Mary Daly

Controversial Feminist Thealogian

feminist mary daly


Mary Daly, raised in a Catholic home and sent to Catholic schools throughout her childhood, pursued philosophy and then theology in college. When Catholic University would not permit her, as a woman, to study theology for a doctorate, she found a small women's college that did offer a Ph.D. in theology.

After working for a few years as an instructor at Cardinal Cushing College, Daly went to Switzerland to study theology there, and get another Ph.D. While pursuing her degrees at the University of Fribourg, she taught in the Junior Year Abroad program for American students.

Returning to the United States, Mary Daly was hired as an assistant professor of theology by Boston College. Controversy followed the publication of her 1968 book, The Church and the Second Sex: Towards a Philosophy of Women's Liberation, and the college tried to fire Mary Daly but was forced to re-hire her when presented a student petition signed by 2,500.

Mary Daly was promoted to associate professor of theology in 1969, a tenured position. As her books moved her further and further outside the circle of Catholicism and Christianity, the college denied Daly promotions to full professor in 1974 and again in 1989.

Policy of Refusing to Admit Men to Classes

The college objected to Daly's policy of refusing to admit men to her feminist ethics classes, though she offered to teach men individually and privately. She received five warnings about this practice from the college.

In 1999, a suit on behalf of senior Duane Naquin, backed by the Center for Individual Rights, led to her dismissal.

Naquin had not taken the prerequisite women's studies course tried to register, and was told by Daly that he could take the course with her individually.

This student was supported by the Center for Individual Rights, an organization that opposes Title IX, and one tactic used is to file lawsuits applying Title IX to male students.

In 1999, facing this lawsuit, Boston College terminated Mary Daly's contract as a tenured professor. She and her supporters filed a lawsuit and requested an injunction against the firing, on the grounds that due process had not been followed.

In February 2001, Boston College and Mary Daly's supporters announced that Daly had settled out of court with Boston College, thus taking the case out of the hands of the court and judge.

She did not return to teaching, officially ending her professorship there in 2001.

Mary Daly published her account of this fight in her 2006 book, Amazing Grace: Re-calling the Courage to Sin Big.

Transsexual Issues

Mary Daly's take on transsexualism in her 1978 book Gyn/Ecology is frequently quoted by radical feminists who do not support including male-to-female transsexuals as women:

Transsexualism is an example of male surgical siring which invades the female world with substitutes.

Fast Facts

  • Known for: Increasingly strong critique of patriarchy in religion and society; dispute with Boston College over the admission of men to her classes on feminist ethics
  • Occupation: Feminist theologian, theologian, philosopher, post-Christian, "radical feminist Pirate" (her description)
  • Religion: Roman Catholic, post-Christian, radical feminist
  • Dates: October 16, 1928 - January 3, 2010


  • Father: Frank X. Daly
  • Mother: Anna Catherine Daly


  • Catholic schools through high school
  • St. Rose, B.A., 1950
  • Catholic University, M.A., 1942
  • St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana, Ph.D., theology, 1954
  • University of Fribourg, S.T.D., 1963; Ph.D. 1965


  • 1952-54: St. Mary's College, visiting lecturer, English
  • 1954-59: Cardinal Cushing College, Brookline, MA, instructor in philosophy and theology
  • 1959-66: Fribourg University, Junior Year Abroad program for American students, teacher of philosophy and theology
  • 1966-1969: Boston College, assistant professor
  • 1969-2001: Boston College, associate professor of theology


  • 1966: Natural Knowledge of God in the Philosophy of Jacques Maritan
  • 1968: The Church and the Second Sex: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation
  • 1973: Beyond God the Father
  • 1975: Rape Culture, a screenplay with Emily Culpeper
  • 1978: Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism
  • 1984: Pure Lust: Elemental Philosophy
  • 1987: Webster's First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language with Jane Caputi
  • 1992: Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage: Containing Recollections from My Logbook as a Radical Feminist Philosopher
  • 1998: Quintessence: Realizing the Outrageous, Contagious Courage of Women
  • 2006: Amazing Grace: Re-calling the Courage to Sin Big
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Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Mary Daly." ThoughtCo, Sep. 22, 2021, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2021, September 22). Mary Daly. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Mary Daly." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2023).