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Ellen Chesler  

Scholar and Women's Rights Advocate

With over thirty years of experience in government, philanthropy, and academia, Ellen Chesler is widely respected for the practical and intellectual perspectives she brings to public policy.

Ellen joined the Roosevelt Institute as a Senior Fellow in the fall of 2010. Earlier this year, Ellen and Columbia University Professor Terry McGovern published the new essay collection Women and Girls Rising: Progress and resistance around the world. The book details the stories of those fighting for women’s rights around the world, including the history of the “Women’s Rights as Human Rights” movement.

From 2007-2010, Ellen was Distinguished Lecturer at Roosevelt House, the public policy institute of Hunter College of the City University of New York. For the decade prior, she served as a senior fellow and program director at the Open Society Institute, the international foundation started by George Soros, where she developed and executed the foundation’s multi-million dollar global investments in reproductive health and women’s rights and advised on a range of other program initiatives. Her work with women combined support for policy research and advocacy, public education, and litigation with strategic investments in new birth control products and model service innovations that promise long-term benefits in public health in the United States and in many countries around the world.

Ellen is author of the critically celebrated Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America. A finalist for PEN’s 1993 Martha Albrand award in nonfiction, the book was released in a new paperback edition in 2007. She is also co-editor of Where Human Rights Begin: Health, Sexuality and Women in the New Millennium, Rutgers University Press, 2005. She has also written numerous essays and articles for academic anthologies and for prominent newspapers, journals, periodicals, and blogs.

Ellen has extensive experience as a voluntary leader with prominent organizations. She is a member and former chair of the Advisory Committee of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. She just completed two terms on the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. From 1997 to 2003, she chaired the board of the International Women’s Health Coalition. She has also long been active in Democratic politics, especially on behalf of women candidates, most recently New York Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand, and she served as a U.S. public delegate to the 2009, 2010, and 2015 meetings of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Early in her professional career, Ellen was chief of staff to New York City Council President Carol Bellamy, who was the first woman ever elected to citywide office in New York.

An honors graduate of Vassar College, she earned her Master’s and doctoral degrees in history at Columbia University. She is married to New York lawyer, Matthew Mallow, and they are the proud parents of two adult children, a son-in-law and two cherished grandsons!

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