Study Guide
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Co-Authors: Mary Cronk Farrell, Meghan Nuttall Sayres, Betsy Wharton and Sarah Conover.


If women had been scribes in the ancient cities of Jerusalem, Mecca, and Antioch, we would probably know a lot more about the women of our religious traditions. Women played key roles in the development of each of the Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – from their very beginnings.

Set in the Holy Lands, Daughters of the Desert is about ancient women – daring, thoughtful, and wise – who played exciting roles in the early days of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Most of the women included in this collection are descendants of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. The stories highlight women in crucial moments or circumstances of their lives, which in many cases mark pivotal points in their respective religions.

Excerpts from the book

Read selected stories from the book.

Praise for Daughters of the Desert

“A recovery of the wisdom of women in the great Abrahamic religions is long overdue. Daughters of the Desert is a knock-out contribution to that project. Read the stories, fill your heart, share the wealth with others. This book deserves to become a classic of twenty-first century spiritual reading. Cherish it.”

– Mitch Finley, author of Prayer for People Who Think Too Much and The Joy of Being Catholic.


“How refreshing to find the stories of women from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. They are like water in the desert offering new voices and new hope to our generation.”

– Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, author of Cain & Abel: Finding the Fruits of Peace, and But God Remembered: Stories of Women from Creation to the Promised Land.


“These engaging stories of women, some of whom are important to all three religions, and some known only to one, help build bridges of understanding between religions and demonstrate the importance of religion in our lives.”

– Dr. Freda Crane, member, Islamic Society of North America.


“Some stories speak powerful narratives. Others point to new understandings of our world. Still others ask questions of justice, mercy, and devotion within communities. Daughters of the Desert speaks and points and questions in all three ways, with stories about women from three spiritual traditions. Their ancient journeys Jewish, Christian, and Muslim startlingly and wonderfully like our own, call us to and encourage us in our own paths to God.”

– Gary Schmidt, author of Winter: The Spiritual Biography of the Season and William Bradford: Plymouth’s Faithful Pilgrim.


This poem by the Sufi poet, Rumi, inspired Claire while she was writing the story of Mary:

Mary’s Hiding

Before these possessions you love slip away, say what

Authors at book signing (from left to right):
Claire Rudolf Murphy, Meghan Nuttall Sayres, Dr. Freda Crane,
Sarah Conover and Mary Cronk Farrell

Mary said when she was

surprised by Gabriel, I’ll hide inside God. Naked in
her room she was a form

of beauty that could give her new life. Like the sun
coming up, or a rose as it

opens. She leaped, as her habit was, out of herself
into the divine presence.

There was fire in the channel of her breath. Light and majesty

came. I am smoke

from that fire and proof of its existence, more than any external form.

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