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Irene Tinker

Professor Emerita of City and Regional Planning & Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
 Irene Tinker

I have focused much of my career on the differential impact of development on women and men. As an activist and scholar, I have lobbied for policy change in the United States, the United Nations and its agencies, and in countries abroad. My research in over fifty countries emphasizes collaboration.


Such an approach is examined in Street Foods: Urban Food and Employment in Developing Countries (Oxford 1997). The goal of this action-research project in nine cities in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean was to find ways to improve the income of vendors and/or the safety of the food they sold. Policies were changed in cities and countries as a result of this study, and the Food and Agriculture Organization reversed its adversarial approach and began training food vendors.

Courses on developing countries were few at Harvard University when I was a student so I continued by graduate work in London and decided to write my doctoral dissertation on the first general elections in India. In 1951, I drove to India in a Ford Anglia which cost $1,500. split three ways with my companions. Paying back the thousand dollars was a sort of bride price when I married Millidge Walker, third officer in the US Embassy. In 1953 we took a boat to Mombasa, picked up an Austin A40, and drove back to London.


The first and last courses I taught were at the University of California/Berkeley. In between I lived with Mil and our three children in Maryland when not traveling abroad. During that time I was on the faculty of Howard University and several other universities in Washington, DC. After losing my bid to win a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates, I focused my efforts on the burgeoning women’s movement. Recognizing the need for research to back up policy demands in the Congress, I was co-founder of the Wellesley Center for Research on Women and founding president of both the International Center for Research on Women and the Equity Policy Center.


Margaret Mead and Ester Boserup were my mentors. As chair of the board at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Margaret supported my initiatives as Head of the Office of International Science to hold a Seminar on Women in Development in Mexico City prior to the First United Nations Conference for Women in 1975. Ester was a participant and became a life-long friend.

Events with this presenter

Headline and Cultural Forums

Crossing Centuries: A 1953 African road trip anticipates the shape of things to come

Irene Tinker

Irene Tinker in 1953Irene Tinker recounts her journey by car (from Mombasa to London) across colonial Africa, circa 1953, during a pivotal period when colonialism was beginning to falter and East Africa was on the road to independence. Read More ››

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