Mariam K. Chamberlain, PhD

Founding President
National Council for Research on Women


Dr. Mariam K. Chamberlain, Founding President of Re:Gender (formerly National Council for Research on Women), was a true visionary. Her contributions to the feminist and social justice movements can be seen and will be felt across the country and the world by generations of women.
Mariam was a key force in shaping and launching the women’s studies and academic research movements in the US and worldwide through her work as a Program Officer at the Ford Foundation in the 1960s and 70s. She provided the strategic vision as well as funding and support to launch university and college based centers focused on women’s issues as well as free standing policy institutes. Mariam helped build a network of dedicated and accomplished leaders committed to advancing women, especially in academia, and helped develop institutional support for their work. 

Over the years, Mariam expanded the scope of women’s studies to include international women and a global perspective. Many of the centers that make up the current network of the Council—as well as other organizations like the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession of the American Economic Association (CSWEP)—owe their current strength at least in part to Mariam’s work.   
In 1981, Mariam founded the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW), now Re:Gender, to provide further support to the movement she helped create. Under her leadership, NCRW increased and promoted research on women, built alliances for synergistic work, and advanced research into policy applications. Her vision has evolved into a dynamic network of thought leaders and change agents working to ensure more fully informed debates, policies and practices, thereby contributing to a more inclusive and equitable world for women and girls, their families and their communities.

Mariam received an A.B. in Economics from Radcliffe College and her PhD in Economics from Harvard University in 1950.  
She is the recipient of two honorary degrees: Doctor of Humanities from the University of Arizona and Doctor of Humane Letters from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  She was the editor of the ground-breaking books Women in Academe: Progress and Prospects and Women of Color and the Multicultural Curriculum, as well as the author of numerous articles on women’s roles in higher education and other sectors.
She served on the boards of a number of women’s organizations including The Feminist Press, the Women’s Interart Center, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the Network of East-West Women, the International Association of Feminist Economists, and the Tribune Center, as well as the advisory council of Gender Action’s Advisory Council.  
Mariam remained active until the end of her life and was at the center of a large national and international network of 
scholars, advocates, and activists, who looked to her as a leader and a role model. She took special interest in new 
generations of women and the directions in which they were taking feminist thought and action. While the NCRW has been her home for the past three decades, her community was much wider. Mariam was a remarkable woman who certainly left her mark on the world and touched many lives.
We are truly grateful to have known her and learned from her. Thank you, Mariam.
We invite you to share your thoughts or memories about Mariam with your name in the comments section below. Please note that your comments must be approved before they are posted, so you will not see them immediately.



In Appreciation

I am grateful for Mariam's visionary leadership, her interest in and willingness to encourage and support an assistant professor at a regional university - me - to launch and build a center for research on women at the University of Memphis. Our grant was the first Ford Foundation grant received by that university and many program officers would not have taken that risk. But Mariam saw the importance of a focus on women in the South and on looking at issues of race, class and gender both nationally and in the region. Her encouragement and steadfast support became the basis for a lot of path breaking work and contributed directly and indirectly to the careers of a number of women of color scholars who are active and contributing today. Mariam was an inspiration. Though her manner was quiet and unassuming, she was a powerhouse and I learned a lot about the importance of institution building as a way of solidifying a field. That she continued her active engagement in these issues and ideas late into her life was a lesson in aging with grace, dignity and purpose. May she rest in peace.
Bonnie Thornton Dill

With thanks..

I had the honor of serving on the board with Mariam and what a woman! Sending my condolences to her close friends and family at this time of loss. She truly modeled what it means to make a difference and will be surely missed. With so much respect. Jacki Zehner

Thanks Mariam

I met Mariam Chamberlain when I was a Fellow and later Assistant Director of the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute at Radcliffe. Mariam was a Radcliffe alumna and also a member of the Bunting Institute Board. I saw her regularly during my four years at Radcliffe (1979-1983). I recall many conversations with her about what it was like to attend Radcliffe and later being in the Economics Deparetment at Harvard. She recalled the male classmates who went on to become prominent economists and Nobel Laureates. Her passion for women in the academy and society always impressed me. I recalled when she established NCRW and it is really because of Mariam and many others who have served on the NCRW Board that I agreed to become a part of this organization. I know the history of NCRW and the incredible women who greatly impressed me as a young scholar. They cared about women across racial and income levels and I know many women who worked with Mariam. I am honored to have known Mariam. The good she did for humanity and the world will live on.

Linda M. Perkins, Associate University Professor and Director of Applied Women's Studies and Africana Studies Certificate Program


May Mariam Chamberlain rest in peace knowing that her contributions, sacrifices and successes have fueled generations of feminists and social justice leaders. May she rest knowing that she has done more than her part by leaving this world tad more just and communities a bit stronger.
We are eternally grateful for her contributions to the movement.

In Solidarity.

Women's Economic Round Table (WERT)

Mariam was among our founders in 1978 and continued to advise the organization as recently as two weeks ago. She was instrumental in planning many of our programs, suugestung program ideas and participants for them. We are profoundly indebted to her for her professional guidance and friendship during the last.35 years. Her caring generosity, subtly manner, ever cheerful dispositio, and erudition will be missed.

Amelia Augustus, Co-Founder, Women's Economic Round Table

From Myra Dinnerstein

Our experience at the University of Arizona was similar to Bonnie's. Mariam took a chance on a relatively unknown women's studies and new research institute. (Thanks to Florence How for her introduction to Mariam.)
Because of Mariam's insistence that Ford would continue support only if the university demonstrated its commitment, SIROW received a separate budget line and state support for the first time. We all know how crucial Mariam was to the expansion of women's studies throughout the United States. She was also a personal supporter and cheer leader to many of us who were involved in establishing women's studies in places not normally supportive of feminist studies. Mariam was unique--unassuming yet persistent in what she saw as the right direction for Ford to take. It boggles the mind to think of how many programs and how many people Mariam supported throughout her career. I will be grateful to her forever. Myra Dinnerstein

Mariam Chamberlain's Support for Collaborative Feminist Research

Let Mariam's support and encouragement for collaborative and complementary feminist research serve as a model for all of us to continue. I initially met Mariam when I was working in the U.S. Department of Education and we shared our knowledge about funding for advancing sex equity in education on various conference panels starting in the late 1970's. She continued providing leadership and innovative supports for collaborative research via the Women's Research Centers she established while at the Ford Foundation and then again with the support for NCRW.

When I visited China on a women's studies tour after the 1995 Beijing Women's conference, Mariam was the source for information on Women's Research Centers in China--many of which were formed in connection with this 4th World Conference on Women!

In addition to her vision and leadership on support for research on advancing gender equality in all disciplines, Mariam was a down-to-earth helpful friend and role model for us all! She will be missed greatly, but I hope what she taught us about the value of working together will last forever.

Sue Klein, Education Equity Director, Feminist Majority Foundation

An Unparallelled Contribution

I knew Mariam both through NCRW and as a research "subject" as I investigated the Ford Foundation for my book, The Other Feminists. No one did more than she to birth feminist studies throughout the country and to convert the Ford Foundation into an ally of women's movements. We must keep her memory and inspiration alive. Susan Hartmann

An Inspiration

I still remember meeting Mariam at my first NCRW Conference almost a decade ago. I was quite gobsmacked to be introduced this woman who has been such an inspiration to so many of us. (I fear I was quite tongue tied and probably a dull conversationalist.) With every student we teach and every girl and woman we reach, we continue her work. Thank you, Mariam.
--Lisa McClain

With Gratitude

I first met Mariam through the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, and her support and advice was instrumental to the work we were able to do. That work continues and will extend well into the future. Mariam has been part of the lives of so many scholars, activists, and institutions. May her legacy long endure. Laura Lein

On the loss of Mariam Chamberlain

For forty two years, exactly half of my lifetime, and almost half of hers, we were friends. At the beginning, we looked the same age, though we were eleven years apart. Beginning in 1980, on behalf of women’s studies, we traveled together to London, Paris, and Rome, and then to international conferences in Copenhagen, Nairobi, and China; to others in Dublin, Costa Rica, Barbados, Oslo, Oxford, Paris again, and Beijing. Today, a sunny April 3, 2013, I sit a kind of “shiva” for her, though both of us practiced no religion.

I think about her wrapped body in the hospital morgue, as I sit near some of her things the hospital attendants insisted I take away with me: a small bag containing the few pieces of clothing she had worn to the hospital along with the chest brace she had worn for the past seven years; a plastic bag stuffed with her black down jacket and the hat I had knitted for her; and her small black handbag containing her glasses, her magnifying glasses, her address book, the ten dollar watch I gave her as a joke, and some other things I can’t remember. I am still wearing the huge ring she gave me the night before the surgery, joking that, like her, I must not take it off, though is it large and heavy. And I remember that she began to wear this ring, bought in an airport, perhaps as a bittersweet reminder of all the traveling she used to enjoy.

Can one sit “shiva” at the computer or on the telephone?

Dear Mariam, your small family are planning to bury your body in a ceremony that will place you in the Bronx, where your most beloved friends will wish you well, and then you will once again be celebrated in my apartment. All of this, dear Mariam, within a week of your death.

I am pleased only about one small thing: I took a photo of you (talking on the phone to Liz) right after you had eaten what none of knew was to be your last dinner. There in bed, in room 303 at Mount Sinai, you ate—with some relish—chicken, mashed potatoes, ice cream, and coffee. (Yes, we had had hospital pizza for lunch, an addiction we shared.) And I thought then also of the lunch we had shared at Parnell’s on Easter Sunday: You wanted nothing but eggs benedict, appropriate for Easter. As usual, you asked why there were so few people in the restaurant. But not as usual, you drank an early glass of white wine and with it cleared your plate. And you said you had enjoyed all of it.

When we come to celebrate Mariam, our feminist hero, we will not talk about food, I expect. And perhaps we will not even talk of friendship. But you would not be surprised to know that the first thing I have written about you dead is really about how much you enjoyed eating. We had thousands of meals together, dear Mariam, one aspect of a long and durable feminist relationship.
Florence Howe

In sorrow and with deepest appreciation

Mariam's vision, her understanding of the importance of scholarly, innovative research with women's differing lives and perspectives shaping the central questions was, and continues to be, critical to the success of feminist work. Her unwavering focus and constant support inspired and sustained all of us at women's research centers and institutes. Her vision and tenacity created the National Council for Research on Women. I join the many who will miss her as we strive to follow the model she embodied of life long commitment to feminism and social justice. She never gave up or gave in!

Susan McGee Bailey

with heartfelt regrets

Mariam Chamberlain was a huge help and inspiration on women's projects undertaken when i was director of the Women's Studies program and CEnter for the Study of Women and Society at the Graduate Center of NY. Her kindness , unstinting support and stimulating input will be remembered by all who fortuntate enough to work with her. Joyce Gelb

thanks for a life well lived

Mariam was a constant source of good ideas, kindness and continuing support for the Graduate Center CUNY Center for the Study of WOmen and Society and Women's Studies Program. Her unstinting efforts will be remembered by all who worked with her. Joyce Gelb

Memories of Mariam

When I first met Mariam Chamberlain in 1997, she was the serene center of a turbulent office and the focus of a constant stream of former and current colleagues, petitioners, well wishers, friends, and complete strangers who sought out this generous, savvy, and well-connected woman. Over the years, I learned to treasure her serenity but more importantly understand her power, unsentimental intelligence, political wiliness, and her openness to the new that gave her such status. She became a refuge for me from the fray of our work, an ally in managing the too little money we had to meet our ambitions, and a wonderful source of support and guidance for our staff members. Her memory was prodigious; she knew everyone; she was strategic and forward thinking; and she was the best editor and proofreader we had.

And of course, there were those fancy lunches and cocktail hours she hosted for all of us, especially the younger staff and the interns, at Ciprianis, the Stock Exchange, the Cos Club, and the Harvard Club. Oh those cosmos.

I was lucky in the last years of her life to enjoy leisurely weekly lunches with Mariam – she with a pinot grigio our waitress usually had waiting for her even before she had wrangled her wheel chair into place – and long meandering discussions about subjects big and small. We compared our experiences of the late sixties and early seventies when Mariam was making history and I was a student and young teacher: the anti war demonstrations that I joined but that disrupted Mariam’s work for Ford, for example, and the women’s consciousness -raising movement that seemed too fuzzy for Mariam’s intellectual rigor. We figured we were in France the same year –me during my junior year in college, she transforming professional management education on a global scale. And she wondered at my daughter’s experiences coming of age post 9/11, so different from either of ours, and the women’s studies classes that were part of her education but not ours. Joined on a regular basis by some of our younger colleagues from the Council, we extended our conversations to the future of feminism and the Council, to the collapse of the kind of career path either of us could have followed in our times – and what to do about all that. She had a way of posing a question: Am I really a feminist these days? So why aren’t YOU taking that on? The conversation kept going.

With Mariam’s death, my life is diminished – I will miss her profoundly – but through her work, she has made all our lives, both women’s and men’s, more whole. Thank you, Mariam.
Liz Horton, Former Deputy Director, National Council for Research on Women

Remembering Mariam

I was extremely lucky to receive Mariam’s sustained advice about founding and growing Gender Action. In 2000 Irene Tinker introduced me to Mariam as an indispensable advisor. Upon founding Gender Action in 2002, Mariam joined the Advisory Council. Already in her 80s, Mariam felt she could not add another Board to her responsibilities but she gladly advised me whenever I contacted her. In the early years I would meet Mariam at NCRW. Later we met at her home, usually for lunch, sometimes Chinese take-out which I would bring. Mariam encouraged me to call her anytime into the late hours. Her wisdom sustained me during several formative years. I am enormously grateful to Mariam.

Elaine Zuckerman

Friend and Mentor

I am so fortunate to have started my work at the Council while Mariam was still coming to the office everyday. We had many morning chats - she was always much more up on the news than I - and she always ended our chats by encouraging me to pursue my passions. Though we were more than 60 years apart, she was one of the first close friends I had in New York City. After my time at the Council, she remained a dinner companion (as she was for so many) and mentor as I navigated and built a career in reproductive justice. When I introduced her to my partner, we discovered that Mariam did the intelligence work that led his grandfather's tour in WWII!! As so many have said, she did so, so much, and was so humble - too humble - about her impact on the world. I will miss the pinot grigio chats at Parnell's, and so much more.

Sunny Daly

From Kristen Timothy

I admired Mariam for her graciousness and dedication - to the cause of women's. advancement and to her many friends and colleagues young and old. She seemed to thrive on knowing what others thought and did, always humble about her own achievements. I too was fortunate to be at NCRW when Mariam was still an integral player. Mariam will always be someone I shall remember for her kindness and inspiration. Go well and be at peace. Kristen

Mentor, friend, and godmother

Mentor, friend, and godmother

I met Mariam when I was 25 and she was 85. I had joined the Council having just finished my masters at the London School of Economics, an accomplishment that immediately endeared me to Mariam. It took years of reminding for me to convince her that I wasn’t an economist, but had a degree in Gender Studies; that I was, in essence, not a potential protégée, but a product of a revolution she helped start long ago.

I was buzzing from a year of studying the UN world conferences on women and the evolution of the women’s studies movement. I couldn’t believe that Mariam had first-hand experience of these conferences and, more, had given the money that started women’s studies programs around the world! But Mariam being Mariam was ever-gracious about her role, preferring instead to talk about what my generation was doing about gender equality, glazing over the fact that she had been absolutely instrumental in paving the way for us to come to feminism through gender studies, as so many (including myself) do today. She showed her interest not only by being attentive and seeking out conversations with the “young folks” in the office, but she was also a continuous ally when we pressed for younger women’s issues to be taken seriously within the feminist movement. And of course, she brought us along to galas and fancy dinners that none of us could afford on our salaries, so that we could have the experience of meeting feminists and women leaders from many sectors.

Even after Mariam and I both left the Council, we remained in close touch, enjoying lunches at Parnell’s when I was in town, and conversations over the phone when I wasn’t. I’ve spent many Thanksgivings, Easters and birthdays with Mariam as well, a motley crew of us rowdying up the Cos Club. Mariam attended my graduation party when I completed my PhD – travelling all the way to Brooklyn for the second time in her life! Through it all, Mariam remained genuinely concerned about what was going on with younger generations of women and men (Mariam did not want us to forget the men!), a fact that never ceased to impress me. But those who know her well will not be in the least bit surprised. Mariam had a limitless and authentic curiosity that was to be admired – and, for me at least, often made me forget about our 60-year age gap.

Mariam’s piece in the book The Politics of Women’s Studies: Testimony from 30 Founding Mothers, is titled: “There were godmothers, too.” I can think of no better way to characterize her role in my life, and in the lives of the many feminists that continue to be shaped by the foundations she helped put in place – whether or not they are aware of it. Although I knew Mariam for only 10 years, much less than some, she affected me profoundly; my life will simply not be the same without her.

Thank you Mariam, for all that you did, for our lives and for feminism. May we all live lives with the same curiosity, the same continuous thirst for knowledge that you did.

Gwendolyn Beetham

Remembering Mariam

Mariam Chamberlain walked into the offices of the Congresswomen's Caucus in 1978. We were located in a plush, hidden space in the Rayburn House Office Building that the male leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives considered necessary for their few female colleagues who might succumb to "the vapors." We were applying to the Ford Foundation for a $50k grant that seemed like the end of the rainbow.

Mariam pushed us through several major hoops -- changing the name of our non-profit arm to the Women's Research & Education Institute (WREI); electing an independent board; moving off Capitol Hill to rent offices. This was a painful transition away from control by the 17 women in the House and Muriel Humphrey in the Senate. But not only did we secure that amazing $50k award, Mariam had guided our path to become the model for all future caucus/research arms.

She accomplished this delicate mission with quiet humor, firm standards, and sincere sympathy for Betty Dooley and me, who were caught in the process. She later guided our path to other Ford Foundation grants and remainded a cheerful, ever-helpful, and loyal friend for the next 35 year. How lucky we were to have had her on our side as she underwrote so many of the key women's research organizations still going strong and doing incredible work today. An enviable legacy!

Susan Scanlan
President, WREI
Chair, Nationa Council of Women's Organizations

CSWEP's Founding

“The stage was set at the Annual Business meeting of the American Economic Association (AEA) December 29, 1970 in Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan. A resolution was offered to have a session at the 1971 meetings on the role of women in economic life. And the rest is history. According to an interoffice memo (Chamberlain 1972) of the Ford Foundation from Mariam K. Chamberlain to Marshall A. Robinson, dated January 11, 1972, there were lively gatherings at the AEA annual meetings held December 27-29, 1971 in New Orleans. First Barbara Bergmann chaired the session titled "What Economic Equality for Women Requires." The overflow audience spilled into the corridors and was very sympathetic. Later that same day another gathering took place to form the Caucus of Women Economists and to draft a resolution to present at the AEA's business meeting for action. … Item II of that resolution gave birth to the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. President Galbraith (AER 1972) appointed Carolyn Shaw Bell and eight other members: Walter Adams, Francine Blau, Martha Blaxall, Kenneth Boulding, Collette Moser, Barbara Reagan, Myra Strober, and Phyllis Wallace. Mariam Chamberlain then wrote a grant to the Ford Foundation which helped finance CSWEP through its formative years.” Is there any better way to remember her, but to carry on?” Robin Bartlett

Mariam's international focus

Mariam’s education and early employment focused on international economic development. When she joined the Ford Foundation, she was asked to become the program officer for women’s issues -- because she was female. I first met Mariam when I was seeking funds for a seminar on women and development to be held just before the 1975 UN Women’s Conference in Mexico City. Although she could not fund international projects, Mariam suggested women in other foundations who might be interested. Later, when a group of us involved in women in development projects in Washington decided to form a professional association, we held a brainstorming meeting at Wingspread. I suggested we invite Mariam and Florence Howe for their experience in organizations and the journals these groups published. The meeting stimulated Mariam and Florence to organize an international women’s studies conference during the UN Women’s Conference in Copenhagen in 1980. At last, Mariam could expand her program to include research and education projects to the rest of the world.

Mariam observed how often her name was misspelled and explained to me her Armenian ancestry and how her parents had fled to Cairo in 1915. Turkey’s effort at genocide was little known at the time; I was certainly not taught about it in the US or England. Clearly her family history encouraged her international interests which were then conflated with her growing expertize in women’s studies in the US. Mariam was a unique inspiration to all of us in the global women’s movement.

Irene Tinker

Mariam K. Chamberlain

I was once lucky enough to be seated on a plane next to Mariam early in her remarkable career of establishing feminist scholarship. I was too awed, trying to ask questions and carry on a meaningful conversation. Without her, there would have been no Women's Studies. Now, I am still at a loss for words. I cannot add further to others' eloquent tributes. Thank you, Mariam.
Joan Rothschild

Mariam's Legacy

Mariam’s legacy goes well beyond her life’s work in developing the field of women’s studies; it is that she exemplified leadership. With one hand she blazed a pathway through seemingly insurmountable obstacles for women, and with her free hand she purposefully swung a lantern behind for generations of the rest of us to follow.  Being inspired by Mariam’s tenacity, humility and humor is the gift she left for all of us to share.  

-- Áine Duggan, President of NCRW


Mariam was a remarkable woman who always probed and asked searching questions about a wide array of subjects. Her grasp of history and economics and her concern for others, especially the younger generations, was remarkable. She was a friend and mentor whose interest in the Council never waned. I will miss her greatly.

-- Lucie Lapovsky, PhD, Chair of the NCRW Board of Directors

With gratitude

I knew Miriam through her participation in the International Association for Feminist Economics. When that was just a fledgling group, the support, organizational savvy, connections, and intelligence that Miriam brought with her were badly needed and were essential to the success of many projects. Her personal warmth and cheer were also a delight. She will be missed.

Julie Nelson, Chair, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston

Mariam Liked My Carrot Cake

I'll always be grateful to Mariam for taking a chance on someone just starting out (as she often did, watching her over the years and reading other memories submitted for this website memorial): Mariam facilitated my first ever foundation grant, matching a small Prudential challenge I had squeezed out of their corporate office when I was heading up NJ ACENIP* in the late '70s. I'd met Mariam in the spring of 1978 at one of the first national ACENIP Forums and went in to see her at Ford on the recommendation of a colleague from Princeton where I was running the Continuing Ed program. I fortuitously brought with me a smart young (male) sociologist who liked carrot cake. As did Mariam, who considered herself a carrot cake aficionado. As we described our research project, I happened to mention that our research team ALL liked carrot cake (I made a decent version that regularly served our ACENIP research team for several years). So over the years I always teased Mariam that the reason she gave us that first Ford grant was my carrot cake.

Because of that Ford grant, I was included along with ACENIP in the group of 28 Ford recipients that met at Seaman's Institute in lower Manhattan in October 1981, the meeting that led to the founding of NCRW. Sara Engelhardt and I organized a celebration for Mariam immediately following that meeting (Sara, then at Carnegie Corporation, was one of the few other funders besides Mariam in those days who consistently could be counted on to fund women’s research and women’s organizations). That celebration launched the Council and produced, among other notable memories, a conga line through the second floor of the Harvard Club. Mariam was near the head of the line. Or at least that's how I choose to remember her.

She said she had always wanted to be President of something, so that's what she became, NCRW's first president. Marjorie Lightman, who'd organized the Seaman's Institute meeting, became NCRW Treasurer, and I became NCRW's Secretary. Working with Mariam was a joy: she was consistently levelheaded, quietly funny, unassuming, collaborative, and full of good ideas. It was one of the most interesting and exhilarating times of my life, those early years working with Mariam to build NCRW. And I'm thrilled she was able to stay so close to NCRW through my tenure as Executive Director as well as through my successors Linda Basch and Aine Duggan’s leadership--all testimony to the solid foundation Mariam built and helped sustain with such humor and compassion and caring attention to so many.

Mary Ellen Capek

* American Council on Education’s National Identification Program for the Advancement of Women in Higher Education Administration...we quickly abbreviated to ACENIP

Mariam Chamberlain and you, Mary Ellen

I composed a blog and wanted to share it as my tribute to Mariam but, evidently, it wouldn't post so I thought, well, why not "reply" to Mary Ellen as it was through her that I came to know and appreciate the warmth, nobility, profound intelligence and commitment of this compelling woman... Here is the blog:

Linda Stamato
Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
Rutgers University
April 18, 2013

Mariam Chamberlain

I composed a blog in tribute to Mariam and wanted to share it with her many friends and colleagues:

Linda Stamato, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy; Rutgers University

Mariam, you made SUCH a big difference

I first met Mariam in 1973, when I was an assistant professor of economics at Stanford's Business School, a male bastion for both faculty and students. I was trying to start a center for research on women at Stanford and went to Ford for money. Eventually we received money (Wellesley and Stanford were the first two centers to obtain grants from Ford), but we received so much more than money. Mariam gave us confidence, and intellectual guidance and she taught us, in her words, "how to play ball with the big guys." She taught me how to negotiate with Stanford's provost, how to put together a governance structure that would be amenable to both Stanford and the Ford Foundation, and how to limit our intellectual agenda so that it would be manageable. Stanford's Center for Research on Women would never have "happened" if not for Mariam and her willingness to be generous with her wisdom. Her wisdom was quiet; she never needed to raise her voice. From the start, we all recognized that when she spoke she was giving us a truly marvelous gift.

My path and Mariam's crossed again when she founded the National Council for Research on Women and I served as NCRW's Board chair. From the time it was a glimmer in Mariam's eye, NCRW benefited from Mariam's vision and her network, and her intellectual acuity.

Mariam also supported the Committee on the Status of Women in Economics (CSWEP), of which I was a member, and some years later, she was supportive of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE), in which I served as President. For many years, Mariam trekked loyally to CSWEP and IAFFE meetings, and I never failed to learn from her observations and insights.

Mariam, we will miss you greatly. You truly were a fairy god-mother--to me personally, to the organizations which we created, and to the women's movement as a whole. May you rest in peace.

Myra H. Strober

Mariam, my Good Friend and Mentor

When I think of Mariam, what comes to mind is her smile and welcoming face, her constant readiness to engage in conversation, her willingness to grapple with tough and complicated issues, her pragmatism, and her always thoughtful analysis.

I had not known Mariam until I came to NCRW some 16 years ago, but through my own activities in the women’s movement, Mariam was a legend to me. In fact, an incentive to join NCRW was the chance to lead an organization begun by Mariam and a team she assembled, and that was largely guided by her vision.

Mariam was superb to work with – we quickly became good friends and in a graceful, unobtrusive way, Mariam became my trusted advisor and mentor. She introduced me to almost everyone she knew, took me to meetings, and generously shared her experiences and shrewd assessments. It was a true privilege to hear Mariam’s stories of her work with the OSS during WWII, of what it was like to be at the hub of war-time Washington, of how the work of Keynes had excited her imagination and how she entered economics to solve the problems of the Depression, and of how she was able to encourage the halls of power she traversed to become sponsors of fledgling women’s organizations. And much of this was over lunches and glasses of wine at restaurants from Soho to the UN -- Mariam loved being up on the latest New York.

Mariam and I shared a vision for the role NCRW could play in the world and the kinds of issues we needed to address, and she was a strong support for our work. But there were two areas about which she was passionate: our study MisInformation on Women and Girls, which pinpointed much that had disappeared and was missing from government reports and policies on women and girls. To her this was essential to monitor. And she was passionate about NCRW’s engagement with international issues. She collected names and contacts of centers focused on women and girls at every international meeting she attended to create a compendium of international centers, and she believed strongly that NCRW needed to be part of this global network. Mariam was also at one with the staff and part of our team – she came to the Council daily until her fall confined her to a wheelchair – and rolled up her sleeves and pitched in.

To me, much of Mariam’s life reads like a social history of 20th century feminism and activism, a history that she helped shape. She told me about the exclusions she experienced in not being able to enter the Yale faculty club in her early days of working there because she was a woman, but as we know, in her quiet yet determined way she played a key role in changing those rules and norms. Her vision, advice and the funding she was able to access from the Ford Foundation, enabled the creation and success of women’s research and policy centers that dramatically changed the landscape of opportunity for women and girls.

Mariam was a good listener -- and when she could, she acted. So many of us have been at the receiving end of Mariam’s largesse. The steady stream of visitors to NCRW, where Mariam held court, to meet with her and pay homage, but also seek her advice – in many ways, a who’s who of the 20th century women’s movement – is a testimony to Mariam’s solid achievements and impact.

Mariam had a big tent. It included her many comrades in action through the years – she served on more boards than I could count because of her loyalty to the organizations she helped develop and believed in – and we all knew she was there for us. Her tent also included her family, and very important, it included the many young women who came to work at NCRW. Mariam deeply believed that young people are the world’s future, loved their company and willingly shared her mischievous side with them, regaling in the intimacy they showed her.

It’s still difficult to think of a world without a living, breathing Mariam Chamberlain. But she has left so much for us, as these testimonies reveal. She was a quiet force, a role model of strength, generosity, and clarity, and a generous friend. I miss Mariam mightily, but in many ways, she walks with me.
Linda Basch, President Emerita, National Council for Research on Women

We Miss You Mariam

On the day I met Mariam 25 years ago, the day of my NCRW job interview, I rode to the 6th floor of Roosevelt House in FDR's rickety elevator and entered a large, bright office with a handsome wooden desk, every inch covered by papers. Behind that grand desk, sitting in the sunlight at the front Sara Delano’s double house facing 65th Street, sat a petite woman with a big, warm smile. For six years of my working life, I walked through Mariam’s office every day to get to my own, happily stopping to discuss the day’s events as just absorbed from her beloved New York Times.

Thus was Mariam literally there at the beginning of my professional feminist life.
And I was there to witness her efforts to help hundreds of people who landed on the shores of that big wooden desk—seeking advice, connections, insight, strategy, and sometimes just the exquisite experience of being listened to FULLY by Mariam.

Here is another Mariam Moment. I was walking down the hall at Hunter College during the 4th International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women in 1990, thrilled to see hundreds of thinking women from all over the world--in jeans, in saris, in headwraps—when I spied two little women walking and talking at great speed. I accelerated to catch up with Mariam, but drew back when I saw she was deep in conversation with Betty Friedan. Mariam saw me, motioned me over, and said "Betty, this is my COLLEAGUE, Debra Schultz," as if it would be the highlight of Betty Friedan's day to meet this earnest young feminist. I can still hear Mariam’s sweet, gravelly voice and remember how stunned I was that someone of her stature would go out of her way to make me FEEL like her colleague.

Of the many great things I could say about Mariam, I would like to highlight her radical egalitarianism. She met each person on their own terms and did not pre-judge. However, once Mariam held you in her regard, you were simply going to achieve your goals, whatever they were—and with a high level of excellence.

Because of Mariam, I learned that as a woman, one simply obtained a PhD. I had no role models for this and she demystified it for me. If getting a doctorate in economics at Harvard as the girl child of Armenian immigrants during World War II was no big deal, what did I have to complain about?

Mariam loved being an economist. During our last visit in March, she reminisced about her time as a Radcliffe undergraduate, when her mentor, future Nobel Prize-winning economist Wassily Leontief, would read the students chapter drafts sent over by John Maynard Keynes! For a moment, I felt her transform into that excited young woman intellectual and it was thrilling.

Averse to the touchy-feeling side of feminism, she nevertheless drew circles of adoring young women around her, by keeping track of our every personal and professional move. I’m proud to have followed in her footsteps to become a feminist in philanthropy—I never knew such a thing existed before Mariam and the Ford stories—and to work with women internationally, which Mariam did decades before it was trendy.

Mariam never seemed to inhabit a particular age, and she also had a slightly naughty twinkle in her eye. Very little got past that eye, even if she pretended not to notice slights or injustices that came her way. Her satisfaction came from supporting, connecting, and catalyzing. When I had the great opportunity to help start the first international women’s program at the Soros Foundation, Mariam told me ruefully that as a program officer, "you give away your best ideas and let others implement them." She modeled a generous way of empowering others, not aggrandizing herself.

I believe I FULLY understand the enormous personal and historical significance of Mariam K. Chamberlain’s generosity and vision.

I’m glad I pushed past both of our natural reticence during our last visit on Sutton Place to say, “Mariam, I love you.”

Mariam, we miss you already.

--Debra L. Schultz, Former Assistant Director, National Council for Research on Women

Miss You, Mariam. I'm Forever Grateful.

The New York Times said you played "a pivotal yet little-known role in establishing women’s studies in the American college curriculum, and financing early research about the inequities women faced in the workplace and other realms of society."

Your colleagues called you fairy godmother.

You were a Harvard economist, a Ford Foundation Program Officer, a visionary, a doer, a mover, a shaker.

I met you in 1991, after college, when I worked at the Council--my first "grown up" job--before going to graduate school. And I worked with you when I returned to the Council years later, in 2004.

(Didn't every woman who came into contact with you then go get her own PhD?)

Like so many of us, I knew you as the petite, understated woman behind the oversized wooden desk, who taught, by example, that it was not just possible but wholly appropriate for women to realize dreams.

I have so many memories of your quiet brilliance. Your office was a treasure trove of books. And stories. You always knew where to send us to find out more.

And I remember once you introduced me to a young woman who had started a young feminist network in DC. It was contagious. I started one in NYC. You were immensely supportive. You were a part of the first intergenerational feminist anything I ever organized.

I will be forever grateful.

Because you not only seed a movement.

You seeded me.

-Deborah Siegel, former Research Associate, and later Director of Special Projects and Member Center Communications, National Council for Research on Women

Here's to You, Mariam

I knew and admired Mariam Chamberlain for 50 years, going back to our Ford Foundation years. She was a respected economist and social scientist, dedicated to empowering others and to encouraging quality action and research on many fronts. Just as important, she was a committed feminist, something we had in common at Ford and after. From then on through her years at the National Council for Research on Women, she opened one door of opportunity after another to women at all stages of development, never claiming any limelight for herself.

At Ford, I took an active leadership role in advancing women in the Foundation’s internal policies and external grantmaking. One day, outraged by Harvard President Nathan Pusey’s remark (published in the NYTImes) that if admissions policies continued to change as they were at the time, our colleges and universities would be filled with “the lame, the halt, the blind, and the female”), I decided to send a memo to McGeorge Bundy about women’s issues and the need for Ford to provide leadership. What a nervy thing for a young administrative assistant upstart to do! Shaking in my shoes, he called me into a one-on-one meeting to discuss the matter. This in turn resulted in formation of a special committee to examine the issues and make recommendations. Mariam and I both served on it, and we had many chats about the agenda. I was allowed to select half of its membership (I chose mostly high level male executives), and Art Trottenberg, who chaired it, selected the other half. We had the good fortune of working for three remarkable men, already dedicated to equality of opportunity—Marshall Robinson, Champ Ward, and Mac Bundy. As a young professional, I brought more conviction to the cause than wisdom, but Mariam and those three gentlemen contributed plenty of that. As Ford moved vigorously into women’s issues, Mariam took charge of the new program. It became a model of national leadership, and over the years spun off into other forms of leadership.

Mariam was a profoundly humble and unpretentious woman, one of the kindest and most gentle souls I’ve ever known. After Ford, we went our separate ways, she a long-established professional, me at the beginning of my journey. We had mutual admiration and respect, so we stayed in touch. We followed each other’s activities, met occasionally for lunch, chatted by phone, and swapped information and materials on occasion about our professional deeds and interests. She was tireless in her advocacy and research work, always a deeply inspiring example of decency, hard work, and thoughtful deliberation.

To know Mariam was to be enriched and uplifted. I was touched by her warmth and humanity, and felt honored to watch her grow in stature and age with characteristic grace and graciousness. What a remarkable, classy woman! How much better off the world is for having had the gift of this extraordinary woman for so long, for her life’s work but also because of her amazing character. I can hear Mariam's quiet firm voice and see the glance of her intelligent eyes as I put these words to paper. The image makes me smile. I’m lucky to have had her in my life, and will miss her.

Gail Spangenberg
President, Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy