She is currently Professor Emerita of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. After getting her B.A. at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, she received her M.A. from Stanford University and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
After a year's research job on South Asia, she became an instructor at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and then Assistant Professor at Scripps College in Claremont, California.
In 1961 she joined the University of California, Los Angeles, as a Visiting Assistant Professor, became Assistant Professor in 1967 and then Associate and full Professor, teaching mainly Middle Eastern and Iranian history, and also giving courses on comparative revolution, comparative religious politics, and non-written sources and methodology in history teaching and research.
She was an Associate Professor at Harvard Summer School (1967), a Visiting Professor at the University of Rochester (1970), a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris, III (1976-78) and a Visiting Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, D.C. (1982). She spent, over several decades, a total of three years in Iran and did extensive research travel in Europe, the Middle East, East and Southeast Asia, and Africa.
She earned fellowships from the American Association of University Women (1954-1955), the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1963-64), the Social Science Research Council (1959-1960 and 1966) and the Rockefeller Foundation (1980, 1982 and 1984 at Bellagio).
She served on the executive boards of the Society for Iranian Studies and of the Middle East Studies Association, and was elected President of the latter for 1980-1981. She also served on University committees.