Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

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Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
2015-10-06 WDC 0045 Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (22009448265).jpg
in 2015
Yael Tzemach

1973 (age 45–46)
EducationB.A. University of Missouri
M.B.A. Harvard Business School
Parent(s)Rhoda Miriam Spielman Tzemach
FamilyFrances Cohen Spielman (grandmother)

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (born 1973)[1] is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield(2015) and The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (2011), about a young entrepreneur who supported her community under the Taliban. Ashley's War is now in the development process of becoming a film, with Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea producing. Lemmon's TED Talk on Ashley's War has received more than a million views and her TED Talk on the power of women entrepreneurs opened the TEDXWomen conference in 2011. Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy Program, has recently committed to write her next book for Penguin Press on the all-women units who spent the last four years leading the fight against ISIS in Syria and now are part of the world’s most radical experiment in women’s equality — in the world’s least likely place. She currently serves as partner and CMO of the technology firm Shield AI. Along with her national security work, Lemmon has reported and written extensively on topics including child marriage in the United States for PBS NewsHour and on school choice, single moms and the power and importance of girls’ ambition for The Atlantic.

Education and early career[edit]

Born to a Jewish family, the daughter of Rhoda Miriam Spielman Tzemach (died 1987) and granddaughter of Frances Cohen Spielman, an independent film distributor during the 1940s who later founded First Run Features.[2][3][4][5] She was raised in Greenbelt, Maryland.[6] Lemmon earned a BA in journalism summa cum laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. From 1997 to 2004, she worked in the ABC News Political Unit, where she covered presidential politics and public policy issues, and served as producer in the first year of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Lemmon graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS),[7] where she received the 2006 Dean’s Award for her work on women’s entrepreneurship. From 2006 to 2010, she worked in the executive office and in emerging markets at the global investment firm PIMCO. In 2010, she was featured on the cover of the HBS alumni magazine for her work on entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict zones. Lemmon is also a former Fulbright scholar and Robert Bosch Foundation fellow. She serves on the board of Mercy Corps and the International Center for Research on Women.[8] and is a member of the Bretton Woods Committee.[9]

Journalism and media appearances[edit]

Lemmon authored the first Tina Brown Newsweek cover on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's push to put women at the center of U.S. foreign policy. She has written extensively on entrepreneurs in Afghanistan (In the Heart of Afghanistan, Entrepreneurs Innovate for Peace) and the Gulf states (Arab Women’s Tech Advantage), as well as on child marriage and women in the military.

In October 2013, Lemmon broke the first media story about how the military could not pay death benefits to fallen soldiers killed in action during the government shutdown. The story attracted the attention of the Pentagon and the White House, and Fisher House eventually stepped in to fill the funding gap until the shutdown ended.

In addition to her work on foreign policy and the fight to end child marriage, Lemmon has written a number of pieces on women and girls for The Atlantic,[10] including We Need to Tell Girls They Can Have It All (Even If They Can't) which is mentioned in Sheryl Sandberg's 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, as well as on the lessons she learned growing up in a community of single mothers. Lemmon regularly appears on broadcast media to discuss timely foreign policy issues. In February 2014, she discussed the situation in Syria on PBS's Tavis Smiley show, and in April she discussed the Afghan elections. More recently, Lemmon delivered commentary to C-Span,[11] Fox News, NPR, CNN, and PBS[12] on women in the military. Lemmon also appears regularly on MSNBC, CNN, and National Public Radio.

In December 2011, she gave the opening talk at TEDxWomen, which focused on why investing in women can make the difference for the global economy and was named the TED Talk of the Day. Her May 2015 TED Talk on Ashley’s War has received more than one million views.[13]

Lemmon appeared on The Daily Show April 20, 2015, and has appeared regularly on television since then speaking on foreign policy and other topics.


Lemmon has written extensively on the ongoing civil war in Syria and, in particular, the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. Her articles have been published in Foreign Affairs, CNN, and Defense One, among other outlets. In her writing, Lemmon has examined topics such as the international community’s unwillingness to intervene and the Obama Doctrine of equipping local forces as opposed to deploying American troops on the ground.


Lemmon has reported on Afghanistan since 2005, when she made her first trip to the country. Her 2011 book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, is about Kamila Sidiqi, a young entrepreneur who supports her community under the Taliban.[14] Lemmon has written extensively on the country's politics, business environment, midwives and its small but important class of young entrepreneurs for publications including the New York Times, the Financial Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Newsweek Daily Beast.[15]

Entrepreneurship and the global economy[edit]

Lemmon writes regularly on entrepreneurship, especially in fragile states and developing economies. In 2008, she consulted for the World Bank and co-authored a 2008 report on Doing Business in Africa. She is also the author of Entrepreneurship in Postconflict Zones, a CFR working paper that argues for comprehensive, long-term, collaborative approaches to help entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict countries overcome challenges in accessing capital, markets, networks, and business skills training.[16] In December 2013, she published a policy innovation memorandum, titled Banking on Growth, making the case for why the United States should support the creation of an American development bank to invest in small- and medium-businesses in the world's toughest economies.[17]

Child marriage[edit]

Lemmon has written extensively on the impact of child marriage on girls' educational and economic opportunities. In 2014, she authored two CFR working papers on the topic: "High Stakes for Young Lives," coauthored with Lynn ElHarake, surveys strategies to stop child marriage;[18] and "Fragile States, Fragile Lives" examines the correlation between child marriage and state fragility.[19] She has reported on child marriage for a variety of news outlets, including Ms. Magazine, Medium, and NPR. In September 2016, Lemmon reported on the issue of child and forced marriage in the United States for the PBSNewsHour in a two-part series.[20]

Women in the U.S. military[edit]

Lemmon's 2015 book, Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield, tells the story of CST-2, a unit of women handpicked from across the U.S. army to serve on combat operations alongside Army Rangers and Navy SEALs in Afghanistan, and of the remarkable hero at its heart: First Lieutenant Ashley White. The book was released in 2016, and is being made into a film by Reese Witherspoon. Lemmon gave a TED talk on the subject at TEDWomen 2015.[21]

Lemmon has written on the integration of women into combat roles, following the progress of the first co-ed class in Army Ranger School for the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and Defense One. She has reported on the challenges faced by female veterans for PBS NewsHour, CNN and Daily Beast.


  • The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe. HarperCollins. 15 March 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-173237-9.
  • Gayle Tzemach Lemmon; Lynn S. ElHarake (1 July 2014). Child Brides, Global Consequences: How to End Child Marriage. Council on Foreign Relations. ISBN 978-0-87609-591-1.
  • Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield. HarperCollins. 21 April 2015. ISBN 978-0-06233-383-4.[22]

Op-eds and articles[edit]


  1. ^ Salisbury, Vanita (March 25, 2011). "Gayle Tzemach Lemmon Doesn't Notice Whether Vegan Food Is Warm or Cold". New York. Age: 37
  2. ^ Washington Post: "Frances Cohen Spielman, General Sales Manager, 85" December 12, 1999
  3. ^ New York Magazine: "Gayle Tzemach Lemmon Doesn’t Notice Whether Vegan Food Is Warm or Cold" by Vanita Salisbury March 25, 2011
  4. ^ Village Voice: "Embarrassment of Riches" by Dennis Lim May 8, 2001
  5. ^ The Independent: "Fran Spielman" interviewed by Eric Breitbart and Morris Sapadin vol 4 no I
  6. ^ "Washington vs. D.C.: How the Shutdown Pits the Government Against Its City". The Atlantic. October 1, 2013. I sat next to a woman from Bethesda, a more posh slice of the Washington suburbs than my hometown of Greenbelt. P.G. County
  7. ^ "WVU to welcome TEDxWomen speaker and bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon at Festival of Ideas". WVU Today. March 9, 2012. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  8. ^ Mercy Corps
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Gayle Tzemach Lemmon". The Atlantic. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "In Kabul, A 'Dressmaker' Sows Entrepreneurial Seeds". NPR. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  15. ^ "Gayle Tzemach Lemmon". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Child and Forced Marriage in America,
  21. ^ Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (May 2015). "Meet the women fighting on the front lines of an American war" (Video). TEDWomen 2015.
  22. ^ Ricks, Thomas. "'Ashley's War': A look at the use of Cultural Support Teams in Afghanistan". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 29 April 2015.

External links[edit]