Ruth Ann Harnisch, Founder & President

Here’s where I sound off! Whether I’m sharing fresh insights or channeling
righteous rage, this is the place I’ll be pouring my heart out to you. Updated
fortnightly if not more frequently.

Ruth Ann Harnisch, Founder & President

Here’s where I sound off! Whether I’m sharing fresh insights or channeling
righteous rage, this is the place I’ll be pouring my heart out to you. Updated
fortnightly if not more frequently.

In 1998, when I founded the Harnisch Foundation, my intention was to be a good steward, leveraging money, skills, and connections to help make life a little better for others.
Ruth Ann Harnisch
In 1998, when I founded the Harnisch Foundation, my intention was to be a good steward, leveraging money, skills, and connections to help make life a little better for others.
Ruth Ann Harnisch

2 years ago

Issue 2: Our Focus on Fairness

Dear Reader,

As we enter a new year and a new focus for the Harnisch Foundation, I can’t stop thinking about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s laughter.

She was recalling tales of outrageous sexism during a visit with members of the Women’s Forum of New York, of which she was a founding member. The United States Supreme Court Justice noted that the very venue where she was speaking, the Yale Club, used to shunt women away from the main entrance. The Harvard Club had a separate door for women. “And the Century Club didn’t allow women at all,” she said, laughing.

I, on the other hand, have to strap on the blood pressure cuff and breathe deeply to remain calm while I recount that the Century Club (technically, the Century Association) opened its membership to women in 1989 -- and only because it was forced by court order. Seriously, 1989. Not enough time has passed for me to be able to laugh about that.

Inequity has never been a laughing matter for me, even as a little kid. I saw how the deck was stacked and I sounded off about it. In the 3rd grade, I rebelled daily during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance; my version ended “with no liberty and justice at all.”

I was a child of the civil rights era whose schools were integrated by busing, so I was shocked to encounter public accommodations labeled “Colored” and “White” on a family trip through Southern states. I entered the job market in the Mad Men era. Everything in my life was dictated (and limited) by my gender. At the same time, I could see that men paid a high price for owning and running and being the boss of everything. Men were expected to measure up, literally in the case of height, size, economic status, athletic ability, intellectual superiority, physical courage, willingness to fight to the death for principle. Gender expectations and limitations forced everyone into boxes that did not fit all.

I was one of those who marched, protested, and lobbied for equal rights. I benefitted from the “affirmative action” laws that required employers to help women and other minorities qualify for jobs they’d been barred from holding in the past. Thanks to the blood and work and sacrifice of others, I’m in a position of extraordinary privilege. And I know that I am one of the lucky ones.

It’s not a fair world. There’s still not a level playing field, even where things are legally mandated to be fair. So how can Ruth Bader Ginsburg laugh when she talks about the bad old days? “Easy,” explained a colleague. “She won that one.” Indeed. On that day, uniformed police surrounded the Yale Club entrance to escort Justice Ginsburg IN to the once-forbidden space.

We at the Harnisch Foundation want to see more doors open to more people. In our 17th year of grantmaking, we are focusing on fairness. We’re investing most of our time and resources in the advancement of women and girls, promoting gender and racial diversity, and helping people become their best selves without the constraint of traditional roles or old prejudices.

I hope you’ll find something in our work to inspire you, to support you, and perhaps to encourage you to take action yourself. Let’s rack up some wins, RBG-style. We could all use a little more of that kind of laughter.

Love,
Ruth Ann

Read: A Q&A With Judith Helfand of Chicken & Egg Pictures

Prioritizing the demand for women's reproductive rights is necessary in the courtroom and on screen. In this Q&A Cybil Martin interviews Chicken & Egg Pictures creative director and co-founder, Judith Helfand, about their REEL Reproductive Justice program, and why they're looking for films that explore this issue in ways we've not yet seen.

"Why women? Because it matters who is making the films that we rely on to entertain, provoke, document, and translate the world in which we live. It matters who is behind the camera and driving the inquiry. By supporting women directors, we are supporting the world we want to see."

The Women of Chicken & Egg Pictures (photo: Getty Images)

Watch: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Abortion, Race and the Broken Congress

“We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country,” Ginsburg told msnbc’s Irin Carmon.

Attend: Derrick Wang’s opera ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’ at the Castleton Festival

Illustration by Jeff Dionise

An opera about Supreme Court justices? Yes, please! Composer Derrick Wang has taken the drama from the court room to the opera playhouse.  The plot follows Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who hold opposing views on the bench, but enjoy a close friendship outside the courtroom, through a series of trials with Scalia being portrayed by a tenor and Ginsburg a soprano.

Get Tickets for the World Premiere of ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’ showing July 11, 17 and 19 at the Castleton Festival, Castleton, VA.

Ask: Ruth Ann a Question

Have questions about philanthropy? Looking for ways to maximize your impact? Want the latest on girls & women? Ask our Founder Ruth Ann below. Check back as she'll respond in a future post.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Engage: with these three organizations supporting women leaders

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VoteRunLead: a national nonpartisan organization that unleashes the power of women leaders in democracy through training, technology and community.

 

Take The Lead: prepares, develops, inspires and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.

 

Athena Center for Leadership: dedicated to cultivating smart, engaged, confident leaders.

 

 


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