Remembering Mary Catherine

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Mary Catherine Bateson, a beloved member of the original founding circle of the Council on the Uncertain Human Future. Her work as a cultural anthropologist and author lived her vision of life as an improvisational art.

As part of our National group, Mary Catherine contributed tremendous wisdom and insight that we offer here in remembrance of her.


In memoriam, the New York Times offers us this portrait of her life.

Mary Catherine Bateson was a writer and cultural anthropologist living in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire. She wrote and co-authored many books and articles and has taught at Harvard, Northeastern University, Amherst College, Spelman College and abroad in the Philippines and in Iran. In 2004 she retired from her position as Clarence J. Robinson Professor in Anthropology and English at George Mason University. Since the Fall of 2006 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. She served on multiple advisory boards including that of the National Center on Atmospheric Research.

During the past few years she completed two projects: a book titled Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, on the contributions and improvisations of engaged older adults, written to raise consciousness of the changing life cycle and to encourage older adults to claim a voice for the future. She also founded GrannyVoter in 2004, now a program of Generations United, where she developed ongoing efforts to involve seniors in efforts on behalf of children and future generations, as national co-chair of Seniors4kids.

She has also brought to conclusion thirty years as president of the Institute for Intercultural Studies in New York City, dissolving the Institute and arranging for ongoing stewardship of the literary rights of her parents and many of their colleagues. Her books in print include Composing a Life, Our Own Metaphor, and Peripheral Visions, as well as a memoir, With a Daughter’s Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. In 2011 she gave a series of six public lectures at Boston College, with the title “Love across difference,” which she had been developing into a book at the time of her passing.