Fact check: Was Rebecca Blank the first woman tenured in NU’s economics department?


Photo courtesy of Shane Collins

Rebecca Blank. She was the second woman tenured in NU’s economics department.

Hannah Feuer, Assistant Campus Editor

University President-elect Rebecca Blank was the second woman tenured in Northwestern’s economics department, not the first. 

According to multiple sources in the economics department, the first tenured woman in economics at NU was actually Irma Adelman, who worked at the University from 1966 to 1971. Blank worked at NU from 1989 to 1999.

As part of the announcement that Blank would be NU’s next president, the University published a news release claiming Blank was the first tenured woman in the economics department. The next day, the language changed to say Blank was “one of the first.” There was no indication the release had been updated. 

Adelman studied development economics, and her research has been cited more than 15,000 times. She faced sexism in the field and had difficulty obtaining a tenure-track position, holding non-tenure appointments at Mills College, University of California Berkeley and Stanford University before coming to NU.

Several news outlets, including The Daily, the Chicago Sun-Times, Forbes, Wisconsin Public Radio and Chicago’s PBS station have reprinted the falsehood. The Daily regrets the error. 

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Twitter: @hannah_feuer

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