Mary Pillsbury Lord was born on November 14, 1904, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Charles Stinson and Nelle Pendleton (Winston) Pillsbury and a descendant of the founder of the Pillsbury Flour Mills Co. She attended St. Timothy's School in Catonsville, Maryland, before enrolling in Smith College, where she majored in French and was graduated cum laude in 1927. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and later received honorary degrees from twelve institutions. She married Oswald Bates Lord, a textile manufacturer, on December 7, 1929; they had two sons, Charles Pillsbury and Winston.
MPL began her career as a volunteer social worker in Minneapolis; after her marriage, she became a volunteer case worker in New York. She was a director of the East Side Settlement House, 1939-1943, and president of the Junior League of New York, 1936-1938. In 1940, MPL became chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Women's Participation in the World's Fair. During World War II, she served as Assistant Regional Director of the Office of Civilian Defense and in 1944 was appointed chairman of the National Civilian Advisory Committee of the Women's Army Corps, which enabled her to tour army installations in the United States, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. During one of these tours she met General Dwight D. Eisenhower, for whom she campaigned as co-chairman of Citizens for Eisenhower-Nixon in the 1952 Presidential campaign.
MPL also organized and chaired the U.S. Committee for UNICEF beginning in 1947. In 1953, she was appointed by President Eisenhower to succeed Eleanor Roosevelt as the U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. She served as an alternate U.S. representative to the General Assembly, 1953-1959, and was appointed a U.S. representative in 1960. In connection with her work for the U.N., MPL travelled at her own expense to almost all the countries of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. During this time she also wrote numerous articles and delivered speeches both in the United States and abroad to advocate the work of the U.N. and the Human Rights Commission.
After her resignation from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in 1961, MPL continued to travel abroad, entertain foreigners visiting the U.S., and organize volunteers. Most notably she chaired the (New York) Governor's Committee on the Education and Employment of Women and worked with the Citizens for Peace with Freedom in Vietnam Committee. She was also president of the International Rescue Committee and a governor of the Atlantic Institute. She died at home on July 21, 1978.
From the guide to the Papers, 1927-1972, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)