BOSTON (AP) — Radical feminist Mary Daly, the iconoclastic theologian who proclaimed, "I hate the Bible," and retired from Boston College rather than allow men to take her classes, has died. She was 81.
Daly died Sunday of natural causes at Wachusett Manor nursing home in Gardner, Mass., said her longtime friend, Nancy Kelly.
She passed away as a friend read to Daly from one of her own books, "Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language," Kelly said Wednesday.
Daly's tumultuous career at the Jesuit-run Boston College ended after three decades when she refused to open her classroom to men, believing women did not freely exchange ideas if men were present. Men, she said, "have nothing to offer but doodoo." But Emily Culpepper, a friend and professor at the University of Redmond in California, said Daly was not anti-male.
"She was anti-male domination, which is a different thing," Culpepper said.
Poet Robin Morgan called Daly "the first feminist philosopher."
"She really pushed the boundaries, and that drove some people bananas," Morgan said. "But that kind of intellectual courage is, in fact, what usually moves the species forward, even if it gets trampled on in its own time."
Daly grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., the only child of an ice cream freezer salesman and telephone operator. She received her bachelor's degree from the College of Saint Rose, then a master's degree at Catholic University of America. She later earned doctorates at Notre Dame and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland before becoming a professor at Boston College in 1966.
Daly's career at BC ended in 2001, when she retired to settle a lawsuit. Daly sued BC after the school tried to force her to retire over her refusal to accept men in her classes. She had agreed to privately tutor men who wanted to take her classes.
Daly wrote about her intellectual formation in a 1996 article in the New Yorker "Sin Big," in which she recalled being mocked by a male classmate, and altar boy, at her parochial school because she could never "serve Mass" because she was a girl.
"(T)his repulsive revelation of the sexual caste system that I would later learn to call 'patriarchy' burned its way into my brain and kindled an unquenchable Rage," she wrote.
Daly described herself as a pagan, an eco-feminist and a radical feminist in a 1999 interview with The Guardian newspaper of London. "I hate the Bible," she told the paper. "I always did. I didn't study theology out of piety. I studied it because I wanted to know."
Her first book, "The Church and the Second Sex" in 1968, criticized the church as a product and fount of sexism amid the growing women's movement. Five years later, she wrote "Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation." Her other books included "Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy" in 1984.
Gloria Steinem called Daly "a brilliant writer, a brilliant theoretician," who enabled women to move beyond the oppression of male-dominated religious hierarchies to see "that there's God in themselves and in all living things."
"She was enough ahead of her time so that I believe she will be appreciated far beyond it," she said.
Daly's ashes will be buried at Mt. Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, Kelly said. A memorial service is planned in the Boston-area in the spring.
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