She had her early education in England and graduated in anthropology from the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. She completed her doctorate in anthropology from Cambridge University in 1950.
From 1947 to 1953, Gough did extensive anthropological research in India, primarily in the Malabar district from 1947 to 1949 and Tanjore district from 1950 to 1953. She returned to India in 1976 and it was after this visit that most of her research work on India were published. She was employed at teaching positions at Brandeis University from 1961 to 1963, the University of Oregon from 1963 to 1967 and Simon Fraser University from 1967 to 1970. She was an Honorary Research Associate at the University of British Columbia from 1974 until her death in 1990.
Gough married anthropologist David Aberle who was known for his leftist leanings. Gough died in Vancouver on September 8, 1990 after a four-month illness with cancer.She was buried on September 13, 1990 at Capilano View cemetery.
Gough was a Marxist and the responses of some university administrations to her leftist leanings sometimes landed her in trouble. She supported Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis and was outspoken in her condemnation of police brutalities. As a result most of the stipulated pay hikes during her teaching career were cancelled. Moreover, Gough's membership in the Johnson-Forest Tendency and her work for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam triggered the interest of the FBI, who placed her and her husband on their watchlist.
Some of Gough's more important works include More Beautiful: The Rebuilding of Vietnam (1978), Rural Society in Southeast India (1981), Rural Change in Southeast India, 1950's-1980's (1989) and Political Economy in Vietnam (1990).
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