Guest post: tribute to a gender studies godmother

This is a guest post from Gwendolyn Beetham, free-lance researcher and MPhil/PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where her project on gender and international development seeks to bridge her long-time love of activism and academic research.
I want to honor feminist economist and founder of the National Council for Research on Women, Mariam K. Chamberlain.
After receiving her PhD in economics from Harvard (before women were allowed to attend!), and working as one of the few women economists hired by the U.S. government during WWII, she became a program officer at the Ford Foundation.
Arriving at Ford during the beginning of the second wave feminist movement, Mariam was able to direct nearly $5 million to women’s studies programs that were starting up around the country. Between 1971 and 1981, she helped with the creation of the Center for Research on Women at Stanford, the Southwest Institute for Research on Women at the University of Arizona, the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, and the Center for Research on Women at Memphis State University, among others. Mariam also gave a small grant that allowed Catherine Stimpson, who was at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, to found Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, now the leading journal in women’s and gender studies worldwide.
Since her time at Ford, Mariam has remained involved in the feminist movement in various ways, through board memberships, individual giving, and everyday conversations with feminists young and old. I met Mariam at my first job out of graduate school (in Gender Studies!) at the National Council for Research on Women. In her late 80s at the time, Mariam came to the office every day to work as a “Resident Scholar,” and she was a true inspiration to me and to many of the other young women working there. I’m no longer at the Council, and Mariam no longer goes there every day. But I do see Mariam frequently, and when I do, she is always up on the latest book or report put out by one feminist research center or another, and she is still genuinely interested in “21st Century feminism,” encouraging me and other “young folks,” to share ideas and thoughts with her.
I join all of those who, whether consciously or unconsciously, have benefited from Mariam’s wisdom and generosity over the years, in saying: Thank you, Mariam, and a very happy 92nd birthday to you!
(For those interested in finding out more about Mariam, she has a chapter in the book The Politics of Women’s Studies: Testimony from 30 Founding Mothers. Mariam’s chapter is called: “There were godmothers, too.”)

Join the Conversation