Ruth Harriet Miller Jacobs Ph.D.

15 November , 19245 September , 2013

JACOBS, Ruth Harriet Jacobs (Miller), Ph.D. – of Wellesley, died on September 5, 2013, age 88.

Ruth Harriet Jacobs, Ph.D. was a gerontologist, sociologist, educator, poet, and author of nine books. She had many years of teaching experience and provided continuing education courses for professionals. In addition, she held workshops throughout the US and abroad, and for 20 years was a researcher at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

Dr. Jacobs’ books include: Be An Outrageous Older Woman, Women Who Touched My Life: A Memoir, We Speak for Peace: An Anthology (as editor), Older Women Surviving and Thriving: A Manual For Group Leaders, Button, Button, Who Has the Button?: A Drama About Women’s Lives Today, Out of Their Mouths, Life After Youth: Female, Forty What Next?, ABC’s for Seniors: Successful Aging Wisdom from an Outrageous Gerontologist , and Re-engagement in Later Life: Re-employment and Remarriage.

While raising her family, Dr. Jacobs received her B.S. at age 40 from Boston University and her Ph.D. at age 45 from Brandeis University. She was a sociology professor for 13 years at Boston University before going to Clark University in 1982 as chair of the sociology department. After retiring from Clark University, Dr. Jacobs taught regularly at Regis College, Springfield College School of Human Services, and in the Life Long Learning Program at Brandeis University.

She was the recipient of grants and awards to pursue aging studies from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the United States Department of Education, the Stone Center, the Southport Institute for Policy Analysis and many other institutions. In 1993 she received the Pioneer Award of the New England Sociology Association and has also received the Distinguished Gerontologist Award from the University of Massachusetts. Over the years she served as a consultant to several government and voluntary agencies, including the AARP’s National Task Force on Aging and Mental Health.

Dr. Jacobs contributed chapters to many scholarly books, poems to many poetry anthologies and magazines, and numerous articles to academic journals. She wrote a popular monthly column for the award winning Senior Times newspaper and served on the editorial board of the Journal of Women & Aging. She had residencies at eight major art colonies. An online showcase of her work is intended by her children to be created during this month of September at Please check this internet address from time to time for initial content and for additions of text, audio, and video.

She has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the College of William and Mary (1990) and a Research Scholar at the Five Colleges Women’s Studies Research Center at Mount Holyoke College (1992). In 1998 she received the Athena Award for Excellence in Mentoring for her book Women Who Touched My Life. An audio recording of Dr. Jacobs discussing “Older Women as Mentors” is available at She was a tenured full professor at both Boston University and Clark University. She keynoted major conferences and did extensive group work with older women.

She was a reporter and feature writer for the Boston Herald-Traveler newspaper for eight years in the 1940’s. Among those she interviewed during their visits to Boston were Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt. For a video oral history about her time as a journalist, see

Ruth is survived by her daughter Edith and her son Eli.

Shiva will be at the home of Edith Jacobs on Monday, September 9 from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. A memorial gathering will be held at the Wellesley Friends Meeting House, 26 Benvenue St., Wellesley, MA, on Saturday, October 5th at 2 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to The Ruth Harriet Jacobs Scholarship fund at Regis College, which was established in her name to benefit LLARC (Lifelong Learning at Regis College) students who could not afford to attend lifelong learning courses; LLARC, Regis College, 235 Wellesley Street, Box 3, Weston, MA 02493.


  • Memorial Service

Ruth Harriet Miller Jacobs Ph.D.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Erica Potter

22 November 2013

Ruth Jacobs was my Sociology professor at Boston University. She made me feel so special when she asked me to critique her class after reading one of my writing assignments. She belived in me. This has stayed with me all these years.
I know she impacted many more. God bless the Jacobs family and know that Ruth Jacobs legacy lives on. She is in my heart.
Erica Potter

30 September 2013

September 30,2013,
when we were Ph.d studebts at Brandeis, two "older women" defying the stereotype of women of a certain age,Our renowned Professor, Everett Hughes, could never tell if I was Fran or Ruth, and if Ruth was Fran. Ruth wrote a poem about this, one of her many insightful poems about life, women,and history.I have kept, in a large box, all the letters, articles, poems that this creative woman wrote throughout her life. We were close friends for over 40 years, making sure to connect with phone calls, never, later through email, because Ruth wouldn't use this new instrument. Instead was her voice,on the phone,(never past 7 p.m.) and visits where we continued to share ideas and experiences.I will miss her forever.

christie Stiegman Jacobs

24 September 2013

In the 1970's, I was a teaching fellow at Boston University in Sociology and was inspired by Ruth Jacobs. She served as a model of compassionate strength for me.So know that her spirit continues to live on in those she touched.

Pat Brodie

19 September 2013

Dear Ruth, You have given so much to so many people, inspired and led and loved. You had a wonderful heart and accomplished so much good. We will miss you greatly in our Wayland Poetry Group where your poems and your comments, your mere presence, were so helpful and inspiring.

Karen Wolf

18 September 2013

Ruth was an amazing woman. She inspired me when I was an undergraduate at Boston University to continue my studies as a sociologist. I thought I was "old" in my mid-20s but Ruther set me straight. She continued to support me and pointed me to Brandeis for graduate studies. A feminist and a humanist, she used her voice to mentors countless students and women to find their voices and to live their lives fully. While I am so sad to know of her passing, I know that her legacy lives on in so many ways. Please know how grateful I am for her guidance and role modeling.

Elizabeth (Liz) Markson

16 September 2013

Ruth was my colleague, friend, and fellow sociologist. We shared many years of friendship--going back to her days at Boston University (where I also was on the faculty), her activity with the MA Sociological Association,numerous workshops, shared times, and the list goes on. She contributed to at least one book that the late Beth Hess and I edited and always brought her distinct and imaginative viewpoint. We remained good friends (albeit not meeting as much as we should have) as we both grew older. I had the privilege of helping her deal with some of her later physical challenges. Always generous of spirit, she will be sorely missed. Indeed a woman for all seasons.

Louise Lopman

16 September 2013

Dear Edith and Eli,

I am deeply saddened to hear that your mother has died. She was a dear friend.
She touched my life in many ways - as a colleague at Regis and a “sister” Brandeis
sociologist before that. Ruth was definitely one of a kind. She had a way of caring and
looking out for me in my personal and professional life, which I always appreciated.
Her expertise at turning obstacles into challenges and moving on, without complaint
or regret are things she taught me how to do years ago.

I am sure your loving care helped your mother get through the difficult and trying days,
and keep up her stamina and determination to live her life as an outrageous older woman,
even in spite of illness. Your mother was also a special mentor to many people. We will
all miss her.

Lynn Cattanach

15 September 2013

Dear Edith,
I was saddened to learn of the loss of your mother. She was an inspiration in the depth of her capacity to enjoy life. I will remember her wit, kindness, and humor. The lovely newspaper piece captured her many achievements and contributions so nicely. You were luck to have had her as your mother, and she was lucky to have had you as her daughter and caregiver. My thoughts are with you during this difficulty time, Edith.

14 September 2013

As a BU sociology student in 1978, I was privileged to have Ruth as my professor and mentor, and later worked as her teaching assistant. Ruth was inspirational then, with words that I carry with me still. My condolences to her family. Sara Romer (Needham, MA)

Ineke Ceder

14 September 2013

Ruth was such an inspiration, always graceful, full of life, wit, and wisdom, open and welcoming to everyone. She will be greatly missed.