Ellen Chesler

Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute

Ellen is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. She is beginning work on a book on the human rights legacies of Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt, and will help the Institute develop programs in this area. Most recently, Ellen was Distinguished Lecturer and Director of the Eleanor Roosevelt Initiative on Women and Public Policy at Roosevelt House, the new public policy institute of Hunter College of the City University of New York.

For nearly ten years prior to that, she served as a senior fellow and program director at the Open Society Institute, the international foundation started by George Soros, where she developed and executed the foundation's multi-million dollar global investments in reproductive health and women’s rights and advised on a range of other program initiatives. Her work with women combined support for policy research and advocacy, public education, and litigation with strategic investments in new birth control products and model service innovations that promise long-term benefits in public health in the United States and in many countries around the world.

Ellen is author of the critically celebrated Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America. A finalist for PEN's 1993 Martha Albrand award in nonfiction, the book was released in a new paperback edition in 2007. She is also co-editor of Where Human Rights Begin: Health, Sexuality and Women in the New Millennium, Rutgers University Press, 2005, and she has written numerous essays and articles in academic anthologies and in newspapers and periodicals including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Nation, the New Republic, the American Prospect, and the Women's Review of Books.

Ellen has extensive experience as a voluntary leader with prominent organizations. She chairs the Advisory Committee of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch and serves on the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She is currently one of three Honorary Co-Chairs of a collaborative effort organized under the umbrella of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human rights in Washington, D.C. to ratify The Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) -- one of the five major pillars of United Nations human rights enforcement. From 1997 to 2003, she chaired the board of the International Women's Health Coalition. She has also long been active in Democratic politics, especially on behalf of women candidates, most recently New York Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand, and served as a U.S. public delegate to the 2009 and 2010 meetings of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Early in her professional career, she was chief of staff to New York City Council President Carol Bellamy, who was the first woman ever elected to city wide office in New York. An honors graduate of Vassar College, Chesler earned her masters and doctoral degrees in history at Columbia University. She is married to New York lawyer, Matthew Mallow, and they are the parents of two adult children.