Memoir of a Trailblazer

Professor Marina Whitman, U-M faculty member and longtime CEW Leadership Council member, has written a new memoir entitled The Martian’s Daughter. The book is fascinating on many levels–but for women, none more so than the encouraging story Whitman tells of her experiences as a pioneering professional.

The title refers to John von Neumann, a formidable figure in Professor Whitman’s life as well as the most brilliant mathematician of the 20th century, renowned for his “game theory” and for his seminal role in the creation of computers. One of Whitman’s reasons for writing The Martian’s Daughter is to provide details of her father’s life. “No really good biography of von Neumann has ever been written,” she explains. “So, as one reviewer noted, this is as close to an autobiography as the world will ever read.”

Whitman says that she is most proud of the trailblazing role she played in helping to break down barriers for women in the workplace.

The book is about much more than von Neumann, however. It is also the personal story of how Professor Whitman stepped out from her father’s enormous shadow and followed her own path, achieving prominence in economics, academics and public service. Whitman’s career represents a series of remarkable “firsts”: the first female member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors (under Richard Nixon) as well as the first female vice president and chief economist at General Motors–the highest ranking woman in the auto industry at the time.

As important as her many contributions have been, Whitman says that she is most proud of the trailblazing role she played in helping to break down barriers for women in the workplace. She describes hers as the “in-between generation.” Ignoring both her father’s wish that she devote herself only to intellectual pursuits and her mother’s belief that she should focus on being a wife and mother, Whitman set out to do both. Despite her father’s objections, at a young age she married Bob Whitman and had two children at the same time she was building her academic and public career.

Whitman does not gloss over difficulties when, as she describes, “professional opportunity collided sharply and painfully with my commitment to my family.” She describes nights of crying in her pillow and the guilt she still feels over the sacrifices and problems her choices sometimes caused her supportive husband and children. In the end, Whitman is proud that she and her family have lived lives of adventure and fulfillment and that “[her] children have gone on to satisfying careers and productive lives.”

Marina Whitman has much to say about the joys and struggles of “having it all.” Her memoir is an entertaining, insightful and encouraging message for modern women, told with humility and honesty. CEW is proud to have Marina Whitman on our team. We thank her for her wisdom, and we encourage you to read The Martian’s

Note: The Martian’s Daughter is available to order at the University of Michigan Press ( and will be available at the end of September at local bookstores. If you would like to read more about Professor Whitman’s experiences and viewpoints, look for commentaries on Facebook at:

Book Signing

October 2, 2012 - 5:30pm - 7:00pm
U-M Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery, 913. S. University

Whitman will read from and discuss her new memoir, The Martian’s Daughter at an event hosted by the University Library and co-sponsored by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, the Center for the Education of Women, and the University of Michigan Press. Please register for this event at

A reception will follow the discussion, during which attendees can purchase books and have them signed by the author.