After moving to Nevada, Maya Miller made her home at a ranch in Washoe Valley, near Reno. She worked with others on a variety of issues including nuclear waste, welfare rights, women’s issues, and the environment. She helped establish many groups including the Committee to Aid Abused Women, Citizen Alert, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, and the Nevada Women’s Fund.
Miller, the daughter of an oil engineer, grew up in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. She earned a Master’s degree in English from Cornell, and did some work on her doctoral degree at Stanford. She married Richard Miller, an ichthyologist, and in 1945 came to Nevada and where she taught English briefly at the University of Nevada, Reno. They had two children, Kit and Eric.
In 1960, the Millers founded Foresta Institute for Ocean and Mountain Studies. They also ran an environmental summer camp for youth at their ranch. Maya Miller became involved in the welfare rights movement in Nevada and helped fund the movement. In 1971, she protested at the Nevada legislature on behalf of the welfare mothers and was escorted from the building. Maya also held a position on the national board of the League of Women Voters, but resigned when the board failed to pass an anti-war resolution. She was instrumental in the creation of Sand Harbor State Park at Lake Tahoe.
Miller ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 1974, losing to Harry Reid in the democratic primary. That same year she helped start the Women’s Campaign Fund, a non-partisan organization, dedicated to achieving parity for women in public office. Maya and Richard Miller divorced in 1975. Maya Miller retained the ranch in Washoe Valley and it became known as a welcome gathering spot for activists in Nevada. In addition to her work in Nevada, Maya went to Washington DC to lobby for the rights of welfare mothers. She also travelled extensively and participated in peace movements in Latin America and the Middle East. She passed away at her ranch in 2006 at the age of 90.
For more information see: Annelise Orleck, Storming Caesars Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty (Boston: Beacon Press, 2005).
Photo courtesy of Kit Miller. May not be reproduced.