Margaret K. Bruce, Human and Civil Rights Champion, Dies at 94

Molly Bruce with Russian Ambassador Andrey Denisov.

Margaret K. Bruce, a distinguished and beloved figure in the history of the United Nations, died on November 22. She was 94.

Molly Bruce, as everyone knew her, was born in England, educated at Cambridge University, and survived the Blitz in London during World War II. She came to New York in 1946 as a young UN Secretariat staff member at the time that the Secretariat and the Security Council had its first U.S. home on what is now the Lehman campus. Here she joined the Human Rights Division and worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in Gillet Hall during the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

She went on to work on issues of human rights, refugees and the advancement of women, heading the first Secretariat unit responsible for women’s rights and organizing, in 1975, International Women’s Year and the first World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City.

At the time of her retirement in 1977, Molly was one of the five most senior women in the UN Secretariat. Queen Elizabeth awarded her the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1978. She became a United States citizen in 1989.

Molly Bruce served on the Commission on Human Rights with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Here she sits to the right of Mrs. Roosevelt.

In 1995-1996, Molly was a key figure in planning Lehman’s participation in celebrations marking the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, which included a forum of CUNY students with the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. She brought many of the original staff members of the Secretariat back to the campus and inspired the planting of a Peace Grove in the center of campus in honor of their service.

Over the years, Molly spoke at many UN-related events on campus. Her last public event at Lehman was as a panelist in a symposium, “The United Nations: Past, Present and Future,” in May 2008, as part of a UN Homecoming event for Lehman’s fortieth anniversary celebration. At that time she led the re-dedication of the Peace Grove, with its additional plantings. That same month, the College awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters, both for her outstanding international work and for her contributions to Lehman College’s own understanding of its place in United Nations history.

In her last years, Molly continued to work passionately in support of the mission of the United Nations and had important roles in the United Nations Association (UNA-USA) and the Association of Former International Civil Servants (AFICS). Her recently-completed memoir is being prepared for publication.

A memorial for Molly Bruce will be held at the United Nations headquarters early in the coming year.

Excerpts From an Interview With Molly Bruce About the U.N.’s Early Days

In this excerpt, taken from an interview with a staff member from the office of media relations and publications at Lehman College for the College’s 40th Anniversary celebration, Molly Bruce talks about the U.N.’s early days on the Lehman campus, which back then was the Bronx branch of Hunter College. Ms. Bruce, who died on November 22, 2012, led a distinguished career in the United Nations. This interview was captured on August 15, 2007.

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