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Komarovsky, Mirra


KOMAROVSKY, MIRRA (1905–1999), U.S. sociologist. Born in Akkerman, Russia, Komarovsky fled to the U.S. with her family in 1921. She was a professor of sociology at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York and specialized in the sociology of the family.

When she majored in economics and sociology at Barnard College as an undergraduate, one of her professors, sociologist William Ogburn, warned her that her goal of teaching sociology was unrealistic, saying: "You are a woman, foreign born, and Jewish. I would recommend some other occupation." Undeterred, she was granted a one-year graduate fellowship, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, graduated in 1926, and earned an M.A. in 1927 under Ogburn's direction.

In 1935 Komarovsky joined New York's Institute for Social Research. In 1940 she wrote The Unemployed Man and His Family. Through her research and theoretical views, she contributed to an understanding of the part played by women in modern society. In her 1946 paper "Cultural Contradictions and Sex Roles," she sees the role conflict in women as a result of cultural contradictions. Feminine roles traceable to traditional views contradict the modern roles that stem from equalitarian expectations. Her paper "Functional Analysis of Sex Roles" (1950) provides a general analysis of the social factors that define women's roles.

In 1948 she was promoted from instructor at Barnard to associate professor; in 1954 she became a full professor. Komarovsky urged that all students be prepared for careers, that good nursery schools be made universally available, and that men accept their fair share of domestic work.

In 1970 Komarovsky retired from Barnard and was named professor emeritus, continuing to teach part time until 1992. In 1973, in recognition of her pioneering challenge to the functionalist approach in sociology, the American Sociological Association elected her president, an honor previously accorded only one other woman: Dorothy S. Thomas. In 1978–79 she served as chair of the newly created Women's Studies program at Barnard. In 1991 she received the Distinguished Career Award from the American Sociological Association.

Other books by Komarovsky include Women in the Modern World (1953), Common Frontiers of the Social Sciences (1957), Blue-Collar Marriage (with J.H. Philips, 1964), Sociology and Public Policy (1975), Dilemmas of Masculinity (1976), Common Frontiers of the Social Sciences (1978), and Womenin College (1985).

[Louis Miller /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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