Mariam Chamberlain received her PhD in Economics from Harvard University in 1950. She held teaching positions at Connecticut College, at the School of General Studies at Columbia University, and at Hunter College, but spent most of her career at the Ford Foundation.
In 1956, Dr. Chamberlain became a program officer with the Ford Foundation, where she served until 1981. As a program officer in Economic Development and Administration and then in Education and Public Policy, Dr. Chamberlain was largely responsible for facilitating—and spawning—the academic women’s research and women’s studies movement. Through a series of small strategic grants to changemakers within institutions, Dr. Chamberlain made possible funds to support the first centers for research on women, including the Feminist Press at CUNY and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University.
Dr. Chamberlain was a philanthropic visionary in other positions as well. After leaving Ford, she continued to mobilize her connection to Foundation funding to support women in economics, to ensure the inclusion of works by and about women of color in college curricula, and to internationalize feminism. In 1981 she founded the National Council for Research on Women in order to provide further support to the movement she helped create. Dr. Chamberlain additionally strengthened an arm of that movement by writing a grant to the Ford Foundation financing the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP). This program has served as a research pool and networking organization for women economists to strengthen their careers and magnify the relevance of their work.
From 1956-60 she was an assistant program officer in the Economic Development and Administration Program, and from 1967-81, she served as a Program Officer in the Education and Public Policy Program. In the intervening years, she served as Executive Secretary of the Economic Growth Center at Yale University. In 1982, she was appointed Resident Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, where she headed a Task Force Study of Women in Higher Education. The Task Force Report, entitled Women in Academe: Progress and Prospects, was published in 1988.
Chamberlain 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, and the Network of East-West Women. She was the recipient of two honorary degrees: Doctor of Humanities from the University of Arizona and Doctor of Humane Letters from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.