How to Think Like a Woman : Four Women Philosophers Who Taught Me How to Love the Life of the Mind by Regan Penaluna


From a bold new voice in nonfiction, an exhilarating account of the lives and works of influential 17th and 18th century feminist philosophers Mary Wollstonecraft and her predecessors who have been written out of history, and a searing look at the author’s experience of patriarchy and sexism in academia

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Our Bookseller Says:

“Deeply personal and yet relatable, this is both a journey of self-discovery and an accessible contemplation of the history of philosophical thought.

Focusing on the “great philosophers” responsible for informing and upholding our patriarchal society and four (largely dismissed) women who thought alongside them, Penaluna explores whether it’s possible to extricate one’s biases and lived experience from the work, especially when it comes to their views of women. She braids key events from her own life with the short biographies of these women alongside excerpts and interpretations of their writings. The result is rich and layered, all of these women limited by their lacking educations and societal roles while also asserting existence as people with minds of their own.”


As a young woman growing up in small-town Iowa, Regan Penaluna daydreamed about the big questions: Who are we and what is this strange world we find ourselves in? In college she fell in love with philosophy and chose to pursue it as an academician, the first step, she believed, to becoming a self-determined person living a life of the mind. What Penaluna didn’t realize was that the Western philosophical canon taught in American universities, as well as the culture surrounding it, would slowly grind her down through its misogyny, its harassment, its devaluation of women and their intellect. Where were the women philosophers?

One day, in an obscure monograph, Penaluna came across Damaris Cudworth Masham’s name. The daughter of philosopher Ralph Cudworth and a contemporary of John Locke, Masham wrote about knowledge and God, and the condition of women. Masham’s work led Penaluna to other remarkable women philosophers of the era: Mary Astell, who moved to London at age twenty-one and made a living writing philosophy; Catharine Cockburn, a philosopher, novelist, and playwright; and the better-known Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote extensively in defense of women’s minds. Together, these women rekindled Penaluna’s love of philosophy and awakened her feminist consciousness.

In How to Think Like a Woman, Regan Penaluna blends memoir, biography, and criticism to tell the stories of these four women, weaving throughout an alternative history of philosophy as well as her own search for love and truth. Funny, honest, and wickedly intelligent, this is a moving meditation on what philosophy could look like if women were treated equally.

How to Think Like a Woman : Four Women Philosophers Who Taught Me How to Love the Life of the Mind by Regan Penaluna