Elaine Stahl Leo

A sociologist and editor whose work advanced understanding of minority groups, international development, and work/family issues, died December 27, 2020 in Vienna, VA. Born in Knoxville, TN in 1940, she moved to the Washington area as a baby. The VA suburbs remained her home even as she traveled, visiting or living in 62 countries, including Papua New Guinea and Timbuktu. A graduate of Washington-Lee High School (now Washington-Liberty High School) in Arlington, VA, Ms. Leo received her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, with study at the University of Aix-en-Provence and the Sorbonne, and her master’s from (Case) Western Reserve University. After a year of sociology doctoral study at the University of Michigan, she joined the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on its new population/family planning foreign aid initiative. There she did a pioneering research overview documenting then unrecognized population issues across Africa. Ms. Leo then worked on USAID population/family planning projects in Turkey and later for the Governmental Affairs Institute in Washington, DC before completing her sociology doctorate at American University. During the civil rights era, Ms. Leo researched a racially changing neighborhood in Cleveland, OH and people’s beliefs to achieve and maintain integration. Her later research focused on the trade-offs women made to balance work and family. She found that married mothers working in traditionally male-dominated professions were happy to work part-time for their families but not their careers, in which they felt they had been relegated to “the mommy track.” At various times, Ms. Leo taught sociology at the Univ. of Michigan, George Mason University, Mount Vernon College (now part of George Washington University), and Georgetown University. She also had an editorial business that specialized in social science and social policy articles, books and dissertations. She was active in numerous professional, civic and cultural activities, and a long-time member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax. Ms. Leo is survived by two daughters, Alison Leo Rana and Adrienne Leo, and their families, including four grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that anyone wishing to commemorate Ms. Leo might do so by contributing time and/or funds to an organization of their choice promoting gun control, women’s rights or immigration reform. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, January 24, at 3 p.m. through live streaming by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax: https://uucf.org/memorial-service/

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