Rita Duarte Marinho was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1942. Raised primarily by women in the shadow of World War II, Marinho was taught the power and value of a good education. Shortly after beginning an undergraduate degree, Marinho married her first husband, Robert Moniz, and had three sons. Marinho and Moniz later divorced. She married her second husband, Kenneth Duarte, and the two remained together until his death in approximately 2017. When her sons were 10, 8, and 6 years old, she returned to her undergraduate studies and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, in 1974. She went on to become only the fourth woman to earn her PhD in political science from Brown University in 1979.
Marinho led a successful academic career beginning as an Assistant Professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, in 1978. She worked her way up to be a full professor, the Director of the Women’s Studies department, and eventually Dean in 1995. Simultaneously, she served as New Bedford City Counsellor from 1978 to 1980, Membership Chair of the Women's Caucus for Political Science from 1978 to 1983, Vice President of the Young Women’s Christian Association national board from 1984 to 1990, and Executive Director of the Fall River Regional Task Force from 1984 to 1995. She has retired to Florida.