Helen Kitchen, née Angell, was born in Oregon and studied journalism and political science at the University of Oregon. She was the first woman editor of the Oregon Daily Emerald, the campus newspaper. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and went to work for Reader's Digest. During World War II, she served as a political analyst for the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA) in Egypt. In 1944, she married Jeffrey Kitchen, with whom she had three children. From 1951 to 1958, she was an intelligence researcher for the Department of State's Division of Research for the Near East, South Asia, and Africa. She was editor of the Washington-based journal Africa Report from 1960 to 1968, and of the African Index from 1978 to 1982. From 1981 until mid-1996, she was the Director of the African Studies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she published CSIS Africa Notes, a monthly briefing paper series with subscribers in more than 40 countries. She authored, co-authored, or edited 11 books, and her articles on African politics and U.S. policy appeared in periodicals worldwide. In 1985-1986, she served as consultant to the Secretary of State's bipartisan Advisory Committee on South Africa. She was a member of many prestigious organizations, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Ford Foundation's Study Group on Southern Africa, and the governing council of the United States-South Africa Leader Exchange Program (USSALEP). She traveled extensively in both North and sub-Saharan Africa and lived in Iran from 1969 to 1972.