Mary Ann Nusrala was born in 1942 in Westfield, New Jersey. During the postwar era, American society strongly discouraged women from pursuing professional careers, but Nusrala’s parents were as supportive of her obtaining a good education and career as they were of her brother. Both of her parents were well educated; her father was a Certified Public Accountant and her mother was a teacher who had earned a BA in French and an MA in Education. Mary Ann’s mother stayed home with her children until the youngest daughter turned nine and then returned to work. She raised her daughters with the knowledge that they were capable of achieving professional success. Reflecting the structural limitations of the time, though, her father told her that while she could major in whatever she would like, she should get a teaching or nursing license so that she could find a job after graduation. Given her parent’s example and expectations, Nusrala earned a BA in Political Science and an MA in Government from Georgetown University in 1966; she also earned teaching licenses in three states.
After she finished her MA, Nusrala worked to help establish the National Teacher corps in Washington D.C., a War on Poverty program designed to bring better educators to impoverished areas. She then moved to St. Louis to work with the Human Development Corporation, a local antipoverty program, where she worked in a low-income African American community and helped residents organize to win public services such as streetlights, community health centers, and educational programs. At that time, Nusrala recalls, the federal government was more willing to spend money to “improve the plight of low income people.”
Nusrala married in 1967 and had two children. The evening hours required for her job did not align well with raising a family so she became a teacher while also volunteering with social service projects. The family moved around but eventually settled in Corvallis in 1974. There, Mary Ann chose to stay home and raise her children, but she eventually went back to work part-time as an educator
Nusrala’s introduction to the league actually occurred while she was working a project for her graduate program at Georgetown. She was researching the topic of Home Rule in D.C., and was unable to find any information on the subject except a small pamphlet published by the League of Women Voters. When she moved to Corvallis in 1974, she joined the local League. She has worked on a local food program that encourages farmers to produce food for the local community and with the local jail, where she brings educational programs to inmates. Her work with the League has given her a positive impression of local government, which she describes as “very welcoming, if we asked to testify because we studied an issue…they were very welcoming.”
Nusrala joined the League because its work aligned with her lifetime commitment to community service. When asked what her greatest achievement with the League, she replied, “I think…it’s not so much the topic I worked on that I would be proud of…it’s the education I got and the connection…that the league has enhanced.”