An essay by Alice Collett entitled, “Women as Teachers and Disciples in Early Buddhist Communities: The Evidence of Epigraphy”, which was shared by @TathaalokaBhikkhuni on Facebook yesterday.
Thanks so much, this is a nice essay. For those not up to reading the whole thing, the conclusion sums it up (my emphasis, for those not used to academic circumlocution!):
The geographical spread of the inscriptions studied in this article seems to demonstrate that neither the phenomenon of nuns with female teachers, nor that of nuns who considered themselves direct disciples of monks, was a region-specific aspect of early Buddhist communities. Some of the inscriptions contain dates, and others can be dated on palaeographic grounds, with an awareness of the incumbent problems with doing so, and thus these two features of the lives of early Buddhist nuns in India appear to have existed over a period of four centuries. The epigraphic record provides us with names of female monastic teachers who would otherwise be occluded from history, and whilst the inscriptions do not reveal much about these women, in a milieu in which lineage and genealogy are important, for disciples to define themselves in relation to their female teachers is significant in itself. Also, those who declare themselves to be students of others, or are so described, need not be considered to be of low rank, as might easily be assumed from pupil status. The evidence suggests instead that antevāsinī is a marker of identity that demonstrates these nuns were important figures, interwoven into the social nexus of early Buddhist communities. Some were teachers, perhaps exalted ones; others establish themselves as actors within lineages, and others had defined roles that show they were significant figures in early Buddhist communities.