[Note: comments to this post have been closed while I'm traveling.]
I read a little of her work for a feminist theory class in grad school. It didn't really speak to me, and I thought there was plenty there to criticize. But her influence on gender studies was undeniable, and truly transformative. Her works were also those rare books written by an academic that went out and transformed the lives -- yes, I do mean lives -- of women and men outside the university. She was an unapologetic radical feminist who put women first and never backed down from a position in order to avoid alienating men or women less radical than she (and face it, that's most people), a woman who once described herself as a "positively revolting hag" -- and meant it in a good way.
And that brings us to the other thing about Daly: the language. Mary Daly took the words of the English language, moved them around, combined them creatively, capitalized whatever she felt deserved to be capitalized, redefined terms with wild abandon, and just expected her readers to keep up. Reading her prose was a bit like being caught in an avalanche, and I was known more than once to roll my eyes at what seemed like lexical excess. But there was also something delightful and playful about all of it. Read one of her paragraphs, perhaps something from her middle or later work: Gyn/Ecology, or the revised preface ("reintroduction") to the second edition of Beyond God the Father. Don't worry about understanding it as you go along; just let the words bubble off your tongue. It's wild and delirious, like something by Ornette Coleman. It's also the language of someone who knows that seriousness of purpose shouldn't -- in fact, must not -- stop you from taking real joy in what you're doing.
That is what I'd like to take away with me.