Natalie Adelman Taub was a senior at Brookline High when an MIT admissions officer phoned her father to say that the Institute wanted to boost female enrollment–would he encourage Natalie to apply? Two years later, she was excelling at MIT, with ambitions to major in building engineering and construction. The department’s director, hearing the news, pointedly said, “Well, every contractor needs a secretary who knows something about the business.”
“Things have changed a lot since then,” Taub says. “But at the time, all I heard was: ‘He’s letting me in!’ ”
Once in, Taub shone. Her spatial aptitude was extraordinary, and she earned good grades in her classes. Like her father, her grandfather, and her great- and great-great-grandfathers, she had a penchant for civil engineering. She graduated in 1950–one of only six women in her class–and by 1953 had begun her own business, N. J. Adelman Construction Company. Headlines in local papers made big news of her ascension: “Cute Brunette Is Successful Contractor,” “Tiny MIT Girl Bosses Malden Building Job.”
Taub later married, had kids, and took some time off to raise her family. But once her children were old enough to drive, she went back to work as a project manager with J. Slotnik. Over the next 17 years, she and company president Joe Michelson collaborated on projects in the $10 million to $20 million range, including the Coast Guard facility on Boston’s Commercial Street and the Boston Edison building on Essex.
“Looking back, I’m proud of all these things,” says Taub, “but at the same time I feel mostly lucky. Lucky that [the MIT admissions officer] reached out to me; lucky that I had some natural abilities, and that the things I aspired to do and things I did do were a good match.”
Taub enjoys spending time with her three children, Julie, Ethan, and Lauren, and their six grandchildren. Her husband Stanley, a retired physician, died three years ago. Taub is also active with the institutes for learning and retirement at both Harvard and Brandeis, which give older learners a chance to teach and study together. Taub has taught classes on Oliver Wendell Holmes and the politics of water and is preparing to teach a new course on Louis Brandeis in the fall.
Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.Subscribe today