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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Visiting assistant professor of philosophy signs book contract with Oxford University Press

Shew said she had the idea to write the book nine years ago. Photo courtesy of Melissa Shew

Melissa Shew, visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Marquette University, signed a book contract Feb. 10 with Oxford University Press for her book “Philosophy for Girls: An Invitation to the Life of Thought.”

The book will focus on different ideas within philosophy and will include anecdotes and abstract explanations of each concept.

She is a co-editor of the book, along with Kim Garchar, associate professor of philosophy at Kent State University. Shew began working with Oxford University Press to produce this book in June 2018. The book is expected to come out in spring 2020, Shew said. 

She said she and Garchar invited 12 well-respected female authors and also had an open call for additional proposals for chapters. From there, they chose six additional female authors to contribute chapters to the book. 

“(Something) that was important to us was that we have a diverse cross section of women, meaning not just in terms of fields of philosophy, ethnic/racial background and so on, but also in terms of being at different kinds of universities and stages of their career,” Shew said.

She said she feels the authors she and Garchar chose reflect how young women feel in the world. She said it is important for young women to feel that people who are like them are writing for them.

The targeted audience for this book is young women who may not have had access to philosophy, Shew said.

“I don’t think that all people know they are allowed to contribute to the intellectual life of thought,” Shew said. “Women have been excluded for a very long time from these conversations.”

Shew said she came up with the idea for this book nine years ago at Marquette, and it is part of her larger Persephone Project, which aims to provide resources for women in philosophy.

She said she had young women in her classes who had brilliant ideas but didn’t know they were being insightful. She thought this was unacceptable, she said. This inspired her to write the book.

“I wanted to see if I could support young women who had been excluded from the history of philosophy so they know they also have a right to ask big questions,” Shew said.

She left Marquette after this and taught at Milwaukee’s Divine Savior Holy Angels High School for five years. She said during this time, her vision was reinforced.

She said this book is particularly important to her because of a student she had at Marquette named Kayla Murphy.

Murphy had a big heart and open mind, Shew said. However, in 2013 Murphy died from anorexia a few years after her graduation.

“I think about her and so many other young women who need to know they have value, that they should be empowered, their minds are beautiful and they have a lot to contribute to the world,” Shew said.

Shew said she has other stories of girls who feel very misfit and don’t see their own beauty.

“I want them to know that they can take on these challenges and there is a host of women who are cheering them on and rooting for them,” Shew said.

She wants the book to reach beyond academic walls at universities, she said. She said she wants the book to be accessible for community colleges, Ivy League schools and high school levels.

“Young women especially need to know that they are smart and have ideas that have value,” Shew said.
Elise Span, a Marquette graduate from the class of 2012 who had Shew as a professor as a senior, emphasized the important of access to philosophy for young women.

“(Philosophy) gives people a framework to reason solidly about their lives, the good life, human nature, the state of humanity today,” Span said in an email. “What this book does, for young women specifically, is make philosophy relevant.”

Julia DuBois, a former student Shew had while teaching at DSHA, said she feels its necessary to give women permission to speak and see themselves in philosophy.

“I think women need an opportunity to see bits of themselves in philosophy,” DuBois said in an email. “What this means, to me, is that a curious young woman has the chance to pick up a book and find little parts of herself in it, whether those pieces are in the character traits of a feisty and badass Greek goddess or in the questions the act of philosophizing itself raises.”

Jake Stavsky, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he thinks the book is important because it brings a perspective not often seen in philosophy.

“There are too many classes (in universities) that focus on a singular, and consequently, uniform identity (Caucasian males),” Stavsky said in an email. “It seems that this would put off young women interested in philosophy because of their unique experiences, and consequently their identity, are being ignored.”

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About the Contributor
Annie Mattea is the Managing Editor of the Marquette Tribune. She is a junior from Grayslake, Illinois and is majoring in journalism with a minor in digital media and political science. She has reported at length on the demonstration policy, COVID-19, and numerous other on campus issues.

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