Mirra Komarovsky

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Mirra Komarovsky
Mirra Komarovsky.TIF
Mirra Komarovsky
Born (1905-02-05)February 5, 1905
Died January 30, 1999(1999-01-30) (aged 93)
Nationality Russian

Barnard College B.A.

Columbia University M.A., Ph.D.
Occupation Professor of Sociology at Barnard College (1938-1970); Chair of the Women's Studies Program at Barnard College; President of the American Sociological Association (1973-1974)
Religion Judaism

Mirra Komarovsky (February 5, 1905 – January 30, 1999), was a Russian-born American pioneer in the sociology of gender.[1]

Coming from a privileged Jewish family in Tsarist Russia, her family fled the country after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Komarovsky’s parents were Zionists and landowning Jews in Akkerman, Russia, until tsarist police drove them from their home. They moved initially to Baku (in what is now Azerbaijan) and then to Wichita, Kansas after the Bolshevik Revolution, when Mirra was 16. In Baku, Komarovsky lived a solidly middle-class lifestyle; she was homeschooled by private tutors and learned Russian, English, Hebrew, and French, as well as playing the piano.

Once in the United States, she graduated from Wichita High School within a year and was admitted to Barnard’s Class of 1926. Her advisor in college advised her not to pursue higher education, largely because of the prescribed gender roles at the time. Nonetheless, she earned her master's degree from Columbia University and proceeded to earn her Ph.D.[2]

Komarovsky as a sociologist[edit]

Komarovsky's dissertation topic, which she stumbled upon in 1935 through a research position with mathematician Paul Lazarsfeld at the New York Institute for Social Research, was “The Unemployed Man and His Family." She earned her Ph.D in Sociology in 1940 because of this work. Later published as a book, The Unemployed Man was an intensive study of fifty-nine families in the qualitative sociological method.

Komarovsky built her legacy on researching the social and cultural attitudes of families. Much of her work focused on the idea of “cultural lag,” in which the cultural attitudes surrounding women generally lag behind technological and social advances. Throughout the rest of her career, she continued to study the role of women and the outlooks of society towards those roles. She became one of the first social scientists to look critically at gender and the role of women in society.[2]

Professor Komarovsky retired in 1970 after 32 years on the faculty of Barnard College. But she returned to Barnard in 1978 and became the chairwoman of its women's studies program for a time.[3]

In 1973 and 1974, she became the second woman to be president of the American Sociological Association.


  1. ^ [1] Archived January 22, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b "Mirra Komarovsky papers available". Barnard College Archives. May 3, 2010. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  3. ^ Pace, Eric (1999-02-01). "Mirra Komarovsky, Authority on Women's Studies, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-07.