Mary Daly 1928-
American critic, nonfiction writer, and autobiographer.
The following entry presents an overview of Daly's career through 2001.
Among the most radical feminist scholars of the late twentieth century, Daly is known for basing her critical arguments on the academic traditions of theology and philosophy, rather than those of politics or economics. In works such as The Church and the Second Sex (1968) and Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation (1973), Daly not only criticized the Catholic Church for demonizing women and relegating them to secondary roles but also denounced organized religion itself as the cornerstone of all oppressive patriarchal social institutions. In later works, such as Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (1978) and Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (1984), she shifted her focus to dissections of male-biased linguistic structures that perpetuate patriarchy, thus laying the foundation for a new feminist-oriented usage with the hope of fostering a women's revolution.
Daly was born on October 16, 1928, in Schenectady, New York, the only child of Frank and Anna Catherine Daly. Her parents were working-class Catholics, and Daly grew up as a devout member of the church. She enrolled at the College of St. Rose, where she earned a B.A. in English in 1950. Daly had been interested in philosophy and theology, but no degrees in either of those disciplines were offered at St. Rose at the time. Two years later, she earned her M.A. in English at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Daly then entered the School of Sacred Theology at St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she earned her Ph.D. in religion in 1954. Daly wanted to pursue a doctorate in Catholic theology, but such a degree was not then available to women anywhere in the United States. Daly learned that she could pursue the degree at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, since the school was state-run and could not legally bar women from any course of study. For the next eleven years, Daly studied at Fribourg, earning a basic degree in sacred theology in 1960, a licentiate in sacred theology in 1961, a doctorate in sacred theology in 1963, and a doctorate in philosophy in 1965. In 1966 Daly took a job as an assistant professor of theology at Boston College. That same year, she published her first book, Natural Knowledge of God in the Philosophy of Jacques Maritain (1966), an academic analysis of the French philosopher. However, it was the publication of The Church and the Second Sex that first brought Daly widespread critical and popular attention. The book's strong criticism of the Catholic Church's attitudes toward women proved controversial, and Daly made several television appearances to further defend and expound her views. Her outspokenness angered some of the administrators at the Jesuit-run Boston College and, as a result, the following year she was denied both tenure and a promotion to associate professor. This action outraged many Boston College students and their demonstrations on Daly's behalf forced the administration to alter its position and eventually award tenure to Daly. Nevertheless, her future at Boston College remained unclear as the administration denied her promotion to full professorship in 1975 and 1989. In 1999 a male student at Boston College, with the backing of a conservative public-interest law firm, threatened to sue the college unless men were allowed to attend Daly's women's studies classes, which Daly had traditionally limited to women only. Before Boston College could officially respond, Daly requested that her next semester's classes be canceled and took a leave of absence. The college suspended Daly in 2000, prompting Daly to sue for violation of her tenure rights and breach of contract. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2001.
An exhaustively researched and comprehensive history of the Catholic Church's alleged suppression of women, The Church and the Second Sex is a searing indictment of the Church as a fundamentally sexist and patriarchal institution. The book offers little in the way of suggested ecclesiastical reforms; instead, Daly argues that the Church's bias against women is an inherent result of its history and structure. However, in Beyond God the Father, Daly began to outline a feminist spiritual program that she believes could take the place of the current patriarchal religions, creating a foundation for a feminist theology. Beyond God the Father asserts that Christianity is based on a conception of God as a static, authoritarian, and—most importantly—male figure. Daly argues that this father figure has become the backbone of a system of symbols that men use to subjugate women. Furthermore, Daly claims that this religious subjugation legitimates all other forms of social, racial, economic, and political oppression. Beyond God the Father calls for a feminist spiritual revolution—one that will replace the traditional concept of a male God with the existentialist-influenced conception of the divine as something readily available through the fullness of one's own being. Daly moved her focus outside the religious sphere with Gyn/Ecology, turning her critical attention to the issue of societal gender roles. The work's thesis states that women, after millennia of male domination, have unconsciously accepted a patriarchal ideal of femininity—an ideal that must be stripped away if women are to realize their full potential. In Gyn/Ecology's central section, Daly delineates the results of this false ideal with a list of socially sanctioned abuses of women, including Chinese foot-binding, witch-burning, the Hindu suttee, and female circumcision. Daly points out that each of these imposed forms of mutilation is based on a male-created ideal of womanhood. In the book's final section, Daly demonstrates how women can use language to create a new definition of womanhood, giving once pejorative terms like “hag” and “crone” positive connotations while exposing the hidden patriarchal meanings of seemingly innocent or neutral terms. Daly further pursued this lexicographical project in Pure Lust, guiding the reader through three “realms.” In the first realm, the ancient culture of the “Goddess” is examined; in the second, existing phallocentric conceptions are dismissed; and in the third, women are left free to create their own society. In each section, Daly discusses the patriarchal linguistic obstacles that she feels block women from fully realizing themselves as individuals. Daly's next work, Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language (1987), is an expanded version of the linguistically oriented sections of her previous two works. Written with Jane Caputi and presented in dictionary form, the book reconstructs and redefines women's language through etymological investigation, alliterative wordplay, linguistic invention, and mythological association. In the autobiographical work Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage: Containing Recollections from My Logbook of a Radical Feminist Philosopher (1992), Daly recounts her youth, her education, her struggles with the Boston College faculty, and other personal matters, most notably the development of her critical ideals and the circumstances surrounding the writing of her previous works. Structured as a quasi-magical dialogue between Daly and a young radical feminist living in the year 2048, Quintessence … Realizing the Archaic Future: A Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto (1998) offers a survey of social problems facing women in the 1990s, including the break-up of the second wave of the women's movement, the growing development of genetic engineering, society's over-reliance on technology, and the grip of postmodern theory on academia. Quintessence then presents a fictional history of the world from the 1990s to the year 2048, proposing that the women's movement will evolve into strong communities of like-minded women who, through intense devotion to each other and the ideals of radical feminism, will eventually cause the world's patriarchal institutions to crumble. In 2001 Daly published The Gender Division of Welfare: The Impact of the British and German Welfare States, a critical analysis of the modern institution of welfare, citing specific case studies and examples from the United Kingdom and Germany.
Daly has acted as an important force in modern radical feminism, inspiring considerable critical debate, most of which has fallen along cultural and political lines. Certain aspects of her work, notably charges of essentialism and her historical ambivalence, have been hotly contested in feminist circles. One of Daly's most controversial positions has been her assertion that men are inherently inferior to women and should generally be excluded from the society of women. Many feminists have openly rejected this ideal, with some calling Daly blatantly sexist while others argue that it is within the power of individual men to reject patriarchal systems. Daly has also been criticized for her belief that the oppression of women by men is now, and has been throughout human history, the primary form of oppression, and that all other instances of oppression pale in comparison. This belief—and its corollary, that radical feminism is the single most important form of liberation ideology—has angered a number of activists and scholars who have charged Daly with both self-aggrandizement and shortsightedness. However, some of Daly's supporters have defended her by claiming that Daly is speaking metaphorically when comparing the oppression of women to other instances of oppression. They have also argued that Daly does not intend to denigrate other forms of oppression or liberation ideologies, and is simply speaking from within an admittedly outdated framework of 1960s-era radical politics. Many critics have agreed that Daly's analysis of language as a tool of oppression and liberation constitutes her greatest achievement, particularly in works such as Pure Lust. Nevertheless, some scholars have asserted that, by focusing entirely on the English language, Daly has framed feminism as an Anglocentric phenomenon. Others have criticized Daly's focus on redefining words as too limiting, arguing that she should focus instead on larger linguistic units of discourse. Daly's supporters have countered that Daly always defines words in the context of larger ideas, and that her focus on words—the basic units of meaning—rather than posing a limitation, allows her great analytical flexibility, since words are used in many different contexts.
Natural Knowledge of God in the Philosophy of Jacques Maritain (nonfiction) 1966
The Church and the Second Sex (criticism) 1968; revised edition, 1985
Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation (criticism) 1973; revised edition, 1985
Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (criticism) 1978; revised edition, 1990
Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (criticism) 1984; revised edition, 1992
Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language [with Jane Caputi] (criticism) 1987
Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage: Containing Recollections from My Logbook of a Radical Feminist Philosopher (autobiography) 1992
Quintessence … Realizing the Archaic Future: A Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto (criticism) 1998
The Gender Division of Welfare: The Impact of the British and German Welfare States (nonfiction and criticism) 2001
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SOURCE: Ruether, Rosemary Radford. “Theology by Sex.” New Republic 169, no. 19 (10 November 1973): 24-6.
[In the following review of Beyond God the Father, Ruether finds flaws in Daly's conception of women and her notion of castrating “phallic morality.”]
Mary Daly's new book [Beyond God the Father] is a bold effort to found a theology for the women's movement. Many will find this book startling and even repugnant. Mary Daly has little respect for orthodoxies, either Protestant or Catholic. She strives to break not only with orthodox theology, but also with the traditional logic and meaning of language, in order to reveal a new meaning over against the “insane sanity” of conventional rationality. For Dr. Daly, women are the ultimate outcasts of history, the submerged sexual caste within every class, nation and race. The liberation of women must break with established structures in a more radical way than any other movement.
How can such a theology call itself Christian? Dr. Daly maintains no pretense of continuity with the Judaeo-Christian tradition. For women, in her thought, there can be only one regula fidei—those forms of thought that vindicate the full personhood of women. By this standard the traditions of Judaism and Christianity are found wanting. This also means that feminist theology is open to the suppressed and forbidden traditions; the...
(The entire section is 1273 words.)
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SOURCE: Irion, Mary Jean. “Wrenching Free of the Patriarchal Past.” Christian Century 91 (16 January 1974): 46-7.
[In the following review, Irion offers a positive assessment of Beyond God the Father, though notes shortcomings in Daly's lack of historical perspective.]
The most searing and searching book yet to relate the movement for women's liberation to religion in America was published in autumn by Beacon. The author, Mary Daly, has been a leader in the movement for some time. Hers is truly a radical book, one with staying power that should outlast that of death-of-God-type radicalisms. Since her argument moves beyond church and Christianity, she will lose one set of friends as she picks up a new set of allies. Mary Jean Irion gives her a good hearing.
Beyond God the Father is a theological event growing out of the women's liberation movement. Like most revolutionary documents, it is honed on rage and cuts where it must—yet not without reason and faith in healing. If now and then a sharp edge sings with electric revenge, it also works toward finer patterns in religion and human relationships. The author holds that male interpretations of the universe have been untrue to reality and destructive of human potential, female and male; that creative eschatology can come only from the disenfranchised sex; and that the women's revolution “is an ontological,...
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SOURCE: Donnelly, Doris. Review of Beyond God the Father, by Mary Daly. America 130 (19 January 1974): 39-41.
[In the following review, Donnelly evaluates the strengths and weaknesses in Beyond God the Father.]
Mary Daly usually does not tease. Coy she is not. Nor playful. Nor shy.
In fact, if ever there were a showdown at the O.K. Corral with those insecure, clerical, hierarchic types, nothing less than The Church and the Second Sex—her vastly knowledgeable and impeccably researched book detailing the history of ecclesial suppression of the feminine—would have qualified her as the one and only straight-from-the-hip champion of women-in-the-Church causes. And the odds on Professor Daly's mastery over her opposition would have been as secure as a Joe Frazier victory over Mortimer Snerd.
Something of a wonder, then, and a disappointment, that the bristling, forthright tone that so suited the expository style of her first book is too weak and anemic for her second women's lib book, Beyond God the Father. Like her first book, Mary Daly's newest is tough and punchy, but times and turf have changed so that rabid aficionados of books, articles and every New York Times Op-Ed piece on women's lib like me, who seethe with fury at sexist injustice or who revel in the occasional triumphs of our sisters' struggles toward becoming human, are...
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SOURCE: Steinfels, Margaret O'Brien. “Earthly Utopia or Armageddon?” Commonweal 99, no. 17 (1 February 1974): 442-43.
[In the following review, Steinfels criticizes Beyond God the Father, noting Daly's “effort to decimate patriarchal religion, language, and ideas.”]
Earthly utopias, in books or in Vermont, are works of the imagination that allow us to fantasize alternative ways of living our lives and organizing the world. You are interested in a society of abundance, restraint, and civility, based on a credit card economy? See Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. You are “into” common property, communal life, and connubial freedom? Check out John Humphrey Noyes' Oneida Community. You want a house without a kitchen? Read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Women and Economics. But we need not dally in the 19th century; most radical writings of the last decade were excursions into the better way in a different world. And Mary Daly's Beyond God the Father is of this genre—Christianity without its stumbling blocks: God, Christ, sin, and salvation. It is a theological fantasy about religion freed from the patriarchal mentality.
Q. The patriarchal mentality—what is it? A. It is the outlook that sees all relationships as submissive, ultimately to an authoritarian God the father, and immediately to those dim shades of Him—men.
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SOURCE: Neal, Marie Augusta. Review of Beyond God the Father, by Mary Daly. Contemporary Sociology 5, no. 4 (July 1976): 441-42.
[In the following review, Neal compliments Daly's central argument in Beyond God the Father.]
Attempting a radical critique of patriarchy, Mary Daly addresses the symbol system of liberation theologies and challenges male theologians to re-examine their language to see if they can say anything religious about transcendent being without relying on the unexamined assumptions of the holiness of patriarchy.
The book [Beyond God the Father], which was severely criticized by theologians and which cost the author her appointment to a full professorship at her university, appears regularly on the reading lists of major theologians who can handle the problem of God but cannot handle the challenge of Mary Daly. The serious theological reading that the book has received in the field of religion in the past two years makes it now a major datum for sociologists of religion who are examining the social construction of reality in cultural perspective and the linguistic legitimation of a given social order in societal perspective. To date, no one has been able to provide even the beginnings of a new language in which to talk about transcendence in a theologically satisfying way, even though many theologians acknowledge the substantive problems Mary Daly raises,...
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SOURCE: Mollenkott, Virginia R. “Against Patriarchy.” Christian Century 96 (11 April 1979): 417-18.
[In the following review of Gyn/Ecology, Mollenkott commends Daly's critique of patriarchal oppression, but objects to her judgmental and intolerant perspective.]
Mary Daly, associate professor of theology at Boston College and leading philosopher-theologian of the radical feminist movement, proposed in her second book that feminists speak of God-as-a-Verb (Beyond God the Father, 1973). In Gyn/Ecology, she repudiates the term “God” altogether, as representing “the necrophilia of patriarchy,” and speaks only of the Goddess who “affirms the life-loving be-ing of women and nature.” Because she says they reductionistically include and really exclude “gynocentric being/Lesbianism,” she also rejects terms like “androgyny,” “homosexuality,” “humanism” and “human liberation.”
Daly makes clear that she regards all Christian or Jewish feminists as mere reformists, “roboticized tokens” whose ineffectual efforts have been “actively promoted by the patriarchs.” Asserting that orthodoxy's agenda is “toward the absolute elimination of all vestiges of real female presence,” she considers Protestantism to be even more phallocentric than Catholicism:
Having eliminated Mary, the Ghost of the Goddess, it...
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SOURCE: Frye, Marilyn. “Famous Lust Words.” Women's Review of Books 1, no. 11 (August 1984): 3-4.
[In the following review of Pure Lust, Frye commends Daly's “exemplary iconoclasm,” though expresses reservations concerning her treatment of race and her optimistic notion of natural harmony.]
With Pure Lust, Mary Daly takes on once again that central and challenging project of a movement by women to liberate women: the work of creating new meaning. The project is challenging partly because it is “impossible”—as Alice told the rebel egg Humpty Dumpty, you can't just make words mean what you want them to mean. It is necessary because patriarchal meanings lock out the thought of woman as autonomous, yet women must be able to think themselves capable of surviving independence if they are to commit themselves to escape from servitude.
Much of Daly's work in Pure Lust is a scavenging through the systems of patriarchal meanings, picking up rags for a bag of semantic resources from which she and the rest of us Others can piece our new architextures of meaning. One mistake a reader can make is to reject or scorn the project if she finds Daly's own unfinished constructions displeasing to her taste or inadequate to her experience. The new meaning form, like a new art form, will arise in the different works of many creators, not by the fiat of one. Already in this...
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SOURCE: Penelope, Julia. “Erratic, Ecstatic, Eccentric.” Women's Review of Books 5, no. 3 (December 1987): 5-6.
[In the following review, Penelope offers a positive evaluation of Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language.]
Have you ever stopped in the middle of an intense conversation to search for the “right” word? Have you ever found yourself in an emotionally charged situation in which your mind went blank, and hours, even days, later suddenly realized what you could have said? When it happens to me, I say that I'm “at a loss for words,” and spend sleepless nights scratching at “I should have said's.”
Typically, our English teachers encourage us to believe that these lapses are our fault, that the language has all the resources one could ever want, and that we are somehow lacking—in vocabulary, cleverness, wit. But in language, as elsewhere, form follows function. As a consequence of male meddling, the English we are taught is adequate only for talking about the world and living in the world as men conceive the world to be. Male language has messed with our minds. The world-view codified by the syntax and semantics of English is only one version of the world we move and act in, and not necessarily the most enlightened or intelligent version.
Why, for example, do sex-specific pairs of adjectives—womanly/manly,...
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SOURCE: Hedley, Jane. “Surviving to Speak New Language: Mary Daly and Adrienne Rich.” Hypatia 7, no. 2 (spring 1992): 40-62.
[In the following excerpt, Hedley discusses Daly's attempt to depose male-defined language through etymological reconstructions and the invention of a new vocabulary for women, culminating in Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language.]
As radical feminists seeking to overcome the linguistic oppression of women, Rich and Daly apparently shared the same agenda in the late 1970s; but they approached the problem differently, and their paths have increasingly diverged. Whereas Daly's approach to the repossession of language is code-oriented and totalizing, Rich's approach is open-ended and context-oriented. Rich has therefore addressed more successfully than Daly the problem of language in use.
“For many women,” Adrienne Rich explained in 1977, in her introduction to the collected poetry of Judy Grahn, “the commonest words are having to be sifted through, rejected, laid aside for a long time, or turned to the light for new colors and flashes of meaning: power, love, control, violence, political, personal, private, friendship, community, sexual, work, pain, pleasure, self, integrity. … When we become acutely, disturbingly aware of the language we are using and that is using us, we begin to grasp a material resource...
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SOURCE: Douglas, Carol Anne. Review of Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage: Containing Recollections from My Logbook of a Radical Feminist Philosopher, by Mary Daly. Off Our Backs 23, no. 1 (January 1993): 19.
[In the following review, Douglas lauds Daly's frank and insightful portrayal of her life as a feminist scholar in Outercourse.]
Looking back to Outercourse: The Bedazzling Voyage, logbook of radical feminist philosopher Mary Daly, is a good reminder of the obstacles faced by feminists in the late twentieth century. Daly is, of course, the feminist who reclaimed words such as spinster, hag, nag, and crone. Readers must remember that in the 20th century these terms had strong negative connotations to many people.
Readers will note many references to the Roman Catholic Church, which was the patriarchal religion in which ForeCrone Daly and quite a few other twentieth century feminists were raised. This church was organized in an ultra—hierarchical structure, with a central patriarch called the pope, at its head, For more background on Roman Catholicism, see The Women's Encyclopedia of History, under the entries for Daly, Mary; de la Cruz, Sor Juana; Hunt, Mary; Mary, the Blessed Virgin, representations of; and Raymond, Janice.
Daly tells of her voyaging through and beyond the church, after obtaining...
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SOURCE: Adams, Carol J. “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.” Women's Review of Books 10, no. 6 (March 1993): 1, 3.
[In the following review, Adams praises Daly's contribution to feminist theory and offers a favorable evaluation of Outercourse.]
For anyone who has ever wanted to know more about the radical feminist philosopher behind Beyond God the Father, the Revolting Hag of Gyn/Ecology, the Nag-Gnostic philosopher of Pure Lust and the Conjurer of the Wickedary, here in one installment are the how, the why and the what of Mary Daly and her books. Through the medium of one woman's life—her own—Mary Daly invites us into the process of radical feminist philosophy.
Outercourse is big (at 477 pages, it is Daly's longest book); fascinating (describing travels and relations, travails and reflections); humorous (after recounting an especially insulting faculty meeting at Boston College, Daly comments “These men could not understand that they were giving me rich material for analysis”); and provocative (reminding us that women are the “touchable class,” asking “While we wade knee deep in the blood of women shall I chat about Freud, Derrida, and Foucault?”). Outercourse takes risks, especially when it shares intimate moments of the sacred—a clover blossom announces to a young Mary Daly “I am,” setting her on the path of becoming a...
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SOURCE: Griffin, Cindy L. “Women as Communicators: Mary Daly's Hagography as Rhetoric.” Communications Monographs 60, no. 2 (June 1993): 158-77.
[In the following essay, Griffin analyzes Daly's feminist philosophy of language and its application as an alternative mode of communication theory and rhetorical practice among women. According to Griffin, Daly elucidates the dichotomy between women's public and private discourse, embodied in a “foreground” of patriarchal oppression and a “background” of feminist authenticity and subversion.]
In 1987, Spitzack and Carter suggested that, although women's visibility has increased in the communication discipline, the simple fact of their presence has not necessarily corresponded to increased knowledge about women's unique or distinctive forms of communication. While the study of women's communication may have become a part of the communication discipline in the 1990s, scholars who work in this area, for the most part, continue to attempt to understand and evaluate women's communication from traditional frameworks. The result is that women's communicative experiences and efforts, in their complex and myriad forms, tend to be distorted, devalued, and misunderstood. Adopting a feminist perspective on the study of women's communication, in contrast, would enable scholars to develop theories that better explain women's experiences and eloquence,...
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SOURCE: Ratcliffe, Krista. “De/Mystifying Herself and Her Wor(l)ds: Mary Daly.” In Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Traditions: Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich, pp. 65-106. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996.
[In the following essay, Ratcliffe provides an overview of Daly's radical feminist critique of patriarchal language and discusses the rhetorical strategies of intervention by which she exposes male oppression embedded in language and attempts to reclaim and liberate women's discourse from male domination.]
[T]his book is primarily concerned with the mind/spirit/body pollution inflicted through patriarchal myth and language at all levels.
—Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology
As a feminist philosopher, theologian, and political activist, Mary Daly is deeply concerned with Bathsheba's dilemma; however, she defines it in slightly different terms than does Woolf. Daly argues that the patriarchal categories constructed through language result in “a kind of gang rape” of a woman's mind and body ([Beyond God the Father] 152). In spite of (or perhaps because of) this jarring image, Daly also argues that a woman need not be doomed nor determined within these categories but may, instead, turn language back on itself and construct new categories while embarking on the journey of...
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SOURCE: Douglas, Carol Anne. Review of Quintessence … Realizing the Archaic Future: A Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto, by Mary Daly. Off Our Backs 28, no. 11 (December 1998): 14.
[In the following review, Douglas praises Daly's optimistic world view, but finds Quintessence inferior to her previous works.]
Readers in 2048 will like Mary Daly's new book, Quintessence. That's Daly's prediction, and the book is filled with comments from a radical feminist from that year who likes the book and conjures Daly back to discuss it.
Daly's faith in the future bespeaks her isolation, and the isolation of many radical feminists, in the present. She is rightly angry that some radical feminist books are no longer in print and numerous women's bookstores have gone out of business. But when Daly is angry, she is never simply angry. Always she finds joy as well as rage in radical feminist knowledge; always she leads beyond the anger to the joy.
Quintessence is the final element, beyond earth, air, water, and fire. She seeks it in a time when men are trying to find ways to use everything in the universe—every plant, every star—for their purposes. Everything exists only to be used, they think. Daly is rightly horrified at this ethic of exploitation.
Daly writes of the scattering of radical feminists because they must disperse to find a...
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SOURCE: Schaeffer, Pamela. “Law Firm Forces Mary Daly's Hand.” National Catholic Reporter (5 March 1999): 3.
[In the following essay, Schaeffer recounts Daly's controversial academic career at Boston College and discusses the possibility of her early retirement in the face of a legal challenge brought by a male student denied admission to Daly's female-only class.]
Feminist author Mary Daly's stormy 33-year career in the theology department at Boston College may be coming to an end. Her nemesis is a single male student who has demanded entrance to one of her women-only classes, challenging her 20-year policy of teaching men separately.
The student, Duane Naquin, is a pro bono client of the Center for Individual Rights, an aggressive, conservative, Washington-based public-interest law firm that has warned Boston College of a possible lawsuit on Naquin's behalf.
Rather than admit the student, Daly asked the university to cancel her spring semester classes. She is on paid leave and, saying she is effectively being forced to retire, is negotiating terms with the university. Daly said she is being “deprived of her right to teach freely.”
Daly, who has often clashed with officials of the Jesuit school since she began teaching there in 1996, accused administrators of “caving in” to the law firm. The firm is engaged in a legal assault on...
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SOURCE: Moane, Geraldine. “Mary Daly's Radical Elemental Feminist Journey.” Women's Studies International Forum 22, no. 5 (September-October 1999): 573-75.
[In the following review, Moane praises Daly's accomplishment with Quintessence, arguing that the work “pushes her ontological analysis to new depths.”]
Quintessence is Mary Daly's seventh radical feminist book, published on the 30th anniversary of her first book, The Church and the Second Sex (Daly, 1968). Quintessence is also being published on the 25th anniversary of Beyond God the Father (Daly, 1973), and the 20th anniversary of Gyn/Ecology (Daly, 1978). It can be seen partly as a statement of Daly's most important ideas; this is implied in the subtitle of Quintessence, which names it as a ‘Manifesto’. In a play on this abundance of anniversaries, Quintessence contains ‘Cosmic Comments and Conversations’ from the year 2048, the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Quintessence. These comments are written from the ‘Lost and Found Continent’ after the feminist revolution, and provide fascinating discussions and intriguing glimpses of ‘an Archaic Future’.
Daly presents Quintessence as the third volume of a trilogy which also includes Gyn/Ecology (Daly, 1978) and Pure Lust (Daly, 1984). The trilogy charts what Daly...
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SOURCE: Shukla, Marsaura. “Time Is on My Side.” Cross Currents 49, no. 4 (winter 1999-2000): 550-57.
[In the following excerpt, Shukla presents a favorable review of Quintessence, which the critic contrasts with Rosemary Radford Ruether's Women and Redemption.]
The liquor store around the corner from my apartment has in its window a digital sign counting down in rapidly moving milli-seconds to the year 2000.1 A friend of mine is developing a class on time and millennialism in the New Testament. The terrors of Y2K appear as a motif in television commercials for cars, insurance, soda-pop. As the twentieth century and the second millennium of the common era draw to a close, we all, in different ways, have time, history, and change on our minds. This cultural preoccupation forms a link between the otherwise very different books under review here. Mary Daly and Rosemary Radford Ruether each conjures her own vision of time as that in which the feminist project finds its “home.” …
To turn from Ruether to Mary Daly's Quintessence is to shift “keys” dramatically. While Ruether makes some radical claims about the significance of history for feminist theology in her conclusion, hers is a fairly conventional presentation. She stands firmly in the recuperative tradition of feminist historiography, and the rhetorical force of her project derives from the...
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SOURCE: Daly, Mary, and Catherine Madsen. “The Thin Thread of Conversation: An Interview with Mary Daly.” Cross Currents 50, no. 3 (fall 2000): 332-48.
[In the following interview, Daly discusses the abuses of patriarchal language, her conception of and contribution to radical feminism, the dangers of biotechnology, and her utopian vision of a patriarchy-free future world.]
Perhaps a certain amount of disclosure is needed. I am, if not quite an ex-radical feminist, no longer a loyalist to radical feminism. My circumstances and my opinions would still look radical enough to anyone but another radical feminist, but I am no longer willing to worry what another radical feminist thinks of me. When I found that liberation meant confinement to an ever-narrowing circle of acceptable thought and behavior, I did not renounce liberation, but I decided at least to draw my own circle.
I am also a jaundiced observer of feminist theology. As promulgated in seminaries and religion departments, it seems to have lost the edge of insouciance that first made feminism interesting; the combined constraints of theological study and feminist collectivity seem not only to draw a circle but at times to enclose it with an electric fence that warns the mind against too much exploration. Original thought is stunted in such conditions. What feminist theology has not produced—cannot produce, as long as its main...
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SOURCE: Korte, Anne-Marie. “Deliver Us from Evil: Bad versus Better Faith in Mary Daly's Feminist Writings,” translated by Mischa F. C. Hoyinck. In Feminist Interpretations of Mary Daly, edited by Sarah Lucia Hoagland and Marilyn Frye, pp. 76-111. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Korte traces the development and contradictions of Daly's feminist theology and post-Christian critique of patriarchy, particularly as shaped by her reading of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex and subsequent efforts to reconcile religious experience with the process of women's self-realization and transcendence.]
Mary Daly's later writings tend to make late twentieth-century feminist readers uncomfortable. Her later works are sometimes praised for their poetic, visionary, or “destabilizing” style and imagery.1 Far more often, though, these works are sharply criticized for containing essentialist and dualistic concepts of gender and ahistoric and undifferentiating analyses of patriarchy.2 Why do scholars in women's studies so often choose Daly's works to expose faults and slips in radical feminist thinking? I believe this is mainly due to the many religious connotations and reminiscences that permeate her work. For what are we to think of “patriarchy as a worldwide religion,” for example, or of invoking “elemental faith” to resist...
(The entire section is 14753 words.)
SOURCE: Gray, Frances. “Elemental Philosophy: Language and Ontology in Mary Daly's Texts.” In Feminist Interpretations of Mary Daly, edited by Sarah Lucia Hoagland and Marilyn Frye, pp. 222-45. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Gray examines Daly's subversion of male-defined language and philosophy through the calculated use of metaphor, naming, and linguistic inventions, particularly as such strategies reveal Daly's view of language as fundamentally linked to the process of becoming.]
You are the icon of woman sexual in herself like a great forest tree in flower, liriodendron bearing sweet tulips, cups of joy and drunkenness. You drink strength from your dark fierce roots and you hang at the sun's own fiery breast and with the green cities of your boughs you shelter and celebrate woman, with the cauldron of your energies burning red, burning green.
—Marge Piercy, “The Window of the Woman Burning”
In The Church and the Second Sex, originally published in 1968, Mary Daly took seriously the place of language in the social production of women and their experiences. She did this within a theological context. Her denunciation of the Eternal Feminine, an essentializing conception of women that held that women had a fixed, unchanging nature, was accompanied by a strong stand for a social constructionist...
(The entire section is 9904 words.)
SOURCE: Korte, Anne-Marie. “Just/ice In Time: On Temporality in Mary Daly's Quintessence,” translated by Mischa F. C. Hoyinck. In Feminist Interpretations of Mary Daly, edited by Sarah Lucia Hoagland and Marilyn Frye, pp. 418-28. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Korte discusses Daly's conception of time and her use of temporal disjunctions in Quintessence to escape patriarchal notions of absolute space/time.]
At the brink of a new millennium, could there be a more fitting subject for Mary Daly, renowned for her “Be-Dazzling” leaps through time and space, to thematize than time? In her latest book, Quintessence … Realizing the Archaic Future (1998), Daly emphasizes time far more than in any of her earlier works. In the narrative as well as in the central concepts of this book, Daly plays with time, molds it, and explores the temporal dimension of all that exists “as far as it will go.” In Quintessence, historical eras flash by and narrative points of view shift according to the flow and counterflow of time. Fortunately, there are enough historical references to provide the reader with some orientation. But the characters in Quintessence are no longer bound to one particular historical period. They “pop up” long before they were born or long after they have died, meeting each other in the Middle Ages,...
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SOURCE: Jenkins, Stephen P. Review of The Gender Division of Welfare: The Impact of the British and German Welfare States, by Mary Daly. British Journal of Sociology 52, no. 2 (June 2001): 354-5.
[In the following review, Jenkins praises Daly's “succinct and seductive” examination of modern welfare states in The Gender Division of Welfare, but laments the work's lack of post-1990 references.]
[The Gender Division of Welfare: The Impact of the British and German Welfare States] makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the nature of contemporary welfare states, their relationships with families, markets, and outcomes for individuals. Distinctive features include reviews of earlier approaches, a new conceptual framework based on gender differentiation combined with a cross-national perspective, and the combination of theorizing and empirical work. The writing style is succinct and seductive.
Part I conceptualizes the relationships between gender and the welfare state. There is an useful critical survey of earlier frameworks, and persuasive argument in favour of a gendered approach and a cross-national perspective. Daly's own conceptual approach is a coherent development and integration of elements of earlier research rather than a radical departure. I concur with her desire to move away from typologies of welfare states towards better integration of micro-level outcomes, and her preference for two-country rather than many-country comparisons. Part II provides a comprehensive picture of the key characteristics of the British and German welfare states viewed through the lens of the conceptual framework. This focus is on policies for families and caring, risks covered, eligibility criteria, treatments of those entitled, and cash transfer systems. Part III examines the role of the welfare states (and the family) in the context of income redistribution, poverty, financial relationships within marriage and marital breakdown. It would be unfair to summarize the empirical findings in a few sentences (though there are no great surprises!). Indeed, pointing out “messy and stubborn practices encountered in social reality” is a part of the book's message—one with which I sympathize. The book concludes with thoughtful reflections on the utility of a gender approach to comparative welfare state analysis.
The enduring legacy of this book may be the analytical framework rather than the specific application. The main focus is on the mid-1980s, i.e. before Thatcherite and subsequent “reforms” to the British economy and welfare states, and before German reunification in 1989. (The discussion of later periods in the concluding chapter appears somewhat of an afterthought in comparison.) The introduction acknowledges this, stating none the less that “the mid-1980s suggests itself as an appropriate period from which to take stock of … postwar welfare state models.” This may be so—but investigation of the impact of more recent changes (or whether things have in fact really changed) is likely to be of greater contemporary interest. Moreover there are few references later than the mid-1990s. Some unpublished research that is cited has long since appeared, and some notable recent research is not cited. One specific date issue: Daly's German sample—and hence empirical inferences—refer only to native Germans, i.e. “guestworkers” are not considered despite their importance in German society (they are over-sampled in her data source, so data availability is not an issue). It is important to note that the potential for quantitative cross-national research has markedly improved over the last decade, with substantial extensions to the collections of comparable data comprising the Luxembourg Income Study and the Cross-National Equivalent Panel Data File (http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/gsoep/equivfil.cfm). The latter also reminds me of an unwarranted side-swipe. Daly refers to “the latest fashion in poverty research, which searches after duration and movement … However none of the recent work on the dynamics of poverty gives cause to assume that the structures of poverty uncovered here would be any different to those found by dynamic analyses.” One of the lessons of the last decade is indeed that, if one asks different questions, then one does get different (and complementary) answers to the standard cross-section-based approaches.
Overall, and despite some specific reservations, I thoroughly recommend this book as a worthwhile purchase for researchers, teachers, and students.
Bahmueller, Nancy N., and Diane E. Bennekamper. “Be-ing in Womanspace.” Contemporary Psychology 21, no. 7 (July 1976): 504.
Bahmueller and Bennekamper offer a positive assessment of Beyond God the Father.
Evans, Patricia M. Review of The Gender Division of Welfare: The Impact of the British and German Welfare States, by Mary Daly. Canadian Journal of Sociology 27, no. 2 (spring 2002): 269-72.
Evans lauds Daly's accomplishment in The Gender Division of Welfare, arguing that the work is “a welcome addition to the expanding scholarship on gender and welfare states.”
Hanagan, Michael. Review of The Gender Division of Welfare: The Impact of the British and German Welfare States, by Mary Daly. Journal of Social History 35, no. 4 (summer 2002): 1021-23.
Hanagan praises The Gender Division of Welfare, noting that “Daly's study marks an important step in social science research.”
Karagianis, Maria. “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.” Ms. 9, no. 4 (June-July 1999): 56.
Karagianis provides an overview of Daly's legal battle to teach female students separately from men.
Maitland, Sara. “A New Psyche.” New Statesman 109, no. 2809 (18 January 1985): 28.
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