Where are you from, and why there?
I was born in San Diego, California, on August 27, 1941. My dad, born in 1898 in Connecticut, got his doctorate at Berkeley and was hired by San Diego State University in the English department. My mother was a junior high school science teacher, but she didn’t work after my sister and I came along. She was a strong woman in a wonderful sense of the word. My dad loved tennis and started me on the game when I was 8. I played tournament tennis until I was 15 and ranked fifth in the nation in that age bracket. I received my B.A. from San Diego State University in 1962, got my M.A. in French from Middlebury College in 1963. I taught French full-time at the University of Redlands from 1964-1970, and taught the first Women’s Studies course there, with more than 100 students.
Which issue(s) do you work on/care about, and why?
I think I’ve been a feminist all my life. I have been a serious advocate of safe, legal abortion and women’s choice writ large.
How did you get involved?
Ever since my college days I’ve been interested in population issues worldwide. Since 2002, when I started 34 Million Friends of the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), I have literally left no stone unturned to spread the word and the message it contains for gender equality.
What’s the biggest challenge for the issue(s) today?
I am an atheist, which is an important part of my life. Science, reason, common sense, and observation lead me to know that there is no God. And religion globally is one of the greatest impediments to the full acceptance of women as equal human beings.
Who are your most frequent allies? Any surprises?
34 Million Friends in certain circles is quite well known (and well partnered) throughout the world. In 2005 UNESCO (the branch in Bern, Switzerland) decided to find 1,000 obscure women who were doing good things in the world to nominate as a group for the Nobel Peace Prize. (See www.1000peacwomen.org.) I was one of those women. It was a symbolic act and a wonderful tribute. I also was honored to be featured in “Jane Roberts and Her 34 Million Friends,” which was Chapter 8 of “Half the Sky,” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I have written chapters for a few books as well, the best probably being, “Let Us Envision Gender Equality: Nothing Else is Working,” in “Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future: Insights from 45 Global Thought Leaders” edited by Robert Costanza and Ida Kubiszewski.
What drives you?
I’m driven to help women overcome impediments to realizing their full human potential. And while the $4.4 million we’ve raised so far is good, it is nowhere near what I desire.
What do you want your career/advocacy to stand for?
The pursuit of women’s full equality in the world.