American Sociological Association

Matilda White Riley

Matilda White Riley

April 19, 1911 - November 14, 2004

Matilda White was born in Boston on April 19, 1911. She spent her early years in Maine before venturing to Radcliffe for college. Her doctorate came later, following years of work as a research assistant in the newly formed Department of Sociology at Harvard University, management of a market research company, a position during World War II in the War Production Board, more than a decade as executive officer of a professional association, several university professorships, and finally a role in charge of social science research in the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.

She attended high school at Brunswick High School in Maine, where she met a young man named Jack Riley was her constant friend. They were married in 1931 and enjoyed 70 years together. In 1986, Riley noted that "Jack and I have been fortunate, since our two careers have often run parallel courses and provided opportunity for collaborative publication." They were frequent co-authors of professional papers, starting in the 1930's with the publication of a joint scientific paper on contraceptive behavior.

Riley later earned D.Sc. degree from Bowdoin College in 1972, and L.H.D. from Rutgers University in 1973. In 1985, Riley and her husband served as co-Presidents of the District of Columbia Sociological Society.

Matilda White Riley served the ASA in many capacities during her professional life. She served as Executive Officer of the ASA headquarters from 1949 to 1960, and later she was elected to serve as the 77th President of the Association. Her Presidential Address, " On The Significance of Age in Sociology ," was delivered at the organization's annual meeting in New York City in the summer of 1986.

Riley's world changed forever in early 2002 when Jack Riley died, ending their 70 year collaboration as personal and professional partners. She lived in Maine until her death in the fall of 2004.