Marty Alter Chen has been recognised for her work with poor rural women in South Asia, especially for her efforts in illuminating the plight of widows through books such as Perpetual Mourning: Widowhood in Rural India. Marty attended Woodstock from 1956, graduating in 1960, after which she attended Connecticut College and Pennsylvania State University. Since joining Harvard University in 1987, she has undertaken a field study of widowhood in rural India, pursued policy research on women’s economic role in development, taught courses on international development, provided advisory services to various donor agencies and non-governmental organisations, and established a global network on women in the informal economy. She is currently Horner Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and Co-ordinator of the global network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). Her areas of specialisation are gender and development, poverty alleviation and the informal economy.
Marty has long-term residence experience in Bangladesh, where she worked with the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), and in India, where she worked with over fifty non-governmental organisations in her capacity as Field Representative of Oxfam America for India and Bangladesh. She frequently works as an advisor for a number of NGOs, including the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, and is an Honorary Director of Aid to Artisans, an organisation that helps handicraft-based businesses compete in the global marketplace.