Secular Women Leaders

When I started becoming aware of secular, atheist, humanist groups here in BC around 2010, I noticed that people would often quote the 4 Horsemen like they were some sort of gods. This group of men consisting of  Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris were seen as the leaders of the new outspoken atheists who were combating the religious order for the first time in history.

They had all written books from their own perspective and knowledge on life,  their images and quotes were all over social media, they were often  the ‘big’ name speakers at conferences, and held up as the premium voices of the new atheists.

But I had my doubts, yes there were diverse women’s voices, but they didn’t seem to have the same impact as the 4 Horsemen, at least at the time. Why was our religious, patriarchal society also reflected in the ‘new’ atheist movement?

So for Women’s Day on March 8th, I have compiled a few articles below that highlight a diverse section of women’s voices and stories, there is a lot more hidden voices if you search. Seek out voices that are different from your own perspective. 

Zora Neale Hurston was a New Atheist before New Atheism was a thing, despite the fact that she was born the daughter of a Southern Black Baptist preacher. Read Here

Rana Ahmad knows all too well those constraints as she fled her home country after declaring herself an atheist and after having endured the hardships of a woman under the strict control of her family and government. Read Here

Taslima Nasrin, an award-winning writer, physician, secular humanist, and human rights activist, is known for her powerful writings on the oppression of women and her unflinching criticism of religion, despite forced exile and multiple fatwas calling for her death. In India, Bangladesh, and abroad, Nasrin’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and memoir have topped best-seller’s lists. Read her article on Why Secularism is Necessary.

Sikivu Hutchinson is an American feminist, novelist, playwright and director. She is the author of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Heretic (2021), Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically Black, Feminist, and Heretical (2020), White Nights, Black Paradise (2015), Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars (2011), and Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (2003). Moral Combat is the first book on atheism to be published by an African-American woman. In 2013 she was named Secular Woman of the year and in 2020 she was a recipient of the Harvard Humanist of the Year award.

Sara Aguilar Youngbar is a Latina nerd, wife, & mamá of two who teaches Latinx history classes online to those who may not receive Latinx exposure in their school curriculum. Read her article:

Growing into a Latina Atheist with Little Representation

Madalyn Murray O’Hair (née Mays; April 13, 1919 – September 29, 1995)[1] was an American activist supporting atheism and separation of church and state. In 1963 she founded American Atheists and served as its president until 1986, after which her son Jon Garth Murray succeeded her. She created the first issues of American Atheist Magazine and identified as a “militant feminist”. Read Here

Frida Kahlo sometimes wove blasphemous themes into her surreal paintings and depicted herself as a secular, medical martyr. Unhappy with U.S. values during an extended stay there in the 1930s, she painted a montage of images that included a dollar sign wrapped across the cross on a church. Read More

Since 1987 the US government has recognized March as Women’s History Month, a time to pay tribute to the achievements of women around the world. Unsurprisingly, many women who are notable for their accomplishments as activists, writers, actors, scientists, and a host of other professions are also critical of religion and have identified as atheists and humanists. Here are 5 famous women who were or are good without a god. Read Here

Nonreligious women are too-often dismissed, stereotyped, and marginalized, both within nonreligious communities and more broadly in our society. This joint report from American Atheists and Secular Woman reveals new data about this population and provides recommendations for secular organizations that seek to better engage and support nonreligious women. Download Report

By Nina