Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist

January 7, 2010

I don’t think I have ever written a post on Mary Daly before, despite the fact that her life and work have had a profound influence on my own. If I had never picked up a copy of Gyn/Ecology from a second-hand bookstore when I was 19… what kind of woman would I be today. I launched myself into Gyn/Ecology, not having the faintest clue about what I was reading. Up until this point my contact with feminism had been through The Women’s Collective at uni. Mostly straight liberal feminists. Good women… but tentative in their politics. And through women’s studies subjects at uni. None of which had any hint of radical lesbian feminism in their reading lists or anywhere else. My feminism was pissed off, angry and raging… but had no direction. I had no words, no herstory, no Background to light up the foreground and show it up for what it was. A dirty and dark illusion made to keep women like me from breaking free.

And then, at 19, I picked up a copy of Gyn/Ecology and my eyes were irreversibly opened. Quite honestly, I did not understand a word that the book said. I read passages over, and over and could not comprehend them. I was pretty ignorant at 19. And then I lost the book and lost a huge part of myself along with it. For 5 dark years I floundered about with queer theory and queer feminism online until I found Gyn/Ecology again, and bought myself another copy from The Feminist Bookshop. Reading it again was like coming home. I could not understand how I had lived without Daly’s Elemental Feminism in my life.

I bought every single one of her books and read them cover to cover. Lovingly stroking the pages that held the most meaning. Crying and crying over the realisations of what male supremacy has cost us. Her work lit me up like a bonfire and changed me irrevocably. She was, and is, and ever will be a raging tempest, a Positively Revolting Hag, and A-mazing Amazon, a Quintessential Woman.

I couldn’t write about her before because I didn’t know what to say. How to describe a woman who is everything. Who casts herself beyond the foreground, into the Background and spirals into Outercourse.

Mary, your journey has only just begun. I grieve your passing and I will remember you. Always.

PS. I cried so much when I read Heart’s tribute to Mary Daly: “Leave the State of Fear. We Can’t Stop Now! We Have Overcome.”- In Memory of a Positively Re-Volting Hag, Mary Daly, October 16, 1928-January 3rd, 2010


  1. I cried when I wrote it, too. I wish we could cry together. Much love, Allecto. xo

  2. *hugs* Heart. Your writing, as always, speaks straight to my soul.

  3. As yours does to mine, sister.

  4. Thank you allecto xo

  5. Lovely to read the tributes. Thanks to you Allecto, and to everyone who cares to Re-Member. I’m grieving yet also grateful for Mary Daly’s life and her naming weirdly and wonderfully the truth of Being, Womankind in Outraged Movement of Caring and Creation. I’ve been posting rebuttals on blogs to those in the trans-folk political movement trying to paint Mary Daly as a “hater” and thus discourage reading her body of work (talk about reversals).

    Saw on the Mich Fest board where Heart had posted this link in tribute (just the “Water is Wide” music, amazing): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiFT7O6Aknw. If the link doesn’t “take” by this comment, it’s worth a cut and paste. Helped me process the grief and get ready to persist in the cosmic background of the “archaic future.”

    You and your blog on the other side of the world mean so much to me, Allecto. I’ve written to you over the years, using various pseudonyms (true generally of my online writing to blogs), because, dammit, the backlash already experienced from patriarchal adversaries and my being a mom have caused me to make that choice of relative anonymity. But despite the anonymity, I want you to know in consciousness — intergalactic spinning and Sinning, Big — that I truly honor your radical feminist outreach and genius. Heart, too, although it seems that I’ve somehow lost my link and access to her blog. Wonderful tonight to see her contributions to the Mich Fest board.

    It’s not over, and we are aligned with Life and will go on.

    Love to all my Sisters, globally, wherever and however seemingly isolated in the feminist “diaspora” we may appear to Be. Be, we will.
    Yes, we have overcome (and we do not need womanizing men, no matter how rhetorically brilliant, to tell us so).

  6. ❤ Rain. Thank you for all your support.

    Thanks Jan for your beautiful comment. Knowing that there are many women like you out there in the world makes me feel a lot less alone.

    Heart’s blog is up here: http://www.womensspace.org/phpBB2/ temporarily. I highly recommend visiting her blog as she has posted much about Mary Daly there, recently.

    It’s not over, and we are aligned with Life and will go on.

    Agreed, sister.

  7. Wonderfully inspiring to read the tributes at Heart’s blog in addition to your own, Allecto. In transtemporal Sisterhood where Mary Daly’s star shines to lead us on,
    Loving Thanks,

  8. Allecto great tribute

    thank you very much

    in sisterhood

    to you all

  9. Thanks, sisters. ❤ ❤ ❤

  10. Thankyou so much for this.

  11. It’s always sad to see a great feminist writer leave this world 😦
    Especially one who had the wonderful and deep insight into the world’s bullshit like Daly did. I’m so disappointed I’ve only recently discovered her as an author.

    Beautiful tribute Allecto.

  12. Hugs back, Emzy.

    Thanks, berryblade. It is always disappointing to discover a wonderful world-altering radical feminist just as she passes on.

  13. @Allecto

    The only thing I find more disappointing than her depatrure from this existence is how so many “feminists” are trashing her now she’s dead and gone. She deserves so much more than that.

  14. I definitely hear you on that one, berryblade. I am so angry about the way she is being trashed by so-called feminists. But not at all surprised.

  15. […] Feminist blogosphere seems to have come back, ever so slightly, to honour Mary Daly’s memory. Allecto has come out of her hiatus and written on her blog Heart has produced a series of posts on Daly’s […]

  16. Yes, the post-humous trashing of her is sickening, although I found the trashing of Dworkin upon her death to be worse. While a few make issue of one unpleasant exchange between her and Andre Lourde as proof she was an unrepentant racist, of course most of the trashing focuses on her not sucking up to the trans agenda. People will find any excuse at all not to listen to feminists. She worked tirelessly for women’s rights for how many years? But a paragraph written here and one disagreement with another strong feminist woman are enough for most people to discount everything she ever did. No feminist can ever be perfect enough to have her words heard.

  17. I know this is very late, but I just wanted to thank you for your beautiful post. From the age of 17, when I first read Gyn/Ecology (and, like you, struggled to understand it) Mary Daly’s wisdom and insight shaped my development as a feminist.

    May her Spinning and Voyaging never be forgotten.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: