Maya Miller, 90; Activist Promoted Women in Politics, Protested Wars

Times Staff Writer

Maya Miller, a political activist who helped found the Women’s Campaign Fund that sponsors female candidates seeking political office and who once ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for U.S. senator from Nevada, has died. She was 90.

Miller died Wednesday at her home in Washoe Valley in northern Nevada of natural causes, her daughter, Kit, said.

She ran for the Senate in 1974, primarily to break through the male stronghold, she later said.

“Maya wasn’t a real politician. She was an outside agitator fighting the powers that be,” Kit Miller said. “She ran for the Senate because she felt the cause was right.”


During the Vietnam War era, Miller became a peace activist who made large-enough financial contributions to the antiwar movement to get her name on President Nixon’s “enemies list.”

Miller was a member of the national board of the League of Women’s Voters in the late 1960s but resigned in protest when the group voted down a resolution on ending U.S. involvement in the conflict.

In 1991 at the start of the Persian Gulf War she joined members of Madre, an international women’s human rights group, to deliver about $100,000 in infant formula and medical supplies to Iraq. Then in her 70s, she drove a supply truck part of the way from Jordan to Baghdad.

“Maya was most comfortable and happiest fighting for the underdog,” her daughter said.


Miller’s concern for the environment led her to co-found the Foresta Institute for Ocean and Mountain Studies, a nonprofit organization that included a summer camp for the study of ecology, in 1960.

She also helped in efforts to create Lake Tahoe State Park in Nevada.

Born in Los Angeles on June 29, 1915, she graduated from Principia College in Elsah, Ill., and earned a master’s in English at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

She married Richard Miller, an oil engineer, and they moved to Nevada in about 1950. The couple had two children, Kit and Eric, before divorcing.


In 2000, Miller was honored by the Nevada Women’s Lobby, a nonpartisan coalition that promotes equal rights for women, when it established the Maya Miller Egalitarian Award and presented her the first one.

In addition to her daughter, Miller is survived by her former husband and three grandchildren.