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Department of Theology and Religion


Miss Katie Jayne Woolstenhulme, BA (Hons) Dunelm, MSt Oxon

Contact Miss Katie Jayne Woolstenhulme (email at

PhD Thesis Title

The Role and Status of the Matriarchs in Rabbinic Literature and Thought


My research explores the role and status of the biblical matriarchs in rabbinic literature and thought. Although some scholarly attention has been directed towards the portrayal of women in rabbinic sources, the issue of the collective identity of ‘the matriarchs’ (אמהות) has thus far been neglected. Focusing on Genesis Rabbah, the fifth century midrashic commentary on Genesis, my research seeks to better understand the role accorded the matriarchs in rabbinic thought. Due to their significance in the early history of Israel, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel, the wives of the patriarchs, are the major focus of my project. By considering the midrashic portrayal of the matriarchs, my research may also help to elucidate rabbinic attitudes towards women more generally and their relation to non-Jewish views on women from a similar period. 


'Matirarchal Barrenness in Genesis Rabbah', The Society of Old Testament Study Summer Meeting, University of Oxford, July 2014.

'Matriarchal Barrenness in Genesis Rabbah', Biblical Studies Postgraduate Study Day, University of Manchester, May 2014.

'Matriarchal Barrenness in Genesis Rabbah', 'Adversity Through the Ages': Theology and Religion Postgraduate Conference, University of Durham, March 2014.

'Septuagint Workshop: Genesis 21- The Birth of Isaac', Septuagint Workshop, University of Durham, March 2014.

Research Interests

  • Portrayal of Women in the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Literature
  • Rabbinic Midrash
  • Biblical Interpretation in Antiquity

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