Life stories from Drew Faust, Howard Gardner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Martin Karplus, Toshiko Mori, Steven Pinker, E.O. Wilson, and many more, in the Experience series.
Jane Mansbridge, Ph.D. ’71, a political scientist and one of the world’s most prominent scholars of democratic theory, came to the field that “helps citizens better govern themselves” almost by accident. Born in New York City and raised in Weston, Conn., she graduated from Wellesley College in 1961, and following a bumpy experience as a graduate student in Harvard’s History Department, turned to government. Cambridge then was awash in protests over women’s rights, Civil Rights, and the war in Vietnam, and Mansbridge became involved in the folk music scene, co-ops, various collectives, and women’s organizations. After receiving her doctorate she taught at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University before returning to Harvard as a faculty member in 1996.
In 2018, she was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, known as the Nobel Prize in the field, for “having shaped our understanding of democracy in its direct and representative forms, with incisiveness, deep commitment and feminist theory.” Mansbridge is the Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she is a popular and highly respected teacher.