Barbara Lewis Solow, known to her friends as Bobby, died on Feb. 17 in Lexington. She was 90.
She was a longtime resident of Concord and Boston, and spent more than 50 consecutive summers in Chilmark.
Bobby was a native of Trenton, N.J., a fact of which she was immoderately proud. She was born on Nov. 8, 1923 to Abraham and Katherine (Lakoff) Lewis. Her mother died while she was young, and her upbringing was largely in the hands of her father’s housekeeper, Barbara Bauer, who was like a second mother to Bobby and her sister, Janet. She graduated from Trenton High School and Radcliffe College (1945) where in 1942 she met and became engaged to the love of her life, a Harvard student named Robert Solow. They corresponded daily while he served in North Africa and Italy in World War II, and upon his return were married and began their doctoral studies in economics at Harvard.
After a 13-year interruption to raise three children, Bobby returned to Harvard to complete her dissertation in economic history under Alexander Gerschenkron. She was a specialist in Irish economic history and in the economic history of plantation slavery in the Caribbean islands, and was on the economics faculty of Brandeis University and Boston University and finally a research associate at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard. In retirement she studied the novels of Anthony Trollope, and the light they shed on 19th century Irish economic life. She wrote and edited several books and scholarly articles in her specialties, and a volume of her essays on Caribbean slavery will be published in May.
An avid sailor, skier and tennis player, Bobby also enjoyed bridge, was an ardent Red Sox fan, and never failed to place small wagers on three NFL games every Sunday of the football season no matter where in the world she was. In her own words, she “read a lot of good books, saw a lot of monasteries and cathedrals, [and] watched a lot of great ball games. What more could a middle class Jewish girl from Trenton, New Jersey want?”
Bobby is survived by her husband, Robert M. Solow; her children John Lewis Solow and his wife Catherine of Iowa City, Andrew Robert Solow and his wife Margaret McCormick of Woods Hole, and Katherine Solow and her husband Daniel Duling of Los Angeles; and grandchildren Rebecca, Benjamin, Kathryn, Daniel, Thomas, Lewis, Nicholas and Anna.