Peggy McIntosh

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Peggy McIntosh
Born Margaret McIntosh
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Associate Director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women
Founder and Co-Director of the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity)
Director of the Gender, Race, and Inclusive Education Project
Co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Women's Institute
Consulting Editor to Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women
Employer Wellesley College Center for Research on Women
Known for Writing on white and male privileges

Peggy McIntosh is an American feminist, anti-racism activist, the associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women,[1] and a speaker and the founder and co-director of the National S.E.E.D. Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity).[2]

McIntosh is most famous for authoring the 1988 opinion article "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies".[3] The opinion piece seeks to put in context the ways in which socially, legally, and economically constructions of race benefit white people in their daily lives.[4] In "White Privilege and Male Privilege", McIntosh gestures toward systemic oppression, her text focuses overwhelmingly on conceptualizing privilege as individual and equates individual white people coming to understanding of their white privilege with overcoming the systems of racial oppression.[4] Also, McIntosh assumes the notion that lessening privilege for white people would also, in a direct way, lessen oppression for people of color.[4]

Education and Teaching Career[edit]

McIntosh was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey.[5] After studying English at Radcliffe College and at University College London, she became a teacher at an all-girls school in New York City, where she taught an “all-male curriculum.”[5] McIntosh went on to receive her Ph.D. at Harvard University, where she focused on Emily Dickinson’s poetry on pain.[5] She has held teaching positions at Trinity Washington University, University of Durham, and the University of Denver, where she instituted “radical teaching methods in English, American Studies, and Women’s studies.”. McIntosh cofounded The Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute, which funded and housed ten women each year who were not affiliated with other institutions yet were completing projects in the arts and other fields.[5]

McIntosh has worked for what is now the Wellesley Centers for women since 1979, and in 1986, she founded SEED, which is the “nation’s largest peer-led leadership development project that delivers peer-led seminars given to create equitable and aware education on a number of subject matters.[6] McIntosh currently serves as the Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director at the Wellesley Centers for Women.[7] McIntosh directs the Gender, Race, and Inclusive Education Project, which provides workshops on privilege systems, feelings of fraudulence, and diversifying workplaces, curricula, and teaching methods.[3]

McIntosh was also featured in "Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible",[8] a documentary film designed to "reveal what is often required to move through the stages of denial, defensiveness, guilt, fear, and shame into making a solid commitment to ending racial injustice."[9]

Invisible Knapsack[edit]

In her essay, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies", McIntosh describes her understanding of "white privilege".[10] After studying and investigating "unacknowledged male privilege", the unearned advantages that men have in society as men, McIntosh concludes that hierarchies in society are inter-related, and that there likely existed a “white privilege” analogous to male privilege.[10]:1 In developing this conception, McIntosh described white privilege as "an invisible weightless knapsack of assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks".[10]:2 Observing that her male colleagues did not recognize their supposed privilege as men, McIntosh resolved to consciously try to uncover the contents of her own "invisible knapsack", her own unacknowledged privileges as a white person.[10]:4 In her essay, McIntosh lists fifty of these tacit advantages, drawing from everyday experiences, such as "I can go shopping most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed".[10]:5 This advantage was not earned by McIntosh, is not present for non-white minorities, and would go unrecognized by McIntosh if she had not engaged in her introspective endeavor. After this analysis of white privilege, McIntosh goes on to note that such examples of unacknowledged, unearned privilege can be observed in "advantage systems" in society, including heterosexual privilege, age advantage, and ethnic advantage.[10]:15–16

Peggy McIntosh has stated "Whiteness is just one of the many variables that one can look at, starting with, for example, one's place in the birth order, or your body type, or your athletic abilities, or your relationship to written and spoken words, or your parents' places of origin, or your parents' relationship to education and to English, or what is projected onto your religious or ethnic background."[11]

This essay, or portions of it, is sometimes called Unpacking the invisible knapsack.[12][13] It has been cited as an influence by many later generations of social justice commentators.[14][15]

SEED Project[edit]

McIntosh founded the "Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity" (SEED) Project in 1987. Today, SEED has become the largest peer-led project in the US. McIntosh launched this project with support of her theory of striving for educational equity. McIntosh believed that teachers were capable of being the leaders of their own developments and that this development would best come from those who worked within the schools. The project's very first meeting in 1987 involved SEED Leaders who came together to discuss how the school curriculum directly related to life. Today, monthly peer-led seminars are designed through a round table discussion in order to improve inclusiveness. Teachers, parents, faculty, and community members today are able to share with one another their views and experiences on gender, race, oppression, and other system privileges and how to implement gender fair and globally informed education for students. Since the first SEED Project meeting in 1987, almost 2000 k-16 teachers, 40 states, and 14 countries have adopted and facilitated the SEED Project helping over millions of students. The SEED Project is funded by private donors, local school support, 15 foundation grants, and W. K. Kellogg Foundation. In 2011 McIntosh stepped down as the project's co-director.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ SEED Project website, at Wellesley Centers for Women.
  3. ^ a b "Lecturer & Writer on White Privilege, Male Privilege and Equitable Curricula". Speak Out Now. designaction. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Casey, Zachary (September 2013). "McIntosh as Synecdoche: How Teacher Education's Focus on White Privilege Undermines Antiracism". 83 (Teacher Education, Critical Pedagogy, Critical Whiteness Studies, and White Privilege): 413. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d McIntosh, Peggy. “Founder.” National SEED Project. National SEED Project, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, 2013–2014. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. “WCW Researchers.” Wellesley College. Trustees of Wellesley College. Web. 6 Oct 2014.
  6. ^ “About Us.” National SEED Project. National SEED Project, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, 2013–2014. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
  7. ^ WCW Researchers.” Wellesley College. Trustees of Wellesley College. Web. 6 Oct 2014.
  8. ^ "Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible". WorldCat. OCLC Online Computer Library Center. Retrieved 19 November 2016. 
  9. ^ "Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible". World Trust. World Trust Educational Services. Retrieved 19 November 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f McIntosh, Peggy. "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies". Wellesley: Center for Research on Women," 1988. Working paper 189. Print.
  11. ^ Rothman, Joshua (13 May 2014). "The Origins of "Privilege"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  12. ^ McIntosh, Peggy (1990). "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (PDF). Independent School. 49 (2). pp. 31–36. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  13. ^ Solomona, R. P., Portelli, J. P., Daniel, B. J., & Campbell, A. (2005). The discourse of denial: How white teacher candidates construct race, racism and ‘white privilege’. Race ethnicity and education, 8(2), 147–169.
  14. ^ Crosley-Corcoran, Gina (May 8, 2014). "Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  15. ^ Weinburg, Cory (May 28, 2014). "The White Privilege Moment". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  16. ^

External links[edit]