Doris Aaronson, feminist groundbreaker, locally involved, dies at 83

| 21 Feb 2022 | 08:26

Doris R. Aaronson passed away at Milford Manor on February 2, 2022 at the age of 83. Born in Washington, DC, she had resided in West Milford, New Jersey since 1981. Doris had a long career as a professor of Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience at New York University and was a trailblazer for women. She held a masters degree in Mathematics Education from Columbia, a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in Cognitive Psychology, and a post doctorate from Harvard.

Doris had a special interest in science projects, animals, bugs and butterflies. On a high school vocational test she scored highest for a future career as a forest ranger - a job not open to women in those days. It was the first of many times she would hit that wall. While still in college, Aaronson answered a want-ad in the Washington Post for a research position with a military contract firm. She responded simply as “Aaronson,” scored highest, and was hired. They were surprised when she showed up for work the first day - a woman.

After completing her studies at Columbia University, she landed a job with the United States Navy and began working on the guidance system for the Polaris submarine. When it came time for the Polaris to take a test run, Aaronson was not on board, as women were banned from the excursion.

Over the years, through all of her successes, she recognized that she was a woman involved in fields more typical to men.

“It was a necessary set of experiences I had to live with to go on in science and math - it’s what you meet at every corner,” she said.

Doris embraced her life in West Milford, swimming laps at Pinecliff Lake well into her 70s. She especially enjoyed organizing activities for children, including the yearly snowman contest and the summer sandcastle contest at the beach. She was an ardent environmentalist, serving for decades as the environmental trustee of the Pinecliff Lake Community Club, a member of the West Milford Environmental Commission, and the Pequannock River Coalition. She was an enthusiastic and generous supporter of the new West Milford Township Library, which named their environmental section in her honor. She was very engaged in town activities and was active with the West Milford Democratic Club. Doris was a generous supporter of many organizations, including Hope’s Door, which provides services for domestic violence survivors.

In lieu of flowers, her family asks that memorial donations be made in her name c/o Hope’s Door, POB 262, Hawthorne, NY 10532 or online at

Friends CarlLa Horton and Karin Jordan are planning a memorial gathering in West Milford in the spring.