May 25, 2008
Carol Gilligan, Mount Holyoke is pleased to honor you for your groundbreaking work in reshaping our understanding of gender and human development.
Psychologist, ethicist, feminist, and writer, your intellect is as supple as it is challenging. Without a doubt, your greatest professional achievement has been the creation of a new paradigm for the psychology of gender. As a professor of psychology at Harvard, you challenged longstanding assumptions about the universality of moral development. While your theory was the culmination of years of scholarship, its publication in 1982 in the now-classic In a Different Voice was nothing short of revolutionary. Women and men, you argued, tend to have different motivations, inclinations, and values; accordingly, human development and behavior should be understood in that context. We are all too aware that society's devaluation of what is considered "female" has, directly or indirectly, been at the root of women's disenfranchisement for much of human history. Your reconception of human psychology has provided equal footing for men and women.
The reverberations from In a Different Voice continue to this day in psychology, education, gender studies, and in our very culture--so much so that your ideas hardly sound radical anymore.
Carol Gilligan, you have always had your own voice, and you have used it to great effect. As a teacher and scholar at Harvard, Cambridge, and now New York University, you have provided insight not just into gender differences, but race, class, religion, age, education, and law. As a writer you have exhibited astonishing versatility, as exemplified in your 1992 book The Birth of Pleasure, an exploration of human love in which you show yourself as much poet as psychologist, equal parts memoirist and cultural critic. More recently, you have ventured into fiction, adapting The Scarlet Letter for the stage, and, just this year, your first novel, Kyra, was published.
Mount Holyoke, an institution by, of, and for women, has always been a place that cares what women had to say. We thank you for making woman's voice her own. We are honored today to use that voice to confer upon you the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.