Neighborhood Women

Mary Field Belenky

We recently learned of the passing of a dear friend and supporter of NCNW, Mary Field Belenky. Among many accomplishments she was one of the important authors of influential books, including “Women’s ways of knowing: the development of self, voice, and mind”, “Knowledge, Difference, And Power”, and “A Tradition That Has No Name: Nurturing the Development of People, Families, and Communities” that has a chapter about NCNW.

Following is her Obituary:


Mary Field Belenky, resident of Kendal at Hanover, died peacefully after months of declining health on July 10, 2020 at the age of 87. Her husband, Bob, was with her.Mary was born on June 22, 1933 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the middle of three sisters. Her siblings predeceased her. Mary loved education. She attended the Park School in Buffalo, New York, Antioch University, the University of Chicago, where she and Bob met — they were married in 1957; finally Harvard University where she received her Ph.D. in 1977. Mary and Bob first settled in the Boston area. They raised two children, Alice and Michael. In 1970, the family moved to Vermont. Mary taught psychology and education at Goddard College.When the children were early teenagers, she went on to pursue her doctorate at Harvard commuting between Vermont and Massachusetts. Mary went on to write about women’s moral and intellectual development. Most notable, co-authored by three colleagues, was Women’s Ways of Knowing. Mary loved nature. She gardened and fed the birds, especially hummingbirds. She rode her mare, Stormy, over many back trails. In her later years she loved to discover remote nooks for picnics. During her last weeks of life, bird songs played continuously on her bedside iPad. The two owned dogs, five in their lives together. Milly, their current canine, grieves her loss as do we all.

Mary is survived by daughter Alice and husband, Ted Armen, and sons Max, Oliver and Simon. And by her son, Michael, his wife, Uli, and their daughters, Sofia and Ella. A celebration of Mary’s life is planned for Kendal at Hanover, NH, as COVID-19 conditions allow. In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Vermont Community Foundation are encouraged. Submitted by her husband, Robert Belenky.

25th Anniversary 4th World Women’s Conference – Bejing 1995

Neighborhood Women were important participants at the 4th World Women’s Conference held in Bejing in 1995. (link to Wikipedia article about the conference). They led in coordinating the grassroots women’s tent. A fifty-fifty campaign was launched with GROOTS. The aim was to pair grassroots women.

Below is a documentary by Lyn Pyle about the conference.

We Are The Leaders presents the perspectives of grassroots women at the 1995 Beijing UN Fourth World Conference on Women. Neighborhood Women accomplished to have a tent of grassroots women where they could share their needs, experiences and expectations and influence the official platform for action. It was in this tent where Wally N’Dow, then Executive Director of the UN Commission on Human Settlements (now UN Habitat) announced the formation of the Huairou Commission. He “Commissioned” the members of the Super Coalition to monitor Habitat II in 1996 from a women’s perspective, and he named them the Huairou Commission. He appointed 50 women leaders to the Commission including high level women leaders within the UN. For the first time, an organized group of women had a central role to play in the human settlements arena. The Huairou Commission’s relationship with UN Habitat remains strong as they ensure space for women to organize and participate with a women’s voice in UN Habitat initiatives. From its original position as an advisory body to Habitat II in Istanbul, HC over the years has evolved into a global movement for grassroots women’s empowerment in development cutting across diverse themes, sectors and actors.

Film Credits: We Are The Leaders filmed and directed by Lyn Pyle, 1996.

‘Since 1974, Neighborhood Women has been working to build a social change movement of grassroots women living in poor and working class urban and rural communities.

At the heart of all NW efforts is our belief that a critical and usually overlooked way to improve life in neighborhoods is to enhance and expand participation by women in local development, connect them with allies from outside the neighborhood, and build an effective force for their visions and values in local, state, national, and international policy formation.’


Jan Peterson, founder of NCNW, was canonized while in Malaysia for a women leaders conference on February 7, 2018. She was given a chief’s necklace and hat.


Roslyn Carter Wearing Neighborhood Women Button

First Lady Roslyn Carter wearing a Neighborhood Women Button in 1980.




New York Radical Feminists 1975

From the archives is this 1975 collage of New York Radical Feminists including Neighborhood Women founders Jan Peterson (2nd from left in 2nd row) and BJ Michelsen (bottom right corner).





Women From Local to International


NCNW achieved consultative status at the United Nations in 1985 and helped initiate GROOTS. In 1995 NW became the global secretariat for the Huairou Commission, a global coalition that empowers grassroots women’s organizations to enhance their community development practice and to exercise collective political power. Huairou Commission

National Congress of Neighborhood Women


The National Congress of Neighborhood Women has been dedicated for more than 30 years to empower poor and working class women to become community leaders, to give them a voice, and to raise their consciousness of their own power so they would be better able to define and solve problems facing their communities.

Neighborhood Women Williamsburg–Greenpoint


In 1989 NCNW decentralized its offices and Neighborhood Women of Williamsburg-Greenpoint became an independent non-profit affiliate. Though their work is visible in the built environment of Williamsburg – Greenpoint, their biggest impact has been in the perception the women had of themselves and the many lives they continue to transform.