Elisabeth Wendel was the second woman to receive a doctorate in theology from Göttingen. The first had been a married women, whom the faculty had designated domina doctissima on the diploma, in place of the traditional vir doctissimus. Elisabeth received her degree a year before her fellow student Jürgen Moltmann, and before they were married. Her diploma honored her as virgo doctissima.
In her autobiography, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel describes a warm relationship with her father and says she personally had no trouble thinking of God as Father, although she understood why some others did. She describes her marriage as mostly happy, but her personal happiness was hindered by the patriarchy of German society and church. The only “career” open to her was that of pastor’s wife. She said there was never “another woman” in their marriage, but there was a time when she felt neglected by her husband’s preoccupation with a book and a man: the philosopher Ernst Bloch and his Principle of Hope.
Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel became a pioneer in feminist theology in Germany, leading women’s workshops and study groups, organizing events, editing and writing, while raising four daughters. Her autobiography describes interaction, sometimes painful, with other feminists who took a more radical approach.
The short book from 1977 on the emancipation of women covers biblical, theological, philosophical, political, and historical themes. Some of her findings on New Testament themes are now taken for granted; in a few other areas there may be a different consensus after thirty years of research and reflection.