Robert Ellsberg is an editor’s editor. In the era of market-driven, rather than mission-driven, publishing, he has stayed the course in publishing some of the most important authors and books of our time. Through his 18 years at Maryknoll’s Orbis Books, Ellsberg and crew have printed the writings of Dorothy Day, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Thomas Merton, Megan McKenna, Henri Nouwen, Kelly Brown Douglas, Ched Myers, James Cone, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, Daniel Berrigan, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Penny Lernoux, and countless others whose names aren’t well-known but whose work advances the reign of God.
Ellsberg’s own work includes All Saints (Crossroad), The Saints’ Guide to Happiness (North Point Press), and most recently, Blessed Among All Women: Women Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time.
Blessed Among All Women builds on All Saints, Ellsberg writes in his introduction. “Soon after that book’s publication I was pleased to receive an invitation from a small contemplative community of Maryknoll Sisters. While they appreciated my nontraditional approach to saints, they noted with some passion that I had maintained the traditional imbalance of women and men (about one out of four).” Soon Ellsberg was bombarded with hundreds of suggestions of women spiritual leaders who deserved to be considered in the company of saints.
Ellsberg took up the challenge to examine why, among the wide array of official saints, women were vastly underrepresented. He discovered two primary reasons. First, he writes, “Many holy women in history tended to spend their lives in the relative seclusion of the cloister.” Second, “the process of canonization, like the general exercise of authority in the church, has been entirely controlled by men.”