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18 April 2008

Mary Daly (1928 - 2010) Feminist theologian.

Daly has a B.A from The College of Saint Rose, an M.A. from The Catholic University of America, a Ph.D. in religion from St Mary’s College, Indiana, and PhDs in sacred theology and philosophy from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland (no US Catholic university would permit a woman to do this last degree in the 1960s).

She was hired at Boston College in 1967, and would have been terminated after one year following publication of her book The Church and the Second Sex, which was critical of the Catholic Church. However demonstrations by the then all-male student body resulted in her getting tenure instead.

In the late 1970s Daly was the dissertation advisor to Janice Raymond (whose dissertation became The Transsexual Empire, 1979), and it is rumoured that they were lovers.  At the same time she was writing Gyn/Ecology, and both books quote the other.

Daly describes Jesus as: 'androcracy's Absolute Androgyne ... male femininity incarnate'. This is as part of a rejection of male Christianity. On androgyny she writes: 'Experience proved that this word, which we now recognize as expressing pseudowholeness in its combination of distorted gender descriptions, failed and betrayed our thought.' 'Androgyny is a vacuous term which not only fails to represent the richness of be-ing. It also functions as a vacuum that sucks its spellbound victims into itself.'

On transsexualism she parallels Raymond, using words like mutilation, and compares sex reassignment to African clitorectomy. She dismisses female-to-males as tokens and regards male-to-females as non-women in that they cannot menstruate, lack clitorises, cannot give birth, require continual hormone fixes, and are without female history.

She popularized the claim that 9,000,000 people perished in the witch crazes of early modern Europe, a number that has no basis in research. She has also been criticized for ignoring the experiences of non-white women.

In later years Daly refused to admit male students to some of her classes at Boston College on the pretense that their presence would inhibit discussion. The College reprimanded her in that her discrimination was in violation of US law and the College’s own non-discrimination policies. In 1998 two male students, backed by a conservative advocacy group, sued the college on this issue, and she was further reprimanded. She absented herself rather than admit the male students, and the College removed her tenure. She attempted to sue for violation of tenure but her injunction was denied. This became a de-facto retirement.

She died at age 81.

*Not the Australian writer, DBE, Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, nor the Oxford Sociologist.
  • Mary F. Daly.  The Problem of Speculative Theology. Université de Fribourg PhD. Washington: Thomist Press, 1965. 
  • Mary F. Daly.  Natural Knowledge of God in the Philosophy of Jacques Maritain: A Critical Study. Université de Fribourg PhD.  Rome: Officium Libri Catholici, Catholic Book Agency, 1966. 
  • Mary F. Daly.  The Church and the Second Sex. New York: Harper & Row, 1968. 
  • Daly, Mary. Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1973.
  • Mary Daly. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics Of Radical Feminism. Boston: Beacon Press 1978.  1st 50 pages online at:
  • Mary Daly. Pure Lust : Elemental Feminist Philosophy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.
  • Mary Daly & Jane Caputi. Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.
  • Mary Daly. Quintessence-- Realizing the Archaic Future: A Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998. 
  • Mary Daly. Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage : Containing Recollections from My Logbook of a Radical Feminist Philosopher (Be-Ing an Account of My Time/Space Travels and Ideas--Then, Again, Now, and How). HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.
  • Sarah Lucia Hoagland and Marilyn Frye (eds).  Feminist Interpretations of Mary Daly.  Pennsylvania State University, 2000.  
  • Mary Daly. Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
  • Bryan Marquard. "Mary Daly, pioneering feminist who tussled with BC, dies at 81"., January 5, 2010.
  • Cathryn Platine.  "RIP Mary Daly.  Riding the Second Wave, January 5, 2012.
  • Margalit Fox.  "Mary Daly, a Leader in Feminist Theology, Dies at 81".  The New York Times, January 6, 2010.
  • Julie Bindle.  "Mary Daly obituary: Radical US theologian and the world's first feminist philosopher".  The Guardian, 27 January 2010.

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