Mary McIntosh, 1936-2013

February 14, 2013

One of the UK’s best-known feminist academics has died. Mary McIntosh was born in north London on 13 March 1936 and educated at High Wycombe School. After a first degree in philosophy, politics and economics at St Anne’s College, Oxford (1955-58), she became a graduate student in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley until she was deported from the US in 1960 for involvement in protests against McCarthyism.

After a short period at the Home Office Research Unit (1961-63), Dr McIntosh began her academic career as assistant lecturer (1963-65) and then lecturer in sociology (1965-68) at the University of Leicester. This was followed by promotion to senior lecturer in sociology at what is now London South Bank University (1968-72) and a research fellowship at Nuffield College, Oxford (1972-75) before she joined the University of Essex. She was to remain there until retirement in 1996, as lecturer (1975-80) and senior lecturer in sociology (1980-96), including several years as the first female head of the sociology department (1986-89).

A committed feminist and socialist activist, Dr McIntosh helped to set up the Leicester Campaign for Racial Equality and was deeply committed to both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Gay Liberation Front. From 1967 to 1975, she was a leading figure in the National Deviancy Conference - along with Laurie Taylor, Jock Young and Stanley Cohen, who also died last month. The group attempted to forge a radical alternative to traditional criminology. Her book The Organisation of Crime (1975) was one of its central texts.

Despite this major contribution to criminology, Dr McIntosh became increasingly interested in issues of sexuality and gender and was a founding member of the editorial collective responsible for the Feminist Review. She wrote a highly influential paper in the journal Social Problems arguing that homosexuality was a phenomenon that took very different forms, and had very different meanings, in different historical settings. She went on to co-author a celebrated critique of The Anti-social Family (1982) and to edit Sex Exposed: Sexuality and the Pornography Debate (1992).

Ken Plummer, former professor of sociology at Essex, describes Dr McIntosh as “a much-loved teacher” and a pioneer in several fields: “An influential second-wave feminist, a founder member of the modern lesbian and gay movement in the UK and, quietly, one of the most influential of sociologists of the 1960s through to the 1990s.”

Dr McIntosh died of a stroke on 5 January and is survived by her partner Angela Stewart-Park and her son from a previous relationship, Duncan Barrett.

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