Schwartz, Felice Nierenberg

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SCHWARTZ, FELICE NIERENBERG (1925–1996), pioneering U.S. advocate for the advancement of women in the workplace. Born in New York City, the daughter of Albert and Rose (Kaplan) Nierenberg, Schwartz was a graduate of Smith College. In 1945, she founded the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students (nssfns), an organization dedicated to increasing opportunities for African-American students in higher education. The wife of a physician and mother of three, Schwartz founded Catalyst in 1962, with the goal of enabling women to rejoin the workforce. Catalyst developed a nationwide network of 250 resource centers and counseled women who wished to combine family duties with part-time employment. Concentrating on placing women in the public sector, the organization pioneered several job-sharing pilot projects. Schwartz co-authored How to Go to Work When Your Husband Is Against It, Your Children Aren't Old Enough, and There's Nothing You Can Do Anyhow (1972) with colleagues, Margaret H. Schifter and Susan S. Gilotti.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when increasing numbers of women were forced to seek full-time work, Catalyst shifted its focus from the private to the public sector and from counseling to research and advocacy. Catalyst also began promoting the participation of women in corporations and their recruitment on corporate boards. During these years Schwartz became a widely respected expert on work and family issues, and Catalyst increasingly served in an advisory capacity to major companies and firms.

Schwartz's final years at Catalyst were colored by the national controversy ignited over her article "Management Women and the New Facts of Life" (Harvard Business Review (January/February 1989)). A call to action to corporate leaders to remove the barriers to productivity and advancement still facing female managers, the article posited two ends of a spectrum along which corporate women fall: the "career primary" woman and the "career family" woman. As a result of her suggestion that creating policies to accommodate the "career family" woman was good business, she came to be known as the "mommy track author" and was the subject of hundreds of articles on the "mommy track controversy." Ironically, after 27 years dedicated to the advancement of women, the founder of Catalyst was accused of establishing barriers to women's advancement.

Schwartz retired as president of Catalyst in 1993. She died a month after completing her third book, The Armchair Activist: Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Fight the Radical Right.


"Schwartz, Felice Nierenberg," Smith College Centennial Study. Oral History Project (1971); Who's Who of American Women (1992–93).

[Gail Twersky Reimer (2nd ed.)]

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Schwartz, Felice Nierenberg

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