Dr. Margaret Snyder: Founder/ Director of United Nations Women

E. Syracuse native dedicated her life to the progress of women in poor and emerging countries around the globe

By Harold Miller
Email: hmiller@mcsmms.com

Margaret (Peg) Snyder
Margaret (Peg) Snyder

Most who knew her, as our family did, called her Peg. A down-to-earth personality blessed with a brilliant mind and limitless energy, Margaret Snyder traveled the world for the United Nations dedicating her life and work to the progress and economic development of women in poor and emerging countries. Snyder died Jan. 26 with her loving family standing by. She was 91.

Born and raised in East Syracuse, she lived for over four decades in Manhattan attending the College of New Rochelle and attaining a master’s degree in sociology from the Catholic University of America.

She became the youngest dean of women at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. After eight years at Le Moyne, Snyder took a one-year sabbatical to travel to Africa. Thus, began her life-long engagement with women’s economic development in Africa and around the world.

While in Africa she worked to develop the Kenya African Woman’s Association which led to her becoming assistant director of the program of East African Studies at the Maxwell College, Syracuse University.

Snyder returned to Africa and earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University at Tanzania. That same year of 1971 she earned her first position with the United Nations as the adviser to the economic commission, regional program on advancements for women.

In 1978 this dedicated woman reached the crest of her career by becoming the founding director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) that promotes women’s economic, social and political standing in Africa, Asia Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s now known as U.N. Women.

Upon her retirement in 1989 from the United Nations she continued to travel the world speaking about educating for and promoting the economic progress of women. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Uganda, a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School and the author and editor of many books regarding women’s economic development in poor and developing countries.

In her later years she loved to visit my wife Janet and me at our retirement hideaway in Florida — a little village on the Atlantic beach north of Palm Beach.

She kept herself in good shape with a healthy diet and exercise until the ravages of age finally caught up with her.

She was much more than just a diplomat to the little villages of Europe, Africa, and Asia — she was the beautiful face and intellect of America reaching out to help the ageless continent wherever, and whenever she could.