(Washington, DC, Oct. 30, 2015)–The American Humanist Association mourns the death of Elizabeth B. “Bette” Chambers (July 31, 1930 to October 27, 2015). Her tireless efforts to advance humanist ideas through dedicated organizational work steered the American Humanist Association toward the growth it enjoys today.
“Bette Chambers recognized that strong institutions can outlast nations and therefore dedicated her life to the advancement of humanist values through an even stronger American Humanist Association,” said Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “Bette once described humanism as ‘love coupled with empathy, democracy and a commitment to selfless service.’ In her selfless service to our movement, Bette demonstrated these values.”
Bette began her engagement with humanism in 1961, when she became a member of the American Humanist Association and served as an AHA board member from 1966-1972. In 1973 she became the second woman to hold office as AHA president, a position she retained for four terms until 1979. Among her many accomplishments as president, she strengthened the unity of the organization and emphasized the value of securing bequests as a guarantee of its future. She was a charter signer of Humanist Manifesto II in 1973 and, as one of a cadre of dedicated past presidents, signed Humanist Manifesto III in 2003. She also served on the board of directors of the Humanist Society until 2013.
Bette was a dedicated volunteer and staff member with the American Humanist Association. Her energetic work bolstered the organization and allowed for its present success and advancement. She pressed for the AHA’s move to its current location in Washington, DC, which expanded its presence on the national stage. She edited its Free Mind membership newsletter from 1980 to 2002, briefly took on the role of executive director in the early 1980s, worked as assistant to AHA President Isaac Asimov from 1985 until his death in 1992, and served as director of planned giving from 1984-2004. In this latter capacity, she created the Humanist Heritage Program, an institutional history of the American Humanist Association and leaders in the humanist movement. She also served as AHA historian. She has received multiple awards for her service, including the 1976 Humanist Merit Award and the 1981 Humanist Pioneer Award. She was also presented with appreciation awards from the American Humanist Association and the Humanist Foundation in 2002 and 2006, respectively.
The American Humanist Association will continue to honor Bette’s legacy in its work toward a progressive society in which the civil liberties of humanists and other nontheists are respected and human rights for all are upheld.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.