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In memoriam: Margaret "Peg" Snyder

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

“Margaret Snyder knew how to establish institutions for the long haul, beyond the work any of us can do in our own lifetimes.” --Dr. Kathleen Sheldon, former co-convener of the ASA Women’s Caucus


“She was a great ally to African women and an ethical woman. She also was an unflagging supporter of the ASAWC. Her work lives on. May her soul Rest In Peace and her family be comforted and strengthened. We should eulogize her and celebrate her life.”--Dr. Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, former co-convener of the ASA Women’s Caucus


“Setting up the WC book prize fund in her honor was my distinct pleasure. Her cheery personality and positive spirit made her a joy to be around, and with a light-hearted approach to hearing loss which would have devastated others, she soldiered on and gained my never-ending awe and admiration.” --Dr. Lynda Day, former co-convener of the ASA Women’s Caucus


“Nwando and I were so pleased to be able to host Peg Snyder as the Women's Caucus Luncheon speaker in 2015. In our brief time with her at ASA that weekend, we could see the qualities that made all her accomplishments possible--her clarity of analysis and strategy, always expressed with a touch of humor; her generosity in acknowledging the many other women who shared her goals, and the calm warmth she exuded. As Peg said when we tried to arrange one thing or another for her at ASA, "Don't worry. I can take care of it myself." And she did.” -- Dr. Judith Van Allen, former co-convener of the ASA Women’s Caucus


"Peg Snyder is indeed someone I am proud to call my ancestress. When we worked on putting the prize together, she was so kind and gracious, and extremely generous. May she travel well."--Dr. Akosua Adomako Ampofo, former co-convener of the ASA Women's Caucus


“I became one of the many people who had their entire life changed by and owed their UN career to this extraordinary woman.” It was the same for me. But even more than my career, Peg shaped the way I learned to deal with the world: how not to be stopped by conventional limits, how to think outside of the box.

I came to Addis Ababa in 1975 with my Ethiopian husband Berhanu (after we had both finished our PhDs in Boston). Haile Selassie had been overthrown, and my husband had been one of the founders of the student movement in North America that was highly influential in that happening. After the Emperor was deposed, Berhanu wanted us to return to Ethiopia as soon as possible. But unfortunately, the Dergue took power before we got there, and Berhanu didn’t get to have a hand in his dream of building a democratic Ethiopia.

I had an offer to teach at Addis Ababa University, but shortly after we arrived the university was shut down after shooting incidents that killed both students and professors. While looking for some other employment, I heard of a newly established women’s program (the first international program on women in development) at the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis. Just shortly before, Edna Bay and myself, working closely with ASA and the Women’s Caucus that we first organized, edited a collection of articles published as Women in Africa: Studies in Social and Economic Change (Stanford U. Press, 1975). I went to ECA and met Peg Snyder. After we talked for a while she said, “We can offer you a contract for $300 to do an annotated bibliography on women and development in Africa.” Having no other offers, I took it! That contract turned into 25 years of full-time employment in the United Nations – first for 11 years as head of research and publications at the African Training and Research Center for Women that Peg had founded at ECA, then heading the Program to Promote Information Technology in Africa (until my retirement in 2000).

Peg was always very encouraging, but she was also a firm taskmaster. In 1978 the Swedish funding of ATRCW (even though ATRCW became one of the most successful programs at ECA, it never had any funding from the UN budget until about 1985!) was under review. We needed to finish the publication of some 15 reports and studies that had been completed, but at the time there was no paper to be had at ECA or elsewhere in Addis Ababa (I had scoured the local printshops to find this out). I told Peg: “We can’t do it. There’s no paper at ECA or elsewhere In Addis Ababa, and the ports are closed at Assab, Massawa and Djibouti.” (This was the time of the Red Terror as well as the Eritrean uprising). Peg said, “And you’re going to let that stop you?” I managed to find a solution; I contacted the American Embassy and found that they had a surplus of A4 paper that they couldn’t use because it wasn’t US letterhead standard. I identified funds to buy the paper, and we printed all the studies that had been completed and got our funding renewed.

Peg was appointed Director of the newly-established Voluntary Fund for the Development of Women at United Nations, New York in 1978, necessitating Peg’s relocation to New York. I continued to live and work in Addis Ababa, but stayed closely in touch with Peg, always visiting her when I went on home leave to the US. I remember especially visiting her when I was 8+ months pregnant with my daughter Ribka in 1979. Peg often told people “Nancy almost had her baby on my couch.” She became an unofficial godmother of Ribka, and at age 78 flew to Isla Mujeres in Mexico to attend my daughter’s wedding.

Peg was the most selfless person I have ever known. The stories of her kindness are legion. They stand out immensely for me. Most importantly, though, she was unwavering in her dedication to improving the situation of women in Africa. Her passing is a great loss to humanity.” --Dr. Nancy Hafkin, a founding member of the ASA Women’s Caucus


“As we can see from all the tributes that have been flowing out, Margaret Snyder was an institution builder. She created institutions and spaces that made it possible for others to do their work or to be recognized for their work. We are connected through one of her co-creations, the Aidoo-Snyder book prize, which has had a tremendous impact on my career. It was my honor and a slightly surreal privilege to receive the award in the presence of Snyder herself. Margaret Snyder was incredibly gracious about the occasion. Her demeanor said to me that the Aidoo-Snyder Prize was grounded in a sense of mission that she and Ama Ata Aidoo shared towards amplifying the power of African women, and not in anything having to do with being a patron of the arts and letters per se. It was my honor to receive the prize in Margaret Snyder’s presence, to be connected to the mission that the prize represents, and to carry it forward.”--Dr. Abosede George, 2015 winner of the Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize

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