Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics, has an interesting personal story in addition to being highly accomplished in her field. She came to economics later in life, after putting her first husband through law school and working in the HR department at UCLA. From today's LA Times obit:
Born in Los Angeles on Aug. 7, 1933, she was the daughter of an out-of-work Hollywood set designer and his musician wife who divorced when she was a young child. She remained with her mother, who struggled financially during the Depression and World War II.
Neither of her parents went to college and did not consider it important for Ostrom. Her lucky break came when her mother managed to enroll her in Beverly Hills High School, which was just across the border from their home in L.A. "It was a little hard to be the poor kid in the rich kids' school," Ostrom recalled in the Indianapolis Star in 2009. But she excelled academically and went on to UCLA, where she studied political science, earning a bachelor's degree in 1954.
She married a classmate, Charles Scott, and moved to Boston, where she worked to put him through law school. "I was thinking of doing a Ph.D.," she told the Ottawa Citizen a few years ago, "and he was not too enthusiastic." They divorced and Ostrom returned to UCLA, where she earned a master's in 1962 and a doctorate in 1965, both in political science.
Vincent Ostrom, who taught economics and political science, was one of her professors. They were married in 1963 and two years later joined Indiana University's faculty. She often noted that the main reason she was hired was because the university couldn't find anyone else to teach American government at the highly unpopular hour of 7:30 a.m.
The Ostroms donated millions of dollars to Indiana University, including her Nobel Prize funds, the LAT notes. Here's a Q&A with Ostrom last year when she was awarded the UCLA Medal, the top campus honor in Westwood. She died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer, Indiana University announced.