Carol Gilligan publishes "In a Different Voice"

May 24, 1982

Carol Gilligan has built a career out of challenging the mainstream. After earning a BA at Swarthmore College, an MA at Radcliffe, and a PhD at Harvard, she taught psychology at the University of Chicago in 1965 and 1966. There, she was actively involved in the civil rights movement and in protests against the Vietnam war. With other junior professors, she refused to turn in grades that might jeopardize a student's draft exemption. Returning to Harvard in 1968, she began to question the standard theories of women's moral development, noting that they had been derived solely from studies of men. Her first book, published on May 24, 1982, was In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Challenging long-held assumptions and igniting national debate, Gilligan argued that women make moral choices from within a framework of relationships rather than according to a set of abstract rules. The book continues to be a mainstay of gender-studies reading lists and college courses.

Following the groundbreaking work of In a Different Voice, Gilligan went on to publish several more important books about women and girls. These include Making Connections: The Relational Worlds of Adolescent Girls at Emma Willard School (co-editor, 1990) and Meeting at the Crossroads: Women's Psychology and Girls' Development (1992). Though some of her methods and conclusions are considered controversial, her research had a profound impact on the fields of psychology and gender studies and on the modern women's movement.

More recently, Gilligan has widened her focus to include men and boys. In 2002, publisher Alfred A. Knopf released The Birth of Pleasure. Drawing on Greek myth, Shakespeare, Freud, Toni Morrison, and research with heterosexual couples, adolescent girls, and young boys and their parents, Gilligan presents in this book a new map of love. She argues that people tend to relive tragic stories of loss and betrayal and suggests that we can learn to relive other stories instead. In 2008, she published her first work of fiction, Kyra: A Novel. In 2009, she co-authored The Deepening Darkness: Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy's Future with David A. J. Richards.

During the years of her groundbreaking research and writing, Gilligan has also been an influential teacher. She spent more than 30 years at the Harvard School of Education, where she became the first professor of Gender Studies in 1997. In 2002, she moved to New York University, where she is currently a University Professor affiliated with the law school. She is also a visiting professor with the University of Cambridge, affiliated with the Centre for Gender Studies and with Jesus College. Outside the academy, she sits on the board of the Ms. Foundation for Women and the advisory board of the Holocaust-education organization Facing History and Ourselves.

Gilligan's work has earned her wide recognition. In 1984, Ms. magazine named her the "woman of the year." She has received a Grawemeyer award for contributions to education and a Heinz Award for contributions to understanding the human condition. Time magazine named her one of the 25 most influential Americans.

Sources:Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 512–514;;;


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Harvard University's first professor of gender studies, psychologist Carol Gilligan is the author of In a Different Voice, a landmark study showing how the inclusion of women changes the traditional paradigm of human psychology.

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