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Mary Daly Dies at 81


Published: January 6, 2010

Mary Daly, a prominent feminist theologian who made worldwide headlines a decade ago after she retired from Boston College rather than admit men to some of her classes, died on Sunday in Gardner, Mass. She was 81 and had lived for many years in Newton Centre, Mass.

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Christopher Pfuhl/Associated Press

Mary Daly in 1999, shortly before she left Boston College.

A friend, Linda Barufaldi, confirmed the death, saying Professor Daly had been in declining health recently.

A self-described “radical lesbian feminist,” Professor Daly maintained a long, often uneasy relationship with Boston College, the Jesuit institution where she had taught theology since the 1960s.

In 1999, Professor Daly left the college after a male student threatened suit when he was denied a place in her class on feminist ethics. She had long limited enrollment in some advanced women’s studies classes to women only, maintaining that the presence of men there would inhibit frank discussion.

Professor Daly did let men enroll in her introductory feminism courses and offered to tutor them privately in the advanced subjects.

Among the first American women to train as a Roman Catholic theologian, Professor Daly challenged orthodoxies from the start. She came to wide attention in 1968 with the publication of “The Church and the Second Sex” (Harper & Row), in which she argued that the Catholic Church had systematically oppressed women for centuries.

Her next book, “Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation” (Beacon, 1973), explored misogyny in religion in general.

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