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Mary Daly papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00637

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of the personal and professional papers of Mary Daly. It includes correspondence, including fan mail; drafts and galleys of many of Daly's books; financial information; research files and subject files (on topics including students, colleagues and public figures); documents pertaining to legal disputes with Boston College in 1969 and 1999; personal files regarding topics like health and medicine, pets, automotive, and investments; books; and teaching materials, including course outlines, syllabi, and confidential student records. Of particular interest are Daly's fight with Boston College, her writing process, and her argument with Audre Lorde.

Abbreviations used by Mary Daly and in this finding aid

American Academy of Religion
American Association of University Women
Amazon Grace
Boston College
Beyond God the Father
National Women's Studies Association
Spiritual Counterfeits Project
Women's Equity Action League
Women's National Abortion Action Coalition

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1928 - 2021


Language of Materials

Materials are primarily in English. There are some works by Daly in translation, research materials, and Graduate Studies records from Fribourg University in other languages, including German, French, Dutch, Korean, Mandarin, Latin, and Greek.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Mary Daly has assigned the copyright in her works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Daly, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical Note

Mary Daly, a radical feminist philosopher and theologian who referred to herself as a Positively Revolting Hag, was born in Schnectady, New York in 1928, the only child of a homemaker mother and a traveling salesman father. She was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools. Early in her childhood, Daly had mystical experiences in which she felt the presence of divinity in nature.

She received a BA in English from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY in 1950; an MA from Catholic University of America in 1952; and a Ph.D. in Religion from the School of Sacred Theology, St. Mary's, Notre Dame in 1954. Unable to find a school in America that would allow a woman to obtain a "canonical" Doctorate in Sacred Theology, she went to Fribourg, Switzerland, where the education was state-controlled and could not legally exclude women. There she received a Doctorate in Theology and a Ph.D. in Philosophy as well as a Licentiate in Sacred Theology.

When she returned to the United States in 1966, she took a tenure track position at Boston College. Her first book, The Church and the Second Sex (1968) was influenced by a visit to Rome during Vatican II. The book, called a "searing expose of Christian misogyny, especially in the Catholic Church," critiqued the patriarchal structure of the Catholic Church and its detrimental effect on shaping women's lives and self-image. The book established Daly as a radical feminist theologian and a powerful voice of dissension, and Boston College fired her soon after its publication. However, amidst student protests and public outcry, Daly was reinstated and given tenure.

She went on to teach at Boston College for thirty-three years and published seven more books: Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (1978), Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (1984), Beyond God the Father (1985), Webster's First New Intergaliactic Wickedary of the English Language (with Jane Caputi; 1987), Outercourse (1992), Quintessence (1998), and Amazon Grace (2006).

Daly regularly toured nationally and internationally, lecturing, speaking and teaching at over three hundred college and universities. In addition to her own work, Daly was connected to many other feminist scholars, theologians, philosophers, and radicals of her day including Adrienne Rich, Diana Davies, Andrea Dworkin, Artemis March, Sonia Johnson, Jane Caputi, Merlin Stone, Janice Raymond, Robin Morgan, Julia Penelope, Gloria Steinem, Roseanne Barr, Pauli Murray, Linda Barufaldi, and Emily Culpepper. Daly retired from Boston College in 1999, although she claimed she was forced to do so. She died in Gardner, Massachusetts in January 2010.


76.147 linear feet (75 containers)

0.0037 Gigabytes (73 digital files)


Mary Daly (1928-2010) was a radical feminist philosopher, author, lecturer, and professor of religious and women's studies. This collection includes records of her personal and professional life. Of particular interest are Daly's fight with Boston College, her writing process, and her argument with Audre Lorde.


The collection is arranged into four series: Professional materials, Writings, Correspondence, and Personal records. Series are arranged roughly in the order they arrived at the archive (i.e. materials sent to us in 2009 are located before materials sent in 2010). Oversize, AV, digital, ephemera, and books appear at the end of each series.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content. The collection also contains several AV formats, including audio cassettes, VHS tapes, and CDs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Mary Daly started donating her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2009. In 2010, after Mary Daly's death, many of the women in Daly's community continued to send her materials, and added materials related to Daly's death and memorial services. Materials were recieved from Nancy Kelly, Mary E. Hunt, Jean E. MacRae, and Linda Barufaldi.

Separated Materials

In 2019, student grades and evaluations were removed from the collection and destroyed. Duplicate materials were removed, and books not written by Daly were weeded out. A full list of the books in Daly's library can be found in Series IV. AV materials - duplicates and audio/video cassettes not pertaining to Daly were also removed. For a full list of these, please see Special Collections staff.

Processing Information

The collection came to the Smith Special Collections in seven installments, starting when Daly was alive and continuing after her death with a few boxes of personal materials and materials related to her death. The collection was in considerable disorder when it came to us, with all types of materials mixed together, much without any labels. This is partially due to the collection being sent over the course of years, and partially due to Daly's death in 2010, which caused much of the collection to be boxed and sent without her overseeing the process.

In 2019, a team of processors began to reorganize the collection. The team was made up of Madison White, Scott Biddle, Sylvia Hickman, and two student workers, Sky Karp and Isabel Montesanto. First we removed all student grades and assessments. We put all unfoldered materials into folders and rewrote illegible labels. Folder titles were kept as much as possible, but when titles were inaccurate or missing titles were created.

While refoldering and weeding the collection, we noticed groupings of 5-20 folders on correspondence, writings, Boston College materials, and personal records, which implied that these had once been series within the collection. For example, we found sections of correspondence in alphabetical order (e.g. correspondence G-K), which implied that there had once been a file of correspondence A-Z. We therefore decided to separate the collection into these four series, keeping each series in roughly the order that it arrived to us (i.e. materials that came to the archives in 2009 are before materials from 2010). We assumed that there had been some logic to the groupings, even when it was not clear to us, and therefore we tried to keep groupings of material together. Because of this, there are a number of "miscellaneous" or "general" folders throughout the collection, which contain materials that were located together in a box with no obvious link. Once we separated materials into series, we did not arrange materials any further.

The contents of 10 floppy disks in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; 3 disks could not be copied in-house and have been flagged for future preservation work; 3 disks were blank and were discarded.



Finding aid to the Mary Daly papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-07-02: Description updated with accurate restriction info, updated to DACS minimum standards; finding aid published.
  • 2019-02-27: Added contents list
  • 2019-03-22: Added digital files

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063