Rosemary Radford Ruether (review date 10 November 1973)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1273 words.)

Mary Jean Irion (review date 16 January 1974)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1116 words.)

Doris Donnelly (review date 19 January 1974)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 729 words.)

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels (review date 1 February 1974)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1234 words.)

Marie Augusta Neal (review date July 1976)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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, namely that current language usage about God legitimates the oppression of women in modern society.

The central point of the book, the consideration of the error of the hypostatization of transcendence, seems alien to sociologists until Daly indicates that this process functions to legitimate the existing social, economic, and political status quo, in which women are victims along with other subordinate groups. It is at this point that the sociologist has reason to be interested, since much of what we write and observe does not demonstrate this legitimation, observable though it be. In this work, I think that she does put her finger on how the idols embedded in myths become “facts,” and function as unexamined assumptions which victimize women.

Although the latter part of the book does not do as well in providing models for social change as the first part, sociologists of religion and of women will find the book informative. Anyone interested in seeing how the idea of transcendence can be elaborated, while traditional language and ideas of transcendence are ridiculed, will find the book interesting.

Virginia R. Mollenkott (review date 11 April 1979)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 entire section is 719 words.)

Marilyn Frye (review date August 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 3538 words.)

Julia Penelope (review date December 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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.”


(The entire section is 3237 words.)

Jane Hedley (essay date spring 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 6129 words.)

Carol Anne Douglas (review date January 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 902 words.)

Carol J. Adams (review date March 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1929 words.)

Cindy L. Griffin (essay date June 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 10750 words.)

Krista Ratcliffe (essay date 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 16166 words.)

Carol Anne Douglas (review date December 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1159 words.)

Pamela Schaeffer (essay date 5 March 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 entire section is 2030 words.)

Geraldine Moane (review date September-October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 2141 words.)

Marsaura Shukla (review date winter 1999-2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 2170 words.)

Mary Daly and Catherine Madsen (interview date fall 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 6618 words.)

Anne-Marie Korte (essay date 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 14753 words.)

Frances Gray (essay date 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 9904 words.)

Anne-Marie Korte (essay date 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 4176 words.)

Stephen P. Jenkins (review date June 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 ( 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.