Harriet B. Presser, 75, a University of Maryland sociology professor and founder of the university’s Center on Population, Gender and Social Inequality, died of ovarian cancer May 1 at her home in Bethesda.
The death was confirmed by her daughter, Sheryl Presser.
Dr. Presser had been on the U-Md. faculty since 1976 and specialized in gender issues. In 1988, she founded the Center on Population, Gender and Social Inequality (now the Maryland Population Research Center).
Over the years, her research included fertility and family planning, birth control and sterilization. In the 1970s, she collaborated in a behind-the-scenes effort to get the U.S. Census Bureau to stop the practice of using the term “head of household” and automatically conferring family leadership on husbands.
In 2002, Dr. Presser was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science “for innovative research on issues of population, labor force, gender, and social inequality; for exceptional institution building; and for outstanding service to demographic and sociological societies.”
In 2010, the American Sociological Association honored Dr. Presser for work that “helped transform the field of demography by bringing a gender perspective to bear on the study of fertility and family processes.”
Harriet Betty Rubinoff was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She graduated from George Washington University in 1959 and received a master’s degree in sociology in 1962 from the University of North Carolina.
She received a doctorate in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley in 1969 and then served seven years on the faculty of Columbia University’s school of public health. In 1999, she was named a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland.
She was a past president of the Population Association of America.
Her marriage to Neil Presser ended in divorce.
Survivors include her partner of 32 years, Philip Corfman of Bethesda; and daughter from her marriage, Sheryl Presser of New York.
— Bart Barnes