Healy-Clancy's research and writing examine gender, race, and the politics of culture in South Africa, drawing upon diverse archival, print, and oral historical sources. Her first book, A World of Their Own: A History of South African Women's Education (Reconsiderations in Southern African History Series, University of Virginia Press), examines southern Africa's oldest secondary school for black girls, the Inanda Seminary outside of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, from its 1869 founding through the democratic transition in 1994. Previous studies of black South African educational history have focused overwhelmingly on student protest politics, often focusing on young men's leadership of school boycotts during segregation and apartheid. Through Inanda's story, the book provides the first history of South African education focused on young women's experiences, demonstrating how generations used their training as teachers and health workers to challenge their society's narrow expectations of black women. With anthropologist Jason Hickel, she is also the co-editor of Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press). Both of these books came out in 2014; a South African edition of A World of Their Own came out in 2013, also with the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
Healy-Clancy's current research moves beyond educational history, to examine black and white women's anti-racist activism in twentieth-century South Africa. Her work focuses on a persistent question: What has women's combination of marginality from the leadership of male-dominated political organizations, and centrality to everyday sociocultural life, enabled them to do as political actors in South Africa? Articles from this line of research are forthcoming in 2017 in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and in The ANC and the Liberation Struggle in South Africa: Essential Writings, ed. Thula Simpson (Routledge).