"Economics is not a man's field"

In honor of the Economic Growth Center’s 60th anniversary during the 2020/21 academic year, we are telling the stories, not only of well-known faculty who helped build EGC’s name and the field of development economics, but also members of the EGC community whose contributions have been overlooked, including women and international visiting scholars.

Below, you can read the stories of some of these pioneering women, and watch a presentation that Lisa Qian gave on her research.

The women of EGC's founding team

When the Economic Growth Center was founded in 1961, three women were hired to provide research and administrative support. All three had PhDs and happened to be married to Yale economics professors. However, six years later, all were required to leave their jobs amid a flash of concern about nepotism. Despite the setback, the women went on to outstanding careers of their own.

Giving economist Nancy Ruggles her due

Nancy Ruggles, a Harvard PhD in economics, co-authored essentially all of her husband Richard Ruggles’ work during her lifetime, but was never offered a faculty position of her own. This article traces her life and career and honors the contributions she rarely received credit for during her own lifetime.

"Not a man’s field": Mariam Chamberlain & the Yale Economic Growth Center

Mariam Chamberlain was also let go by the EGC, but after her initial setback became an officer at the Ford Foundation, where she became known as the “fairy godmother of women’s studies.” This article highlights Chamberlain’s work to advance the status of women in academia, especially within economics.

Mary Reynolds' pioneering role at Yale EGC – and in literary studies

Mary Reynolds put her love of literature on hold early in life because she felt it was less practical than political science. But after she left the EGC, she devoted herself to the study Irish literature and became a world-renowned James Joyce scholar.

The Young Women Who Didn’t Accept The Usual Answers

The Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP), a vital force for equality in the profession, owes its existence in large part to Yale women. Fifty years ago, Yale graduate students pushed the American Economics Association to recognize that “economics is not a man’s field” and establish the AEA’s first committee to address gender discrimination.

The 1971 AEA was a heady experience for a second-year graduate student.  Watching President J.K. Galbraith herd our resolution to passage was amazing — one year’s worth of activism paid off big. It was also exciting to meet Joan Robinson who spoke to some of us personally.  CSWEP was one outcome of our efforts and several years later, under the leadership of another Yale PhD in economics — Heidi Hartmann —  many of us were involved in launching the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).  And then, a couple of years later, the International Association for Feminist Economics in 1990!!  Also, as a result of IWPR’s report on the status of women in Mississippi, I worked with others in Mississippi to pass legislation establishing the Commission on the Status of Women in Mississippi.  All started in New Haven!

– Marianne Hill M.A. ’74 M. Phil ’74 PhD ’83 reacts to the series

Fran Blau, Marianne Hill and Heidi Hartmann during their time at Yale.
All three women were part of a group of graduate students in New Haven who pushed the American Economics Association to address gender discrimination.

Watch the series author give an overview

Lisa Qian, a 2020 Yale economics graduate, used her internship at EGC to research hidden contributions of early members of the EGC community. At "Women in Economics", a virtual event held by the Department of Economics on May 14, 2020, she described her research on the series of articles:

The EGC is building an archive of interviews, documents, and other historical relevant to the history of the Center – and of development economics. Students interested in accessing the archive can contact us. Our series on the women of EGC has been produced in conjunction with 50WomenAtYale150, a campus-wide celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of coeducation in Yale College and the 150th anniversary of women students at the university. 

Lisa Qian can be reached at lisa.qian (at) aya.yale.edu.

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