Women Without superstition

" No gods –No Masters!"

The collected writing of Women Freethinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation

Dust Jacket Precis

Quotations from the Preface

Back cover quotations

List of featured women freethinkers


Religious Views of Women - Quotations


Reviews of Malleus Maleficarum the 'textbook of misogyny'



Dust Jacket Precis

The untold story of the feminist movement is that it was sparked and nurtured by women without superstition, by the religious nonconformists and liberals, the unorthodox, the heretics, by the freethinking sceptics, rationalists, agnostic and atheists.

Women of today owe an enormous debt to the freethinking founders and foremothers of the women’s movement who dared question and confront the religious status quo which demand women’s silence, subjection, servitude and unquestioning obedience. It is thanks to the freethinking women who challenged religious sway over civil laws and practices that women have the rights they possess today.

Women Without superstition is the first compilation of the writings of women freethinkers and sceptics. Most of these writings are out of print or generally unavailable. It is likewise the first anthology to focus on the freethinking writings of historic feminist leaders.

This is the first book that highlights the freethinking views of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It contains an exclusive "freethought reader sampling her iconoclastic views on the harm of religion. Women Without Superstition also reprints Stanton’s Major addresses on religion, which have been out of print for a century or more and have never been published in book form.

In addition to documenting the criticism of religion by many feminists figures, Women Without Superstition compiles the provocative, original, timely and eloquent views of other freethinking women, past and present, including social reformers, authors, leadersin the freethought movement, as well as current feminists.

Also includes: a brief biographical section on other historic women freethinkers and an appendix including some historic documents on the struggle of Women versus Church.

Quotations from the Preface by Annie Laurie Gaylor

"The title women Without Superstition comes from the accolade given by the 19th century’s most famous freethinker to his wife. Robert Green Ingersoll dedicated his first book to Eva, "a woman without superstition." Can there be greater praise?"

"‘No Gods – No Masters’ was the motto Margaret Sanger chose for her 1914 publication, The Woman Rebel. Ever since encountering it I havae felt is expressed in a nutshell the feminist viewpoint toward patriarchal religion. ‘No Gods- No Masters’ gallantly rejects the master/slave hierarchy of male power over women and supernatural power over all humankind that is ordained in the Jebrew and Christian testaments."

"The pansy was chosen for the dust jacket of ‘Women Without Superstition’

because pansies at one time became a symbol of freethought ‘a custom that ought to be revived’. The word comes from the French ‘pensee’, meaning ‘thought’ or ‘fancy,’ from the verb penser, ‘to think’ The purple, yellow and white colours on the dust jacket represent feminism since these three colours were adopted by the American suffrage movement. Though in Britain Green, White and Violet (Purple) were used and among various reasons put forward was code for Give Women the Vote."

"The "heretical" thoughts and often eloquent writing of women without superstition should not be forgotten in the musty corridors of a new libraries. One should not have to spend hours of often discouraging labor at the computer terminal, or tramp through university libraries, or experience eyestrain infront of microfilmed documents just to be able to read some of the views of women freethinkers! Ideas and accomplishments, not just names, should be remembered/ In many cases even their names have been forgotten."

"The women’s movement has not acknowledged the debt it owes to the unorthodox, freethinking women in its ranks. Their nonreligious views often have been suppressed, as if shameful, when in fact repudiation of patriarchal religion is an essential step in freeing women."Page xiii

"Reading only their ideas without a context does not do justice to these women. Most are or were activists and doers, movers and shakers, with lives as fascinating as their writings. Finding biographical information often was as daunting as locating their freethought writings, therefore more background is offered than in the usual anthology."

"This anthology would need to be twice as long to include every woman who has, by her unorthodoxy, contributed to freethought or feminism. Quakers and Unitarian-Universalist women, as well as the modern feminist theologians, popularisers of goddess worship and women’s studies scholars have all made contributions in battling patriarchal religion. These contributions for the most part, have been recognised, whereas the contributions of women freethinkers have been marginalized."

"There are striking commonalities in the writings of women freethinkers. Many were freethinkers who, to borrow my husband’s metaphor, sprang up in comparative isolation like wildflowers, whose reasoning, experiences, study of religion or reading of the bible compelled them to reach the same conclusions about the harm of religion to women, intellect or society, and to speak out."

"The writers featured in Women Without Superstition are freethinkers, not necessarily atheists, although that label accurately describes many of them. Freethought means the use of reason in forming opinions abut religion, rather than basing belief on faith, authority or tradition."

Annie Laurie Gaylor's definition of religion – "a belief in a supernatural being who must be worshipped and obeyed as the creator anf ruler of the universe, whose dicta are found in so-called sacred writings. Some use a looser definition applying it to any system of philosophy or ethics, not necessarily the supernatural. Others such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, turn the word on its head by adopting Thomas Paine’s irreverent concept of a ‘religion of humanity"

The word "'religion’ takes on a sinister cast when one examines its root, religare, meaning ‘to bind’, which in turn means ‘to hold, to make prisoner, to restrain."

"Women freethinkers have worked to break the ties that bind women and restrain intellect. They eschew superstition – a belief inconsistent with the known laws of science and reason. Among the pioneers of social change striving to move humankind forward, they have directed their energies to this world, not toward an unseen, improvable and unknowable one."

"Dominican Monk Jacob Sprenger the infamous Witches Hammer handbook for killing women, used twisted etymology to argue that the word ‘woman’ (femina) literally means ‘faithless (condending fe=faith, mina =less) "This can be turned into a compliment worthy of Col. Robert Ingerson himself." [1]

Women Without Superstition: "No Gods - No Masters" is the Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor

It  Includes Historic documents some first not previously published

The first anthology of women freethinkers, featuring more than 50 activists and writers critical of religion. Includes biographical sketches, selected writings, 51 photographs, and full index. ISBN1-877733-09-1


List of featured women freethinkers -

with links to information and some of their writings


Mary Wollstonecraft,

Harriet Martineau

Lydia Maria Child

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Ella E. Gibson

Elmina D. Slenker

Lillie Devereux Blake

Annie Besant,

Susan H. Wixon,

Ella Wheeler Wilcox,

Helen Gardener,

Ellen Battelle Dietrick,

Josephine K. Henry,

Etta Semple,

Vashti McCollum,


Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner,

Anne Royall,

Ernestine L. Rose

Margaret Fuller

Emma Martin

Matilda Joslyn Gage

Marilla Ricker

Charlotte Perkins Gilman,

Voltairine de Cleyre,

Emma Goldman,

Zona Gale,

Margaret Sanger,

Marian Sherman,

Dora Russell,

Meridel Le Sueur,

Margaret Knight,

Ruth Hurmence Green,

Frances Wright,

Queen Silver,

Lucy N. Colman

George Eliot

Susan B. Anthony

Lois Waisbrooker


Catherine Fahringer,

Anne Nicol Gaylor,

Meg Bowman,

Barbara G. Walker,

 Sherry Matulis,

Kay Nolte Smith,

Sonia Johnson,

Barbara Ehrenreich,

Katha Pollitt,

Taslima Nasrin.

Barbara Smoker

It also includes biographical sketches of 39 additional freethinking women such as Ayn Rand, George Sand, Lucy Parsons, Florence Nightingale, and Jane Addams. 696-page hardback.  Buy the book?




Back cover quotations


‘Turn your churches into halls of science…’ Francis Wright 1828


‘Our life is short and we cannot spare an hour from the human race, even for all the gods in creation’ Ernesting L. rose 1878


‘Women should unite upon a platform of opposition to the teaching and aim of that ever most unscrupulous enemy of freedom – the Church.’ Matilda Joslyn Gage 1890


‘My heart’s desire is to lift women out ot all these dangerous, degrading superstitions and to this end will I labor my remaining days on earth.’ Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1896


‘No Gods – No Masters’ Margaret Sanger 1914


‘There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages’.   Ruth Hurmence Green 1980


‘Faith in God necessarily implies a lack of faith in humanity.’ Barbara Walker 1993




'Christian Textbook of Misogyny'

[1] The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger (Hardcover)
by Montague Summers (Editor)

Reviews from Amazon Readers

This infamous text is essential for any serious student of witchcraft in early modern Europe. Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer were two Dominican monks who wrote this `guide' to witchcraft in 1486. It served as a guide book for inquisitors during the Inquisition, providing information on identifying witches, wringing confessions from them and discussing suitable punishment of offenders.
This text has become the definitive example of misogyny in the witch-hunts. Throughout the book there are negative references to women such as `When a woman thinks alone she thinks evil', `She is a liar by nature', `she is more carnal than a man as shown by her carnal abominations'. It also goes on to describe women as defective, weak, and basically claims any misfortune from illness through to crop failure was due to malign magic. Nothing had a natural cause in their view. Witches, according to Kramer and Sprenger, were responsible for all this plus infanticide, cannibalism, consorting with demons and any other abominable behaviour they could imagine.

What we have here in Kramer and Sprenger is an artifact. And as an artifact it is a splendid example of historical Christian thought. Part I; Question XIV contains a subheading that summarizes the point of this tome: "That Witches Deserve the heaviest Punishment above All the Criminals of the World."

The "Hammer" was written to offer a protocol for trying and adjudicating (read: killing) alleged witches. It is safe to say that Salem and other incidences of spurious witch trials would not have been legitimized but by reference to this 15th century work of folklore. There is no doubt that Kramer and Sprenger were learned canons of the Church and they were attempting to remedy the problem of falsely accused witches being lynched by torch-and-pitchfork mobs. What they accomplished instead was bringing witch-hunts under the authority of the Church. The Malleus Maleficarum facilitated the further enmeshment of Church and State by prescribing the manner in which these cases should be adjudicated in the ecclesiastical and civil courts.

If you enjoy studying mythology or Church History (they often overlap) this is a compelling read. More than any other single artifact, this book sheds light on what was plaguing the collective mind of Christendom in the late middle ages. A read well worth the time.


That being said, this book should be approached in much the same way that one should approach reading Mein Kemf, and other such "taboo" works. This book IS, after all, one of the most blood-stained works in history, its pages have been responsible for countless deaths. One should read it with the mindset of learning about how people in the "burning times" thought.


The authors were considered pre-eminent in their day and attempt to present a reasonably thorough defence of killing people. They also use numerous examples from cases that are known to them in order to demonstrate their points.

The book presents a fairly cold and calculating side when dealing with the punishment of people. References to villages in which dozens of souls were executed are without emotion or the slightest tinge of regret.

For people interested in the Medieval period and its fears, beliefs and the world that people saw around them, this book presents a unique insight into their mentality. It is also a testimony to the way in which religion can be used to justify even the most despicable treatment of human beings by people.

At once fascinating and disturbing, this book is both special and vile. You won't feel good and there are no happy endings. However, the deepened knowledge and the lessons one can learn for today are worth the effort