Mary Melville was born in Cairo to an Italian mother and a British father, and spoke French at home. She went to England for higher education. She had hoped to be a scientist but ended up studying statistics and economics in night school in Cairo after her brother died. She left before finishing a degree. She was hired in London by the Dunlop Company in their economics department, but was not awarded the promotion her male colleagues received. She came to the US in 1956 when her husband received a scholarship to Harvard Business School. She moved to New York City with her husband and became a researcher at Fortune magazine. After her two children were born the family moved to Rye, N.Y., and she continued to work part-time for Time, Inc. When her husband accepted a job in Worcester she was reluctant to move here, but found a tolerant and supportive community. She worked part-time for a publisherand then as part of an environmental research group at Clark University, where she completed an MA. She served on a number of boards and chaired the boards of Mechanics Hall and the Ecotarium. Mary Melville feels that "happenstance" has played a large role in her life, and she has felt handicapped by society's attitudes toward women, although her husband is a supportive feminist. When asked what opportunities today's women have that she did not, she replied, "The general acceptance of the fact that women have brains..., women can choose whether they want to work or not; they're not downgraded either way."