A 1942 graduate of Vassar College, Ms. Chamberlin’s facility with languages landed her a job doing propaganda work for the U.S. government in Cairo during World War II. Later, with Time and Life, she contributed to coverage of world leaders including Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev and Charles de Gaulle and helped the photojournalist John Sadovy describe in haunting detail his experiences covering the 1956 Hungarian revolution.
Allergic to pomposity, Ms. Chamberlin was disinclined to promote her more somber exploits. “She did not like to sound serious, and she did not like people who sounded serious,” said Timothy Foote, a former Life colleague.
Her toughest assignment, Ms. Chamberlin recalled, involved visiting the Kennedy estate in Hyannisport, Mass., in summer 1960 for a story about the family. She wound up babysitting a fast-melting custard that belonged to Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, then 2, who handed the food to Ms. Chamberlin and then wandered off to play with her kittens.
“A true Kennedy, she likes to test your mettle by setting you some impossible challenge, then sitting back to watch you disentangle yourself,” Ms. Chamberlin wrote in Time the following year.
“I got frozen custard on the rug, in my shoes, on the dog, on the front door and part of the terrace before I was rescued,” she added. “Now, when I see her, Caroline gives me that look you get from people who have taken your measure and found you a button or two short.”
After leaving Time in 1963, Ms. Chamberlin reported for several years for the old Saturday Evening Post before distinguishing herself as “one of the wittiest and most imaginative of the Washington free-lancers,” journalists Winzola McLendon and Scottie Smith wrote in their 1970 book on Washington newswomen, “Don’t Quote Me!”
Writing in Esquire, Ms. Chamberlin bemoaned that a city “designed by a Frenchman and populated by a vigorous army of men and women in their prime” should be so meager in proper lovemaking etiquette.
The men, she wrote, were so single-mindedly ambitious that they treated love affairs as just another business exchange. She provided the example of a man who walks a woman from a dance to her car, kisses her and whispers into her ear, “You’re absolutely marvelous.”
The woman confesses her feelings are mutual.
“Then call me,” he says.
Ms. Chamberlin wrote book reviews for The Washington Post and brought her light touch to the unlikeliest of subjects, including the New York Stock Exchange, for magazines such as Vogue, Ladies’ Home Journal and McCall’s.
“She once wrote something about the IRS for Cosmopolitan that got her audited for about seven years,” said her niece.