Sara Ruddick


Sara Ruddick (1935-2011) was an influential philosopher and feminist, best known for her analysis and research on the care of children. She earned her undergraduate degree at Vassar College in 1957, and her Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard in 1964. She was among the female philosophers became a part of the oral history project in the 1960s and ‘70s entitled Feminist Philosophers: In Their Own Words. Ruddick’s appearance in the interview and her extensive background in philosophy led to her appointment at the New School, where she stayed for over 40 years.

In the Fall of 1967, Ruddick taught her first course at the New School, “Philosophical Study of Psychoanalysis,” which focused on thinkers such as Freud, Sullivan, and Erikson. She went on to teaching courses that focused on the relation of language to thought, symbolization and the nature of the unconscious mind. Throughout her career, she was highly influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jurgen Habermas, Simone Weil, and Virginia Woolf, whom she often referred to in her courses.

Ruddick’s involvement in the women’s movement, though, led to her influential book and thinking on the role of work in women’s lives. In 1977, she edited a collection of works written by professional women’s day-to-day work experiences entitled Working It Out: 23 Women Writers, Artists, Scientists, and Scholars Talk about Their Lives and Work (Pantheon, 1977); the same year, she taught a course at the New School simply titled “Work.” Ruddick’s interest in the subject of women in the workforce was drawn from her own experience as a young writer who struggled with the gender roles of society in that era. In “A Work of One’s Own,” Ruddick described her lack of self identity that resulted from worklessness. When she found consistent work, she experienced a newfound sense of empowerment and self-respect.

In 1984, Ruddick composed two works about maternal contributions to society with regard to violence and militarism, which were later published in Mothering: Essays in Maternal Theory (1984). She later revisited these essays, which inspired her most famous work, Maternal Thinking (1989). Ruddick described Maternal Thinking as “an expression of a whole made up of body, brain, and spirit influenced by memory and tradition.” She compared mothering to a practice of everyday life in which vulnerable children depend on “mothering”–acts of care done by anyone in society.

Ruddick was awarded the Distinguished Woman Philosopher of the Year Award by the Society for Women in Philosophy in 2002. Even after Ruddick’s death, her work was still celebrated at the American Philosophical Association’s annual meeting in 2012.


“Sara Ruddick”. New School Digital Archives. Accessed on 27 March 2019.…

“A Work of One’s Own”. Word Press. Accessed on 26 March 2019.…

“Sara Ruddick New School Courses.” Accessed on 27 March 2019.


Sara Ruddick, 1986. Web. 09 Nov 2014.