I was very sad and surprised to read about the recent death (September 16, 2022) of Kathryn Pauly Morgan, Professor Emerita and long-time member of the Philosophy Department at University of Toronto. Kathryn–Kate–was a huge influence on me during my doctoral years at York University, especially when I took her feminist theory course at U of T. She also had a significant influence on feminist philosophy beyond Toronto and indeed beyond Canada.
Kathryn was one of the first feminist philosophers in Canada to take seriously my work on disability and promote critical philosophical work on disability. She wrote a chapter entitled, “Gender Police” (pp. 298-328), for the first edition of my edited collection, Foucault and the Government of Disability (2005), which also appears in the second, expanded, edition of the collection (2015). My heartfelt condolences are extended to Kate’s family, friends, and colleagues throughout the philosophical community.
The University of Toronto Philosophy Department has posted a memorial page for Kate which includes a photo and brief biography. The contents of the page are copied below.
[My description of photo below: Kathryn is in the foreground of the shot. Her head is tilted slightly to her right. She is wearing a necklace and her signature smile. Her hair is characteristically disheveled. In the background of the shot, people are gathered around a table in a well-lit room.]
It is with deep sadness that the Department of Philosophy announces the passing of our colleague Professor Emerita Kathryn Pauly Morgan on September 16, 2022, after a protracted illness. She will be missed by her many dear friends in the department.
Kathryn grew up in Wisconsin as the first-born child, and sole female sibling of four younger brothers, in a staunch Catholic family. In 1965 she received her B.A. in Philosophy from Alverno College, a social justice–oriented Catholic women’s college. As she put it, she labored as a math specialist until she encountered Thomistic metaphysics, going into intellectual freefall—and “never landed.” She then earned both her M.A. (1969) and her Ph.D. (1973) in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University. Her doctoral dissertation was on Merleau-Ponty and knowledge of the self, supervised by Maurice Mandelbaum and Lawrence Davis. In 1972, during her graduate studies at Johns Hopkins, she also received an M.Ed. in Philosophy of Education from the University of Alberta. She would recall an occasion at Hopkins when Noam Chomsky came to give a talk and proceeded to invite the students, women included, to the all-male Faculty Club for a drink. Entering that forbidden space on Chomsky’s coattails proved one of many moments of feminist awakening for her during those years.
Kathryn began her teaching career with assistant professor appointments at the University of Alberta (1972–73) and Boston University (1973–74) before joining our department in Toronto in 1974. Through the 1970s she taught on a series of one-year sessional appointments, initially in Philosophy alone and then (from 1977 onward) also in the newly established Women’s Studies Program (later to mature into the Women and Gender Studies Institute), of which she was a co-creator. This division of labour between the two units continued for the remainder of her career.
In 1982, Kathryn was appointed to a tenure-stream position in both units. In the following year she earned a promotion to associate professor with tenure, and then to full professor in 1989. From 1990 she was also a member of the Joint Centre for Bioethics, and in 1992 was cross-appointed to the Institute for Medical Sciences. She retired in 2013, having taught at the University of Toronto for nearly forty years. Throughout, she was a proud member of New College.
In both her teaching and her research, Kathryn tackled topics only recently admitted to the domain of Philosophy, including sexuality, reproduction, gender, women and health, body image, cosmetic surgery, and disability.
From an early stage in her career, Kathryn’s feminism also manifested itself in her activism. In the early 1970s she collaborated with other young feminist philosophers, including Allison Jaggar and Marilyn Frye, to help found the Society for Women in Philosophy and the journal Hypatia, as well as the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. Within the Philosophy Department, Kathryn found herself among a tiny minority of female faculty, and she lent strong support to the department’s efforts through the 1990s and beyond to remedy this underrepresentation of women. She fought for and created philosophy of feminism courses and was a talented and popular teacher. In 1980, she received an Ontario Council of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in 1984 Toronto Life magazine named her one of Toronto’s 150 “most influential, powerful, innovative, useful and creative People in the City” for her university teaching. Her friends appreciated her understated yet often pointed sense of humour.
Kathryn will be missed by everyone who had the privilege of being associated with her during her long University of Toronto career, whether as colleague or student. A memorial service will take place later this term, where we will have the opportunity to celebrate her place in our department’s history.
The department extends its condolences to Kathryn’s family, Daniel, Harper, and Corinn.
The original notice can be found on the U of T Department of Philosophy webpage here.