Peggy McIntosh is an American feminist, anti-racism activist, author, scholar and researcher. She is the founder of the National SEED Project and is a Senior Research Associate at Wellesley's College for Women.
Peggy has published numerous works evaluating privilege in everyday life. In 1989, she published White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work on Women’s Studies and the shorter form, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, that put race, sexual orientation, gender and privilege into the American perspective. She based these writings on unearned privilege she had encountered throughout her life. Her writings encourage the readers to recognize their unearned advantages or disadvantages they have encountered as well.
Early Life, Education and Teaching Career
Peggy McIntosh was born as Margaret Vance Means in Brooklyn, New York and was raised in New Jersey. She attended schools in both Summit and Ridgewood, New Jersey before attending George School in Newton, Pennsylvania.
She attended both Radcliffe College and University College, London, where she received her degree in English. From there she went on to receive her PhD from Harvard University, where she wrote her dissertation on Emily Dickinson’s Poem's About Pain.
While she was in university, Peggy had multiple teaching jobs. She was a teacher at Brearley School, an all-girls school in New York City, where she taught an "all-female"curriculum. She has also held positions at University of Durham in England, Trinity College in Washington D.C. and the University of Denver, where she was tenured and practiced “radical teaching methods in English, American Studies, and Women’s Studies.”
SEED Project and Other Institutes
McIntosh founded the National Seed Project in 1987 as an experiment. She believed that educators could be "leaders of their own professional development." SEED stands for Seeking Educational Equality and Diversity, it has become one of the largest peer-led professional development programs in the nation. SEED has year round, monthly seminars where educators share past and present experiences in schooling and life. These meetings are used for individuals to share their stories about oppression they have faced based on their race, gender, class and sexual orientation. They then develop curriculum that is globally conscious and gender fair.
SEED has more than 2,400 K-12 teacher members from 42 U.S. states and have 15 other countries that are SEED seminar facilities.
Peggy was also involved in the founding of The Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute along with Dr. Nancy Hill. This institute provided support to ten women each year, for 35 years, who were working on projects in the arts or other fields by providing them "money and a room of one's own" who were not being supported by any other institution.
Since 1979, McIntosh has worked at the Wellesley Centers for Women, where she is currently a Senior Research Associate. She directs Gender, Race, and Inclusive Education Project.
White Privilege and Male Privilege
Peggy McIntosh helped to provoke the conversation about white privilege with her writings. The most notable one being her 1988 essay, White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies. In this essay she states what her understanding of "white privilege" is, an unearned advantage due to race, which can be seen on an individualistic and systematic level. She discovered her own privilege after analyzing the privileges that men have within our society. She compares white privilege to that of male privilege.
In this essay, she accounted for 46, everyday advantages that she had, such as "I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group." She states that when talking about ones white privilege makes them "newly accountable."
The Original 1989 essay was shortened down by Roberta Spivek for Peace and Freedom, into a three-page piece, that people now know as White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. This shorted version has been integrated into educational material from K-12 to university level studies. It is cited as an influence for social justice writers of future generations.
Her other articles include; White Privilege, An Account to Spend; White Privilege: Color and Crime; and White People Facing Race: Uncovering the Myths that Keep Racism in Place.
She has also appeared in the documentary "Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible" and has presented or co-presented over at 600 public and private organizations and institutions.