Mary Susan McIntosh

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Mary Susan McIntosh
Mary Susan McIntosh (square) (cropped).jpg
McIntosh at Nuffield College in 1974
Born13 March 1936
Died5 January 2013(2013-01-05) (aged 76)
Academic background
Alma mater
Thesis'Marxist and Feminist Analysis of the Family[1] (1991)
Academic work

Mary Susan McIntosh (13 March 1936 – 5 January 2013) was a British sociologist, feminist, political activist and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights in the UK.

Early life and education[edit]

Mary Susan McIntosh was born on 13 March 1936 in Hampstead, North London, to Helena Agnes (Jenny) Britton and her husband Albert William McIntosh, a Jedburgh-born businessman and graduate of the University of Edinburgh,[2] who went on to become the first Professor of Marketing at the London Business School.[3] Both parents were socialists, members of the 1917 Club and later the Communist Party. Her elder brother, Andrew Robert McIntosh, was a Labour politician and minister who was created a life peer, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, in 1982.[4]

McIntosh was educated at High Wycombe School for Girls and St Anne's College, Oxford, where she read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.[5][3] After graduating in 1958, she moved to the United States where she worked as a graduate student and teaching assistant in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley.[6] In 1960, she was deported from the US for speaking out against the House Un-American Activities Committee.[7]

Academic career[edit]

On her return to the UK, McIntosh worked as a researcher for the Home Office from 1961 to 1963 before taking up the post of lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leicester from 1963 to 1968. She later worked at Borough Polytechnic from 1968 to 1972, and as a research fellow studying prostitution at Nuffield College, Oxford, from 1972 to 1975.[3][4] She joined the University of Essex in 1975 as a lecturer in the Department of Sociology. She later became the first female head of the department, and remained at the University until she retired in 1996.[3] Throughout her career she taught a wide range of courses covering criminology, theory, sociology, social policy, the family, gender studies, feminism and Marxism.[8]


Criminology and social constructionism[edit]

McIntosh's earliest research was in the field of criminology and the sociology of homosexuality.[6] In 1968 she published the paper "The Homosexual Role" in the journal Social Problems.[9] Based on a survey of gay men in Leicester and London, this paper argued that rather than being a psychiatric or clinical pathology, homosexuality and same sex relationships were influenced by historical and cultural factors,[6] and that "homosexual" is a social category coercively imposed on some individuals for the purpose of social control.[10] This paper has been described as being crucial in the shaping of social constructionism,[11] a theory later developed by, and widely attributed to, the French philosopher Michel Foucault.[10][12]

McIntosh was critical of the orthodox view of criminology and in 1967 became one of the co-founders of the National Deviancy Symposium following the Third National Conference of Teaching and Research on Criminology at the University of Cambridge. Influenced by sociological approaches and American symbolic interactionism, the Symposium aimed to challenge dominant orthodoxies of crime and deviance and to instigate radical and critical approaches to criminology.[13]

Although McIntosh moved away from the field of academic criminology in the mid-1970s, she was a member of the Policy Advisory Committee to the Criminal Law Revision Committee from 1976 to 1985 which reviewed legislation relating to sexual offences.[3] Through this committee, she was involved in efforts to lower the age of male homosexual consent from 21 to 18.[6]

Gay and women's rights[edit]

In 1970, McIntosh and her partner Elizabeth Wilson[14] were among a small group of lesbians who contributed to founding and shaping the direction of the London Gay Liberation Front at the London School of Economics.[3] McIntosh was influential within the Gay Liberation Front and was one of the small group that authored the Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto[15] in 1971. Along with a group of feminist colleagues McIntosh founded the journal Feminist Review in 1979, and remained an active member of the journal collective until the early 1990s.[16] McIntosh was committed to campaigning for the legal and financial rights of married and co-habiting women, a cause she pursued with the Fifth Demand Group.[17] McIntosh was also an active member of Feminists Against Censorship, a group of sex positive feminists founded in 1989, who argued against censorship of pornography and defended sexual expression and the right to produce sexually explicit material.[18] McIntosh argued against radical separatist feminist critiques of pornography.[8] Throughout her life McIntosh continued to forge links between the gay liberation movement, the women's movement and lesbian movements.[3]


McIntosh espoused a sophisticated Marxist feminism and was a member of the Communist Party from 1974.[19]


Following her retirement from the University of Essex in 1996, McIntosh worked with the Citizens Advice Bureau in Islington, North London.[6] She entered a civil partnership with Angela Stewart-Park in 2005.[3] After suffering a first stroke in 2010, she died at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London on 5 January 2013 after suffering a second stroke. Her remains were cremated at Marylebone cemetery on 18 January.[3] Her archive composed of correspondence, research notes, campaigning materials, journals and ephemera is held by the London School of Economics and Political Science Library.[20][21]

Selected publications[edit]

  • The Organisation of Crime (1975)
  • Deviance and Social Control (1974), co-authored with Paul Rock.
  • Sex Exposed: Sexuality and the Pornography Debate (1992), co-authored with Lynne Segal.
  • The Antisocial Family (1982), co-authored with Michèle Barrett.
  • ‘Dependency Culture? Women, Welfare and Work’, in Radical Philosophy 91, (1998)


  1. ^ Mary McIntosh. Marxist and feminist analysis of the family (Ph.D.). University of Essex Library. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  2. ^ "Obituary: A. W. McIntosh". The Independent. 14 February 1994. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Weeks, J. "McIntosh, Mary Susan". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/106148. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b Travers, Tony (29 August 2010). "Lord McIntosh of Haringey obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  5. ^ "In memoriam: Mary McIntosh" (PDF). St. Anne's College Record, 2012-2013 (102). St. Anne's College, Oxford University. 2012. p. 97. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e Steel, Peta (21 February 2013). "Mary McIntosh: Sociologist, writer and pioneer in the feminist and gay movements". The Independent. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  7. ^ Smart, Carol (March–April 2013). "Mary McIntosh, 1936–2013". Radical Philosophy. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b Plummer, Ken (24 January 2013). "Mary McIntosh obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  9. ^ McIntosh, Mary (1968). "The Homosexual Role" (PDF). Social Problems. 16 (2): 182–192. doi:10.2307/800003. JSTOR 800003. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  10. ^ a b J, Garcia (2009). Philippine Gay Culture : Binabae to Bakla, Silahis to MSM. Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 978-962-209-985-2. OCLC 863308228.
  11. ^ Kenneth, Plummer (2002). Sexualities : Critical Concepts in Sociology. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-21272-4. OCLC 924374547.
  12. ^ Edward, Stein (1992). Forms of Desire: Sexual Orientation and the Social Constructionist Controversy. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-90485-8. OCLC 443580054.
  13. ^ Winlow, Simon. "The National Deviancy Symposia – Criminology". Oxford Bibliographies. doi:10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0182. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  14. ^ Plummer, Ken (2013-01-24). "Mary McIntosh obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  15. ^ "Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto". Internet History Sourcebooks Project. 1971. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  16. ^ Smart, Carol. "Carol Smart: Mary McIntosh, 1936–2013 / Radical Philosophy". Radical Philosophy. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  17. ^ E., David, Miriam (2016-06-15). Reclaiming feminism : challenging everyday misogyny. Bristol, UK. ISBN 9781447328186. OCLC 951505120.
  18. ^ Rodgerson, Gillian; Semple, Linda (Autumn 1990). "Who Watches the Watchwomen?: Feminists against Censorship". Feminist Review (36): 19–24. doi:10.2307/1395106. JSTOR 1395106.
  19. ^ Weeks, J. (2017). "McIntosh, Mary Susan (1936–2013), sociologist, feminist, and campaigner for gay rights". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/106148. Retrieved 2019-03-08. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  20. ^ "MCINTOSH – McIntosh; Mary (1936–2013); sociologist". LSE Library. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Mary McIntosh (1936–2013)". LSE Library. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2021.