. Its beginnings can be traced to the early 1990s. The major features and proponents of Third Wave feminism can be gleaned from examining the two-volume reference work edited by Leslie Heywood, The Women’s Movement Today: An Encyclopedia of Third-Wave Feminism.25 Third Wave feminism is characterized by an even more radical pursuit of feminine self-realization completely removed from any guiding Christian principles.

We will delve into the details of these three waves of feminism on the pages ahead.


1. L. Scanzoni and N. Hardesty, All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation (Waco, TX: Word, 1974), 205.

2. W. Baird, History of New Testament Research, Volume Tw From Jonathan Edwards to Rudolf Bultmann (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2003), 331–32, 335–37.

3. See also C. Bolt, The Women’s Movements in the United States and Britain from the 1790s to the 1920s Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 19, who refers to Mary Astell, whose anonymous publications appeared primarily between 1694 and 1705, as “perhaps the best-known English feminist before Mary Wollstonecraft” a century later.

4. Bolt, in ibid., 26, also mentions that, in the 1820s, Catharine Beecher, daughter of the well-known Congregational preacher Lyman Beecher, opened a female seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. She notes that Beecher and others did not proclaim themselves feminists but maintains that these women “prepared the ground for the nineteenth-century women’s movement.” See also J. Cottrell, Feminism and the Bible: An Introduction to Feminism for Christians (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1992), chap. 1.

5. C. Gifford, “American Women and the Bible: The Nature of Woman as a Hermeneutical Issue,” in Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Scholarship, ed. A. Y. Collins (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1985), 14–20; D. W. Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (New York: Harper, 1976), 89–91; and Bolt, Women’s Movements, 61–78.

6. A. Brown, “Exegesis of I Corinthians XIV, 34, 35 and I Timothy II, 11, 12,” Oberlin Quarterly 4 (1849): 358–73; see Dayton, Discovering, 88–89.

7. As will be seen later in this book, the definition of equality is at the very heart of the controversy surrounding women’s roles. Is “equal” to be understood in terms of equality in worth or does it encompass what God has called women to do in the church and in society?

8. A. Y. Collins, ed., Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Scholarship (Biblical Scholarship in North America 10; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1985), 4.

9. See the summary in Cottrell, Feminism and the Bible, 26–37.

10. Gifford, “American Women,” 27–30.

11. E. C. Stanton, The Woman’s Bible (repr. New York: Arno, 1972 [1895]), 12.

12. Ibid.

13. See Bolt, Women’s Movement, chaps. 5 and 6.

14. See Cottrell, Feminism and the Bible, chap. 2.

15. See M. A. Kassian, The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1992), 18–22.

16. See Cottrell, Feminist and the Bible, 43–48, who lists Friedan and Steinem together with Kate Millett and Germaine Greer as the “architects of the movement” (i.e. second wave feminism); and Kassian, Feminist Mistake, 23–27. Kassian discerns three stages in the development of Second Wave feminism: (1) naming self (1960–1970); (2) naming the world (1970–1980); and (3) naming God (1980–1990).