Carol Gilligan

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Carol Gilligan
Carol Gilligan and James Gilligan in 2011
Carol Gilligan and James Gilligan in 2011
Born (1936-11-28) November 28, 1936 (age 83)
SubjectPsychology, ethics, feminism
Notable worksIn a Different Voice
SpouseJames Gilligan

Carol Gilligan (/ˈɡɪlɪɡən/; born November 28, 1936) is an American feminist, ethicist and psychologist best known for her work on ethical community and ethical relationships and certain subject-object problems in ethics.

Gilligan is a professor of Humanities and Applied Psychology at New York University and was a visiting professor at the Centre for Gender Studies and Jesus College at the University of Cambridge until 2009. She is best known for her 1982 work, In a Different Voice. Her work has been credited with inspiring the passage of the 1993 Gender Equity in Education Act.

In 1996, Time magazine listed her among America's 25 most influential people.[1] She is the founder of ethics of care.

Background and career[edit]

Carol Gilligan was raised in a Jewish family in New York City.[2] She was the only child of a lawyer, William Friedman, and nursery school teacher, Mabel Caminez. She attended Walden School, a progressive private school on Manhattan's Upper West Side, played piano and pursued a career in modern dance during her graduate studies. Gilligan received her B.A. summa cum laude in English literature from Swarthmore College, a master's degree in clinical psychology from Radcliffe College, and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University[3] where she wrote her Doctoral Dissertation "Responses to Temptation: An Analysis of Motives".[1]

She began her teaching career as a lecturer at the University of Chicago from 1965 to 1966, teaching the Introduction to Modern Social Science. She then became a lecturer at Harvard University in 1967 lecturing on General Education. After becoming an assistant professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1971, she became increasingly distinguished and received tenure with the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1988 as a full professor. Gilligan taught for two years at the University of Cambridge (from 1992 to 1994) as the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions and as a visiting professorial fellow in the Social and Political Sciences. In 1997, she became Patricia Albjerg Graham Chair in Gender Studies at Harvard.[3] From 1998 until 2001 she was a Visiting Meyer Professor and later visiting professor at New York University Law School.

Gilligan eventually left Harvard in 2002 to join New York University as a full professor with the School of Education and the School of Law. She was also a visiting professor at the University of Cambridge in the Centre for Gender Studies[4] from 2003 until 2009. In 2015, Gilligan taught for a semester at New York University in Abu Dhabi.

Best known for her work, In a Different Voice (1982), Gilligan studied women's psychology and girls’ development and co-authored or edited a number of texts with her students.[4] She contributed the piece "Sisterhood Is Pleasurable: A Quiet Revolution in Psychology" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[5] She published her first novel, Kyra, in 2008.[6][7]

She is married to James Gilligan, M.D., who directed the Center for the Study of Violence at Harvard Medical School.[8]


Gilligan is known for her work with Lawrence Kohlberg on his stages of moral development as well as her criticism of his approach to the stages. Despite being Kohlberg's research assistant, Gilligan argued that Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development were male-oriented, which limited their ability to be generalized to females. In an article where Gilligan revisits In a Different Voice, she comments "I entered the conversation about women and morality in the late 1960s, a time in the U.S. that witnessed a convergence of the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the movement to stop atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, the movement to end poverty, the women’s movement, and the gay liberation movement. I was teaching at Harvard with Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst working in the Freudian tradition, and Lawrence Kohlberg, a cognitive-developmental psychologist working in the tradition of Piaget. To all these men—Freud and Erikson, Piaget and Kohlberg—women appeared deficient in development".[9] Gilligan thus proposed her theory of stages of female moral development based on her idea of moral voices. According to Gilligan, there are two kinds of moral voices: that of the masculine and the feminine. The masculine voice is "logical and individualistic",[10] meaning that the emphasis in moral decisions is protecting the rights of people and making sure justice is upheld. The feminine voice places more emphasis on protecting interpersonal relationships and taking care of other people. This voice focuses on the "care perspective,"[11] which means focusing on the needs of the individual in order to make an ethical decision. For Gilligan, Kohlberg's stages of moral development were emphasizing the masculine voice, making it difficult to accurately gauge a woman's moral development because of this incongruity in voices. Gilligan argues that androgyny, or integrating the masculine and the feminine, is the best way to realize one's potential as a human. Gilligan's stages of female moral development has been shown in business settings as an explanation to the different ways men and women handle ethical issues in the workplace as well.[12]

In a Different Voice[edit]

Gilligan published what is considered one of her most influential works in 1982, after entering the dialogue regarding women and morality in the 1960s. Before she conducted her research Gilligan knew that "psychologists had assumed a culture in which men were the measure of humanity, and autonomy and rationality ('masculine' qualities) were the markers of maturity. It was a culture that counted on women not speaking for themselves”.[9] To explore this theory further, Gilligan conducted her research using an interview method. Her questions centered around the self, morality and how women handle issues of conflict and choice. Her three studies that she references throughout the work were the college student study (moral development), the abortion decision study (experience of conflict), and the rights and responsibilities study (concepts of self and morality across men and women of different ages).[13] From these studies Gilligan formed the framework for her ethics of care. Furthermore, Gilligan introduces In a Different Voice by explaining that "the different voice I describe is characterized not by gender but theme. Its association with women is an empirical observation, and is primarily through women’s voices that I trace its development. But this association is not absolute and the contrasts between male and female voices are presented here to highlight a distinction between two modes of thought and to focus on a problem of interpretation rather than to represent a generalization about either sex."[13] Regardless of the findings Gilligan made from her study, her ethics of care and the fuel for her study have called future researchers to broaden the scope of studies and consider intersectionality more as well.

Ethics of care[edit]

In her book In a Different Voice Gilligan presented her ethics of care theory as an alternative to Lawrence Kohlberg's hierarchal and principled approach to ethics. In contrast to Kohlberg, who claimed that girls, and therefore also women, did not in general develop their moral abilities to the highest levels, Gilligan argued that women approached ethical problems differently from men.[14] According to Gilligan, women's moral viewpoints center around the understanding of responsibilities and relationship whilst men's moral viewpoints instead center around the understanding of moral fairness, which is tied to rights and rules. Women also tend to see moral issues as a problem of conflicting responsibilities rather than competing rights. So whilst women perceive the situation as more contextual and narrative, men define the situation as more formal and abstract. In her 2011 article about In a Different Voice, Gilligan says she has made "a distinction [she] ha[s] come to see as pivotal to understanding care ethics. Within a patriarchal framework, care is a feminine ethic. Within a democratic framework, care is a human ethic. A feminist ethic of care is a different voice within a patriarchal culture because it joins reason with emotion, mind with body, self with relationships, men with women, resisting the divisions that maintain a patriarchal order”.[9] She calls the different moral approaches "ethics of care" and "ethics of justice" and recognizes them as fundamentally incompatible.[15]


The Boston Globe stated that "In a Different Voice has been the subject of so many rebuttals that it is no longer taken seriously as an academic work", and that Gilligan's findings, that differences in moral reasoning had anything to do with gender, could not be replicated."[1]

Unsurprised by such criticism, Gilligan responded she based her conclusions on interviews, not statistical surveys, and never meant for her ideas to be set in stone: “I thought of the book as the opening of a conversation,” she said, “certainly not the close of one.”[16]

Her ethics of care have been criticized by other feminist scholars such as Jaclyn Friedman, who argues that the different ethics of women and men are in fact a result of societal expectations. Since we expect women and men to think differently about ethics women and men as a result do present differences. The different modes of reasoning are therefore a socially constructed dichotomy simply reproducing itself through our expectations of how women and men act.[15]

Academic honors[17][edit]

  • A.B. with highest honors in English literature, Swarthmore College, 1958.
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 1958.
  • Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1958–59.
  • Ann Radcliffe Honorary Fellow, 1958–59.
  • A.M. with distinction in clinical psychology, Radcliffe College (now part of Harvard), 1961.
  • social psychology, Harvard University, 1964.
  • Citation Classic: "In a Different Voice: Women's Conceptions of Self and of Morality" (1977).
  • Mellon Fellowship, Wellesley Center for Research on Women, 1978–79.
  • Distinguished Publication Award, Association of Women in Psychology, 1980.
  • Faculty Fellowship, Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, 1981–83.
  • Lecturer, Christian Gauss Seminars in Criticism, Princeton University, 1982.
  • Outstanding Book Award, American Educational Research Association, 1983.
  • Educator's (Book) Award, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, 1983.
  • Career Contribution Award, Massachusetts Psychological Association, 1984.
  • Invited address, Division of Personality and Social Psychology, American Psychological Association, 1984.
  • Ittleson Award, American Orthopsychiatric Association, 1985.
  • Blanche, Edith and Irving Laurie New Jersey Chair in Women's Studies, Rutgers University, 1986–1987.
  • Invited address, Society for Research in Child Development, 1987.
  • Henry A. Murray Lecture in Personality, Michigan State University, 1988.
  • Heinz Werner Lecture, Clark University, 1988.
  • Senior research fellow, Spencer Foundation, 1989–93.
  • Tanner Lecture on Human Values, University of Michigan, 1990.
  • Invited address, Division of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, American Psychological Association, 1991.
  • Grawemeyer Award in Education, University of Louisville, 1992.
  • Notable Book of the Year, The New York Times, 1992.
  • Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, 1992–93.
  • Teacher's College Medal, 1998
  • Heinz Award, 1998
  • 2003 Achievement Award, Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2003
  • Visiting Bye Fellow, Newnham College, University of Cambridge, 2003–2005
  • Featured Scholar, Clio's Psyche, 2004
  • International Writer of the Year nominee, 2004, Cambridge Centre for Biographical Studies
  • Fellow Commonership, Jesus College, University of Cambridge, 2004
  • British Academy Visiting Professor, University of Cambridge, 2005
  • Medallion of the University, SUNY at Albany, 2006
  • Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society In Education, Laureate Medal, 2006
  • Eugene Lang Award, Swarthmore College, 2013

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Gilligan, Carol (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674445444.
  • Gilligan, Carol (1989). Mapping the moral domain: a contribution of women's thinking to psychological theory and education. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674548312.
  • Gilligan, Carol; et al. (1990). Making connections: the relational worlds of adolescent girls at Emma Willard School. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674540415.
  • Gilligan, Carol; Brown, Lyn M. (1992). Meeting at the crossroads: women's psychology and girls' development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674564640.
  • Gilligan, Carol; McLean Taylor, Jill; Sullivan, Amy M. (1997). Between voice and silence: women and girls, race and relationships. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674068797.
  • Gilligan, Carol (2002). The birth of pleasure. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780679440376.
  • Gilligan, Carol (2008). Kyra: a novel. New York: Random House. ISBN 9781400061754.
  • Gilligan, Carol; Richards, David A.J. (2009). The deepening darkness: patriarchy, resistance, & democracy's future. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521898980.
  • Gilligan, Carol; Gilligan, John (2011). The Scarlet Letter. Prime Stage Theatre.
  • Gilligan, Carol; Snider, Naomi. (2018). Why does patriarchy persist? Cambridge: Polity Press. ISBN 9781509529131.
  • Gilligan, Carol; Richards, David A.J. (2018) Darkness now visible: patriarchy's resurgence and feminist resistance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108470650.
From the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Co-written with her son Jonathan and produced by Prime Stage Theatre in November 2011.
Educational fact sheet about the play.

Book chapters[edit]

  • Gilligan, Carol (1997), "Woman's place in man's life cycle", in Nicholson, Linda (ed.), The second wave: a reader in feminist theory, New York: Routledge, pp. 198–215, ISBN 9780415917612.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)


  1. ^ a b Graham, Ruth (June 24, 2012). "Carol Gilligan's Persistent 'Voice'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  2. ^ Medea, Andrea (March 1, 2009). "Carol Gilligan". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Carol Gilligan (1936-present)". Webster University. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Gilligan to Be MHC Commencement Speaker". News & Events. Mount Holyoke College. April 18, 2008. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  5. ^ "Sisterhood is forever". University Library Catalog. DePaul University. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  6. ^ Hanson, Liane (January 13, 2008). "Gilligan Turns to Fictional Love Story in 'Kyra'". Weekend Edition. National Public Radio (7 minutes and 10 second excerpt of the radio broadcast.). Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  7. ^ Thomas, Louisa (February 3, 2008). "Kyra". Book Review. The New York Times. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  8. ^ Harvard Office of News and Public Affairs (1997-09-25). "Gilligan a pioneer in gender studies". Retrieved 2012-07-22.
  9. ^ a b c d Gilligan, Carol. 2011. "Looking Back to Look Forward: Revisiting In a Different Voice." Classics@, Issue 9, "Defense Mechanisms,"
  10. ^ Muuss, R. E. (Spring 1988). "Carol Giligan's theory of sex differences in the development of moral reasoning during adolescence". Adolescence. 23 (89): 229–243. ISSN 0001-8449. PMID 3381683.
  11. ^ Kyte, Richard (1996). "Moral reasoning as perception: A reading of Carol Gilligan". Hypatia. 11 (3): 97–113. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.1996.tb01017.x.
  12. ^ White, Thomas (1992). "Business, ethics, and Carol Gilligan's "Two Voices"". Business Ethics Quarterly. 2 (1): 51–61. doi:10.2307/3857223. JSTOR 3857223.
  13. ^ a b Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003.
  14. ^ McHugh, Nancy Arden (2007). Feminist Philosophies A-Z. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 39. ISBN 978-0-7486-2217-7.
  15. ^ a b Kymlicka, Will (2002). Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198782742. LCCN 2001053100.
  16. ^ "The Book that Listened to Girls". The Attic. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Carol_Gilligan_CV_updated, August. 2019". Google Docs. Retrieved 2019-10-10.

External links[edit]