EVE:  The Mother of All Living, the wife of Adam. She is best known for sharing a piece of fruit with Adam from a tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden, an act that cost them a cushy life in the Garden and – some say - the whole world its happiness.  Stayed tuned for more on that one!

LILITH:  One of a series of demons, known as seducer of men, stealer of children, and mother of demons.  Also known as the first wife of Adam, made like him from the ground.  When Adam rejects her claim of equality, she escapes from Eden, to be replaced by the seemingly more subservient Eve. 

SARAH:  Mother of a Nation, wife of Abraham, accomplished chieftain.  Sarah and Abe migrate from Mesopotamia to Egypt, where Sarah spends time as a concubine of Pharaoh, thanks to Abraham’s little white lie. They settle in Canaan, and prepare to start a family, with Sarah giving new meaning to the term “delayed childbirth.” 

ABRAHAM:  Husband of Sarah, patriarch of the Israelites.  Abraham sets out from Ur, believing that God has promised him a new land and a great family.  He later hears voices telling him to sacrifice his second son Isaac as a burnt offering.  Always the literalist, Abraham is stopped in the nick of time by an angel, and his dynasty is saved, though the incident undoubtedly further strained his marriage.

HAGAR:  Egyptian slave-girl to Sarah, mother of Abraham’s first son Ishmael.  When Sarah failed to conceive, Abraham took Hagar as a surrogate, a practice not unknown in ancient and not-so-ancient societies.  Although it was originally Sarah’s idea, tensions between the two women eventually result in Hagar twice being exiled to the desert, where she was directed to a well just in time to survive and become mother of another great nation.

MOSES:  A Hebrew, son of Yocheved and brother of Miriam.  Placed in the river by his mother to hide him from Pharaoh, he is rescued by none other than Pharaoh’s daughter, who raises him as a privileged Egyptian. When his people’s bondage begins to trouble him, he first runs away, but is recruited back into service by the Almighty disguised as a burning bush.  Out of excuses, Moses returns to Egypt and goes on to be the great liberator of his people, and a surprisingly adept legislator.

RUTH:  A Moabite woman, sister-in-law to Orpah and daughter-in-law to Naomi.  When her husband dies, Ruth chooses to leave Moab (now part of Jordan) and to follow Naomi back to her family in Canaan, despite the risks and uncertainties involved.  She adopts the religion of her new home and marries within its clans, giving rise to the House of David and to the line of Jesus. 

HANNAH:  Hannah the Manna Gatherer does not appear by name in the Bible.  But she might well have been there, gathering in the daily manna, the sweet substance that fell from the sky like dew in the night to feed the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert.  Hannah knows the truth of the old adage, “It’s the OIKONOMIA, stupid!”  As Exodus 16 reports, “those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage.”  Enough for everyone.  What a concept!

THELMA:  Project coordinator of the Ark that survived the Great Flood, wife of Noah.  She is unnamed in the Scriptures, and similarly undefined. She appears in Genesis 7-8 only as an appendage to her famous husband, despite being the mother of the entire surviving human race.  We can only imagine her to-do list during those rainy forty days and nights, surrounded by two of everything.

BOAZ:  Husband of Ruth, a Canaanite and wealthy landowner.  When he finds Ruth gleaning in his fields, he invites her to eat with him and his workers, and later marries her.  He then buys family lands that Naomi had sold and restores them to her husband’s lineage.  Good guy Boaz’ action gets him a mention in the biblical genealogies as the ancestor of both David and Jesus.

JEZEBEL:  Phoenician-born princess, wife of King Ahab of N. Israel.  Jezebel uses her power to propagate the religion of Baal, killing rival prophets in large numbers (BTW, a custom practiced by both sides).  She steals the vineyard of a man named Naboth and pays for her many sins by being thrown from a window and eaten by dogs. The simple fact that she dresses for the occasion (including careful application of cosmetics) earns her the title of “harlot.”  Sigh!

MARY:  The mother of Jesus, and revered by all three Abrahamic faiths.  Contrary to popular belief, Mary’s best known song is not “Gounod’s Ave Maria,” but rather Luke 1:46-55, in which she sings of how God turned her world – and everybody else’s – upside down, to the benefit of the poor and powerless.  Mary appears elsewhere in the Gospels:  frantically searching for her son in the Passover crowds, giving him oenological advice at a wedding, and standing at the foot of his cross bearing what no mother should have to bear.

SHOSHANA:   “The woman with the issue of blood,” Shoshana (meaning “Rose” in Hebrew) is unnamed in the Scriptures, and nearly invisible, as such a malady -12 years of bleeding! - would have rendered her not only uncomfortable but unclean, and thus severely isolated from key communal activities.  But she’s determined and Jesus praises the power of her persistence:  “Your faith has made you well.”

ARIELLA:  Known in the Bible only as the “Syro-Phoenician” or “Canaanite” woman, she approaches Jesus in Matthew 15, pleading with him to heal her sick daughter.  Jesus declines rather abruptly, saying he was “only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.” But her persistence causes him to relent. Her daughter is healed and she, too, is commended for her great faith.

MARTHA:  Sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany. Best known for being rebuked by Jesus because she is “distracted with her many tasks,” though nowhere are we told that these involve cooking or dishwashing.  Martha is the first to proclaim Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of God.” Eschewing her “Good Girl” image, Martha appears in medieval mythology as a prominent preacher and a tamer of dragons.

JUNIA:  An apostle of the New Testament.  In Romans 16:7, the apostle Paul praises Junia as “outstanding among the apostles.”  Despite later mistranslations of her name, (“Junias” and “Junius”), for centuries after her death there was no question that Junia was a woman.  Despite timeworn excuses – “women can’t be apostles because of (biology, delicacy, God’s will)” - Junia’s identity and reputation are now widely – though not universally - accepted.