Jean V. Hardisty, PRA founder and long-time Executive Director sadly passed away on March 16, 2015, after battling a recurrence of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  She was a force in the lives of all who knew her. A visionary, she anticipated many of the political and economic shifts the country has endured over the past several decades. Undaunted by the implications of her insights, she dedicated herself tirelessly–and with uncommon skill, humor, and compassion–to the cause of social justice. She was a friend, mentor, colleague, and inspiration to us, and to countless people and organizations

Shortly after Jean’s passing, we put out a call to our friends and colleagues to help us honor her memory with stories. Stories of how she influenced leaders in our social justice community through education, mentorship, rigorous research, thoughtful analysis, gentle humor, and a mighty presence. Together they create a composite of a woman whose compassion, intelligence, and wit were at the core of her passion for justice. Below are the compiled tributes to Jean. You can click on an authors name to the right to see their contribution.

If you would like to contribute a written tribute to Jean, please email

On the Shoulders of Giants: Carrying Jean’s Legacy Forward

In response to the rise of the New Right and election of Ronald Reagan, Jean Hardisty created a new kind of social justice organization: a research center to study the U.S. Right and equip social justice leaders to understand and overcome increasingly powerful adversaries. While dedicated to scholarly rigor in documentation and analysis, Political Research Associates’ work was to be accessible and was to go beyond mere exposure of outrages to engage critical questions of strategy: What way forward for racial, economic, and gender justice?

With the help of Margaret Quigley, Chip Berlet, and others (some of whose names you’ll find in these pages), Jean built PRA into a little powerhouse. We who have been entrusted with PRA know we stand on the shoulders of giants and that it falls to us – and to Jean’s broader community – to ensure that hers is a living legacy. Even as we mourn her passing, we recommit ourselves to carry Jean’s critically important work into the future. These are a few of the ways we strive to realize her purpose and to practice her commitment to excellence:

Accuracy and Insight: We aim to be not only right, but relevant—enriching the progressive community’s understanding of what the Right is doing and, especially, of where it is going and what action we can take to defend and advance a more just and humane society. Jean had an amazing ability to anticipate the Right’s next moveWithout ever disregarding the nuances and critical details, we seek to cut through the noise and speak to underlying trends.

Effective partnerships: Advancing social justice requires strong and strategic movement organizations. Jean was enormously proud of PRA’s activist resource kit series (on public education, immigrant rights, reproductive justice, criminal justice, and defending democracy) for their tailored contributions to a range of social justice movements. We remain committed to deep, strategic partnerships and continue to work closely with a range of visionary organizations active in such areas as immigrant worker organizing, women’s economic justice, LGBTQ equality and liberation, racial justice, public education, and reproductive justice. These partnerships help to shape our research priorities. Our findings are often shared with organizers in strategy sessions before we publish them publicly.

Mentorship: Jean was a mentor to so many people, equipping both peers and younger people to step into leadership in important ways. The social justice movement has experienced substantial generational change in the nearly 35 years since Jean founded Midwest Research in 1981, including here at PRA. Our work to “pass it forward” includes training a new generation of researchers and analysts—pairing new staffers with movement elders and supporting student interns to develop their own skills and analysis.

The best way we know to honor Jean is to apply her wisdom and passion to the unfinished work of remaking our world in the image of social justice, continually innovating as conditions change—just as Jean always did. May she live on in our hearts, our heads, and our actions.

– From the PRA Staff and Board

Interwoven Lives

I’ve been a member of the Jean Hardisty fan club for more than three decades.  Our lives were interwoven through our politics, mutual friendships and our support for each in our roles as leaders of “edgy” organizations.   Jean’s political astuteness, piercing analysis of the right and neoliberalism, and commitment to social justice feminism are indisputable.  She matched all that brilliance with a compassionate and open heart. While not frequent enough, I loved being in her presence. I feel a special honor and commitment  to you Jean—as friend and political comrade—to nurture your legacy through my work on the PRA Board.   Love, Acey.

– Katherine Acey

Showing Us the Path

There is a Farsi/Urdu/Hindi word – raahnumaa – which means the one who shows the path. I can’t think of a better word to describe Jean. She was a mentor and a guide to me, and to so many of us in the progressive movement.

Back in 2000, I was teaching at Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal. Almost halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, it was in neither! As a gay immigrant who lived most of my life in cities I felt stifled in the rural Midwest. It didn’t help that academic life, which I’d sought out, also didn’t fulfill my desire to be more engaged in hands-on progressive movement work.

By chance, I came across a position for director at Political Research Associates in Boston and immediately recognized this was my dream place to work at. A progressive think tank studying the Right. An academic endeavor that was rooted in service of progressive activism. My own PhD thesis had looked at an emerging alliance of progressive social movements in India that had risen to challenge the Right. I knew how important it was to challenge the Right here in the US.

I sent in my application and shortly got a call from Jean. We immediately hit it off! Her humor and compassion as much as her brilliance and passion clearly coming through. We both had been in academia and had felt stifled within it, wanting to be more engaged with doing work that would matter to people on the front lines of organizing for a better and more just society. Jean asked me to come to Boston for an interview and I jumped at the opportunity.

After a great interview with her, Chip Berlet and others at PRA I flew back and waited. Jean called me soon after – with a twist. The position I’d interviewed for, she said, might not be the right one for me at that time but she had another position she wanted me to consider. This was Surina Khan’s position that she’d left recently to become the director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. She encouraged me to talk with Surina, and I did when I met her at that year’s DesiQ gathering of LGBT South Asians in San Francisco. Surina strongly advised me to accept it.

At the end of my call to Jean to let her know about my decision, she asked me if I had anything else on my mind. For some reason, although I knew what PRA was, and given I was taking Surina’s former job, I said something to her about being gay and making sure that was ok. She chuckled and with her trademark impishness replied, “Honey, I’m a lesbian. All the women here are lesbians. And the guys, well they might as well be!” Thanks to Jean I’ve never looked back.

My parents were aghast! My other option at the time was a position with the UN, based in Japan, doing work on South and Southeast Asia. Also a dream job! They’d never heard of PRA, didn’t think that much of non-profits as a career opportunity, and had no idea what challenging the Right meant. Later, after I’d joined PRA, my mother had come to visit. I took her to a house party Jean had hosted for Surina at her Day street home. Jean made it a point to come and sit with my mother and reassure her that PRA was sound and stable, that the work was important, and that she didn’t have to worry about me.

Jean taught me so much when I worked with her at PRA and since then. But if there is one thing that always comes to mind, or that I have to remind myself frequently, in my impatience with the way things are and my despair with the way things are going it’s the advice she gave us in her very valuable 1996 piece on liberalism. “The Left needs liberals to create the breathing room necessary for us to do our work. Liberals, in turn, are given direction and held to some minimal standard of honesty by the Left.” It correctly reminds me, and all of us on the Left, that we can’t do this alone. But it doesn’t stop there and let me off the hook. It also tells me that I have to do my part.

Jean didn’t just think that or write that. She did that. She did her part till the very end. She walked the path that she showed us all.

 – Nikhil Aziz

Prescient Intellect and Skilled Leadership at The Helm of PRA

Jean Hardisty founded Political Research Associates in 1981, the year Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. Jean had already forecast the nation’s right turn and during 1980 and 1981 she studied shifts in conservative and right-wing ideology and organizing methods. What she found scared her.

Leaving an academic teaching post, Jean joined the Reproductive Rights Project of the ACLU of Illinois, writing an “ACLU Speakers Manual on Abortion.” This led her to the national anti-feminist women’s movement, which was blocking the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment. Jean studied Phyllis Schlafly and her downstate Illinois Stop ERA project that was skillfully mobilizing conservative women to become politically active around their kitchen tables in roles acceptable in a patriarchal Christian household.

Jean founded Midwest Research in Chicago because she was concerned that the Left’s response to the rise of the New Right was inadequate and dangerously misguided. In an interview for Jean recalled liberal and progressive activists at the time were dismissing the burgeoning right-wing movements “as a bunch of Yahoos and Rednecks,” telling her: “they don’t know what they are doing; they’re too stupid to hold power; and they’ll be gone quickly.” Jean quipped “in those first few years people didn’t know the difference between a Nazi and a neoconservative.” Jean sought to educate Left activists to create more effective analyses and responses. This included convincing progressive groups to stop using dismissive language and to differentiate among the various sectors of the US Right.

Peggy Shinner and I were the first two staffers Jean hired. Shinner recalls “Jean was so scrupulous in her work both as an academic and an activist–and that combination is very unique. Her discipline in fusing the two was extraordinary. There was simply no separation: her scholarship was the foundation of her activism.” Jean insisted on scholarly integrity in our research and accessible language in our writing. Fact checking became a team sport in the office.

We moved to Boston in 1987 as Political Research Associates. By then most of the Left had accepted the rise of the Right as the work of a powerful and skillful set of adversaries. PRA shifted into a new phase of analyzing right-wing movements. We studied how conservative leaders were able to convince people to vote against their overall economic interests; and how fear of change in an unstable time could lead to an allegiance with repressive government policies and bigoted forms of social oppression.

When the Coors Beer conglomerate sued a small leftist group in the south into bankruptcy, Jean responded by publishing a book with South End Press by Russ Bellant, The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism. We fully expected to be sued, and created three huge ring binders of photocopies with underlying source texts for each footnoted paragraph for our anticipated courtroom appearace. Coors claimed there were many errors… yet when PRA asked for one example, they never responded–and never sued PRA.

In 1993 Jean prepared background research for attorneys battling the homophobic Amendment Two passed by Colorado voters the previous year. This became her study “Constructing Homophobia;” included as a chapter in her book Mobilizing Resentment. In this as in all her work Jean’s goal was to help activists develop more effective strategies for countering the Right.

Chip Berlet and Jean Hardisty
Chip Berlet and Jean

Former PRA staff valued Jean’s mentorship. Surina Khan, author of PRA’s report Calculated Compassion, recalls “Jean gave me the time and intellectual space to think critically and understand the motivations behind conservative political movements. She taught me to expose the leaders of the Right and never demonize or scapegoat the followers.”

Pam Chamberlain helped edit the Activist Resource Kits, with topics including education, reproductive rights, and the criminal justice system. Chamberlain remembers Jean’s style of mentorship set “high expectations for these kits, and initially I was sure I was not up to the task. She would sit with me, calmly asking questions until I felt as if I were teaching her, not the other way around. Eventually I came to understand her approach to political and cultural analysis. This was one of her great gifts to me.”

Nikhil Aziz writes “Jean taught me to put my impatience with the way things are and my despair with the way things are going in perspective.” He cites Jean’s essay on “Liberalism” where she wrote: “The Left needs liberals to create the breathing room necessary for us to do our work. Liberals, in turn, are given direction and held to some minimal standard of honesty by the Left.” Aziz adds “we can’t do this alone. But it doesn’t let me off the hook…I have to do my part.”

Over several decades Jean became a national resource for human rights movements seeking social and economic justice and an end to bigotry based on race, gender, or class. Many social change activists knew Jean as a public intellectual, especially concerning feminist and lesbian issues. She was a game changer on several national boards, and trained women philanthropists in the strategies of the Right.

Gloria Steinem called Jean a “prophet.” Other memorial tributes describe Jean as both gentle and fierce—an accomplished scholar, strategist, mentor, activist, writer, and public speaker. Jean was all that and more.

Jean Hardisty: Presente!

– Chip Berlet

Conspiratorial Twinkle, Penetrating Thought

Jean, Jean we need you so. Such a fine mind, both quick and deep. So keenly attuned to erosions of democracy. So determined in her mission to give us the tools to understand, in detail, the shape of politics in our times – knowing how critical a foundation of clear analysis and reliable information is to building progressive movements. So successful at encouraging and mentoring new talent, and creating an enduring home to amplify their work. So consistent and generous in her support of research and organizing by and behalf of women of color. Such a welcome, productive and principled collaborator, always clear that developing working – and lasting – relationships among like-minded souls is the core of building effective political action. Jean, we miss the ready laugh, the conspiratorial twinkle, the penetrating thought, the breadth of vision. Deep is our gratitude for your time with us, for all that you’ve given and all that you’ve left behind.

– Linda Burnham

Rare and Lovely Combination

Jean taught me to view even the far right from a human perspective. I appreciated the soft spoken way she told hard truths about the world. She never shrank from confronting the most painful facts, but it was always done in such a generous way. She embodied grace, wisdom and good humor, a rare and lovely combination. My world was infinitely enriched by knowing her.

– Merle Chambers

Grace and Humor

My first introduction to the brilliant musings of Jean took place at a Women Donors Conference in Carmel, California. What a fantastic choice for a speaker. I, of course, promptly bought her book and realized I needed to learn more from her. How could one deal so patiently and intellectually with subjects- and let’s face it, people- that frankly left me frustrated and foaming at the mouth? Jean handled all of it with such grace and humor. I was fortunate enough to then take part in a study group that she led and will always be so impressed with her fairness and approach in her analysis of the subject matters that we covered. What a bright light she was. I feel lucky and enriched for having known her. She’ll be missed.

– Lori Colina-Lee

Her Legacy Changed My Life

If Jean Hardisty never founded PRA, which opened my eyes to the importance of understanding the unseen forces behind right-wing victories, I probably would not be studying the Christian Right today. Now, I’m in the middle of a Ph.D. program where I research the organizational infrastructure behind successful right-wing movements—and read their email alerts over breakfast. So her unique vision for an organization that social justice movements needed, launched before I was born, changed my life’s work.

Jean’s accomplishments as a researcher and as a leader, breaking with mainstream academia to recognize and act on the threat of the Right, truly inspired me as a young academic and activist. In person, she was kind and supportive (and always impressive), encouraging my ideas as valuable to the causes to which she dedicated so much of her life.

– Alex DiBranco

Always There

I was so deeply saddened to hear about Jean’s passing. I was friends with Jean in Chicago when she first became diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and courageously fought and beat it. I have been a supporter of PRA since its Chicago days, mainly because of Jean. I met her when I moved to Chicago and became a founding member and organizer, along with several other women, including Jean, of Women United for a Better Chicago. WUBC was an advocacy organization for women and their children, mostly poor and working class.  Jean was instrumental, financially and in many other ways, in helping to get it running. She was always there when we needed advice, resources, encouragement and help. There were times when I became discouraged by seemingly intractable conditions, but her friendship and commitment inspired me to keep going.

Jean was the most thoughtful, committed, and caring person I have known in my 76 years on earth. She was truly a good human being who will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.

– Gloria Donohue

Devotion to Truth and Justice

I met Jean in the early 90’s, when I was just starting the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. She was such a supportive friend and mentor to me in those early years — not only sharing her insights about the right wing’s influence on LGBT rights, but her organizational development know-how too. Her devotion to truth and justice, as well as to building PRA, was and will always be an inspiration to me. In huge appreciation to her life well-lived and a cause well-served,

– Julie Dorf

Our Teacher, Our Muse

I loved the sound of Jean’s voice.  She spoke both calmly and forcefully, and she always voiced the most remarkable insights and information. I met her for the first time in 1985, at a board meeting of the Ms. Foundation for Women.  Jean was a member of the board, and I was a visitor talking about women’s economic development, with Bob Friedman and Marie Wilson, the Foundation’s new executive director. Jean was very interested in what we were saying, AND she was a clear voice for understanding this new work in the context of the Foundation’s long-standing work, and important role, in fighting for greater economic justice for women, particularly for low-income women and women of color. What she said that day began to shape my thinking, and I never stopped listening to her, or seeking out her opinion.

In the mid 90s, with the leadership of Tani Takagi, the Foundation inaugurated the Democracy Funding Circle, a giving circle of individual donors.  Jean’s title with the Circle may have been  “education consultant,”, but she was really the Circle’s muse. What I remember (possibly not what actually happened!) is that Jean and Tani wanted to call the Circle the Fight the Right Circle, but settled on the Democracy Funding Circle.  Whatever the name, the Circle’s work led the Foundation, for the first time, to include among its grantees organizations that were not women’s organizations, but were doing the hard, day-by-day work of organizing and engaging more people in progressive social justice work.

The Circle had an annual grant making cycle, and each year we held two or three educational meetings that shaped the Circle’s strategy for that year.  Jean was our teacher, bringing her own work, as well as other people and their work, into our orbit.  She patiently led us through analysis of elections, of local, state and national events and incidents, and of the work of the Right.  She always brought a historical perspective that was both challenging and reassuring.  I remember that she said, on more than one occasion, “it’s been worse than this before.”  I remember also her teaching on the election of George W. Bush, not once but twice, and on his cabinet appointments and his policies, and on the meaning of Katrina, of white supremacy, of rural organizing and of the Southern experience.  Her words of wisdom, in these and so many other areas, brought us remarkable insights and understandings, and added immense value to the work and the life of every woman in the room, whether in her philanthropy or in her personal life.

Speaking of personal lives, the Circle was a place where lives connected, and I know that all of us felt that Jean was the center, the core, the glue, the reason that we were there.  Over the years, we took pictures at the end of a grant making cycle, and one of the members recently said that these pictures are in Jean’s photo albums.  I’m attaching one that I recently found to this email.

Jean and I liked to joke that she saw me grow up, even though she was only 6 years older.  But it’s true; she was an irreplaceable guide on my political and personal journey. I know I’m not alone when I say that I often felt that she was standing next to me, that she listened to me and heard me in a really unique way.  Several years ago, after I became the Foundation’s president, we were in a meeting together with many others. A few days later, she sent me a beautiful stone, in a beautiful little sack, with a beautiful note inside. The note said that she had heard me say at the meeting that I was really worn out, and so she was sending me the stone to keep with me.  It had, she said, been a great support to her in difficult times.  It was an unbelievably reassuring, encouraging and loving gesture.The stone has comforted me many times since then, but never more than in the last few weeks.

– Sara Gould

Justice for All

How many women do you know who have a tough spirit, a clear and principled mind, a gentle and sweet personality, and who make each person that they come in contact with feel like s/he is the most important person in the world?

That was Jean Hardisty.

I met Jean in 2002 when I began my adventure as the head of the Women Donors Network.  From our first meeting, until my last face to face gabfest with her at a restaurant in Somerville last fall, I was smitten.  She had a fierce intelligence but could break things down into bite-size, comprehensible pieces.  She never spoke down to anyone – rather she spoke with us; she engaged us in debate.  She provided more insights and wisdom in an hour of discourse than many hours of copious reading.

I was so honored to participate in the second series of “The WDN PRA Study Circles.”  We gathered a couple of times a year, either in Boston or San Francisco (there were two groups), to examine the right-wing issues and strategies of the day and to think and analyze them through Jean’s lenses.

A quiet wit and a wicked sense of humor were always present, wrapped in a cloak of southern gentility.  This made Jean such a mysterious person to people on the far right!  She was always respectful and friendly and appreciated the chance for repartee.  Allowing herself to become triggered by some outrageous statement never crossed her mind.  How many of us can say that?!

Of course no visit or conversation went without stories about her beloved Peggy or her adored poodle Susie.  Among many other things we both loved, we shared a love of poodles for sure.

If I were to write a six-word memoir (my favorite hobby these days) of Jean Hardisty it would be: Loving progressive sought justice for all.

She lives on in our hearts and minds.

– Donna Hall

Networking and Linkages

I cannot recall the exact date/year that I met Jean. I feel like I have known her for decades. I was always glad to hear that Jean would be at a meeting, a conference, a gathering. She was an amazing teacher. She educated generations of activists about the history of the right-wing in the US and beyond. She never seemed to grow tired explaining about the John Birch Society, the Posse Comitatus, their connections to corporations, political leaders, grass roots movements. Their insidious networking and the linkage to today’s Tea Party, Koch Brothers, Corporate  manipulation of the political system.

She was soft spoken, gentle, earnest, forthright. She captured the audience’s attention right away and kept them there until she was finished.

I will miss her.

– Anne Hess

A Personal Beneficiary

Jean was a clear-headed realist who, very early on, warned us away from sniggers about the clownish right wing. She herself never under-estimated the conservative contingent. Instead, through her writing and organizing, Jean outlined for us how right wing forces have built a formidable, almost invincible, movement. The value of Jean’s perspective is profound in aiding us in essential organizing – which continues to be undergirded by further analysis from Political Research Associates (PRA), the organization she founded to monitor the right.

In 1999, Jean published Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise-Keepers. The following is from a review I wrote of Jean’s book in 1999:

“While we have been busy thinking of the Right as a bunch of crack-pots, Jean shows us how they have carefully, deliberately, and with great fore-thought, gathered momentum through a solid strategy of gaining electoral dominance and building a stable, enduring infrastructure. We have much to contend with as this infrastructure is backed by the might of the economic and political power structure. We have already felt its impact in the steady dismantling of hard-won social gains and civil liberties. In the face of this unraveling, we, the “non-right”, have been curiously disempowered and silenced. For example we have not been able to formulate any response to the destruction of affirmative action, even if it is to state that differential treatment may be allowed if it promotes equality.” 

I feel I am a personal beneficiary of Jean’s work because her most brilliant insight is how successfully the right uses “hatred” as a mobilizing tool. Today this analysis helps to expose the extreme right’s promotion of hatred towards Muslims by pouring millions of dollars into fanning “Islamophobia”. We are already familiar with campaigns to fan resentment towards blacks, feminists, gays, lesbians, and the liberal agenda in general.

In the face of this hate-energy, somehow Jean remained serene. On a bookmark (that I still use to this day!) that accompanied the release of her book, is a quote by Jean: “The work of rebuilding will involve incremental progress toward a long-term goal of radical social change”. Jean quietly committed herself to help build that liberal, humanist, left-of-center movement. Jean’s mark has been left on innumerable organizations that I admire, and she was a leader in two organizations that I have been most closely involved with, the Boston Women’s Fund and Grassroots International. She famously once said: “Even when I lived in Chicago, I funded the Boston Women’s Fund because of its politics and genuine ties to the community!” At Grassroots International, Jean is known for her level headed guidance as a board member in times of change, and helping to ground our work with sharp political analyses.

How then did Jean find time to be the best friend ever to each of us? Just as she put effort and care in redressing the balance of justice in the world, she took similar care in cultivating personal relationships. She opened her arms to me and to my family, and we fell into them. My husband and children never thought of Jean as “Mom’s friend”, they seized her as their own special ‘Jean Jelly-Bean’. No occasion was complete without her there: birthdays, a wedding, Graduations, launching a medical school degree, even a honeymoon at Foley Cove! When our dog Precious died, the ceremony to grieve and mark the occasion had to have Jean (the only guest), and she came prepared to honor the little being with a poem. And what kind of summer would it have been without our annual lobster-fests…?

Now we must come to terms with the emptiness in our hearts. The loss is only bearable because our grief is cushioned by memories of intense joy.  Three days before Jean died I had a visit with her, and she gave me the most beautiful smile imaginable. I hold that close like a priceless Treasure.

– Hayat Imam and family

Tireless Fighter

I heard of Jean’s passing on a recent trip to South Africa and paused to recollect the wonderful times I spent with her.

Jean was one of those rare people who found a way to connect to everyone and make them feel special and heard. Every time I sat down with her, whether we were discussing South Africa or her trying to convince me, successfully, to join the PRA Board, she brought her whole self, listened and engaged in that beautiful way that made her Jean.

Jean was a tireless fighter for justice everywhere and I am forever grateful for the early work she published at PRA on the role of the religious right in southern Africa. She was ready to turn every stone to expose the grim realities facing the wars in Mozambique and Angola when no one was willing to touch these issues.

Her lifelong contributions to social justice can only inspire us to do more with what we have. She will forever be in my heart, mind and soul.

Hamba Kahle Comrade Jean!

Go well!

– Heetan Kalan

A Friend and A Mentor

Jean Hardisty hired me to be a research analyst at Political Research Associates in 1995. Getting the job at PRA was a dream come true. “If you offer me this job,” I said to Jean in my interview, “I would accept it in a heartbeat.” That seemed to work, because a day later she called to offer me the job and I moved from Connecticut, where I had been publishing an LGBT magazine, to Boston to research the Right.

On my first day, I was sitting at my desk around 6pm not wanting to leave because Jean was still at her desk and I wanted to make a good impression. We had an open office layout, like a newsroom, the idea being that it would enhance communication among us.  “Tell me again, what did you get your degree in, dear?” Jean said leaning over towards my desk. Oddly, this had not come up in my interview process.

Sh!*t! I thought to myself. I did not have a degree. Meanwhile here I was at an esteemed think tank, on my first day of work, and the dreaded question of my degree had come up. So I told the truth. “I don’t actually have a degree,” I said, waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting Jean to gasp in horror.

Tarso Luís Ramos, Surina Khan, and Jean
Tarso Luís Ramos, Surina Khan, and Jean

“Well, you’ll fit right in, dear. I’m the only one here who has a degree. Everyone else is a college drop out.” She didn’t judge, or make me feel bad. She just continued to mentor me, and teach me, with care, and calm, and her signature dry wit.

On my second day of work, I said to Jean, “So…should I be researching anything in particular?” I was reading various articles and publications, but was not really sure if I should focus on anything specific.

“Oh, that will probably take you a year or two to figure out,” she said. “Just keep reading and it will come to you. And if you need a more quiet atmosphere you should stay home and read.” I almost fell off my chair. “I’m getting paid to read,” I said to my housemate later that evening. I didn’t stay home much to read, though. I was too excited about coming to work.

A few weeks later, an article I wrote about sexuality in South Asia that was published in Trikone magazine elicited a nasty letter to the editor, which I was upset about. “I can’t believe they would write something so mean,” I said, wanting Jean or anyone else around me to sympathize with me. And Jean said, very calmly, “What did you learn from your attacker, dear?” Those simple words have lived with me ever since. In times of conflict and adversity, I think about what I am learning, rather than focusing on my anger or frustration.

Another time, Jean came back to the office after giving a talk. I don’t know who might have spoken with her at the same event, but when she returned to the office she offered us some unsolicited advice: “When you are giving a talk, it’s never a good idea to start with ‘I’m not feeling well or I’m nervous,’” she said.  “No one will focus on the substance of your comments, they’ll focus on your cold or on how nervous you might appear.”

When I got my first iPhone, I showed her how I could search for anything I wanted. “This changes everything,” I said. “We have access to information in a new way.” And Jean, ever the measured sage and analyst said, “We might have access to information in a new way, but who will make meaning of it?”

Whenever I needed advice over the years, I would call Jean. When I had good news to share, I would call Jean. In 2010 I was appointed by the University of California as the Regents’ Lecturer and spent a week in residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz, teaching classes, meeting with students and giving a public lecture. “Oh that’s wonderful, dear,” Jean said. ‘I don’t think we need to worry about your BA now,” she said with delight in her voice.

In 2011, I was working at the Ford Foundation where I went to launch the LGBT Rights Initiative. A year later in 2012 I was promoted to lead the entire unit, which included LGBT Rights, Women’s Rights, and HIV/AIDS. Jean sent me an email titled, “Your Promotion,” which I still have on my computer. “I’m bustin’ my buttons with pride and delight.  You go, girl! Love, xox Jean.”

One of our last email exchanges, late in 2014, when we were trying to find time to write something together for the Astraea Foundation, my schedule was overloaded. I was on and off a plane, moving across country back to California and starting a new job, and she said, “Let’s not stress about this. You have enough on your plate.” I was relieved and responded, “Thanks for saying that, because I really do have a lot on my plate.”  Jean responded, “Sending sympathy your way. As my old, beloved auntie used to say, ‘This too shall pass.’ I find I often have to invoke that saying, then try to believe it. Love, xox, Jean.”

In her quiet, gracious and genteel way, Jean Hardisty fostered courage, conviction, rigor, intellectual curiosity and generosity. She was, put simply, a treasure. And I will forever be grateful that I got to call her a mentor and a friend.

Our Dearest Jean, with Love and Loads of Affection.

– Surina Khan

With Love and Affection


Thank you for your intellectual smarts, courage, and perseverance that has influenced so many.  You boldly charged forth, going where few would venture.  Your vision, research, and leadership informed and advanced a more just world for all.

With love and appreciation,

– Shirley Mark

Keepin’ On

What an incredible loss!!  Her quiet formidable determination to make available information about the influence of right-wing groups greatly benefited me directly.  In the 1980s I was a member of the democratic ward 19 committee in Jamaica Plain.  We were having an election for delegates to go to the Massachusetts State democratic convention.  Several people showed up to nominate themselves for a delegate slot.  After nominations, speeches, and balloting no one from this group won.  Announcing themselves as the New Alliance Party they appealed the election to the state democratic committee.  I was the spokesperson for the Ward 19 Committee.  After the hearing,  Joel San Juan, the New Alliance Party spokesperson,  put a camera very close to my face.  I put my brief case up to protect myself.

The next day, he filed an accusation of assault against me.  Shortly, thereafter, a full beer can came through our downstairs windows shattering them.  We could never prove any connection but found the party had moved in around the corner. A member of the ward committee gave me a copy of the PRA newsletter with information about NAP attacking progressive groups as part of a nation wide effort.  This helped me enormously, so much so that I was able to organize a huge group of people to come to the trial. It wasn’t anything we did except to be progressive democrats.

The charge was swiftly dismissed and the 100 or so people who came were not intimidated but empowered.

Since then, I have contributed regularly to PRA who continues to keep on keepin’ on.

– Georgia Mattison

Supporting Local Activists

I first met Jean in early 90s. Back then, I was an employee of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, staffing a project called Fight the Right. As a working class person of color without much formal education, I often felt out of my element in national political circles, and there were many who were more than happy to reinforce that feeling. But Jean believed that a local activist, especially one of my background, deserved support. She gave it to me in the form of her endorsement, opening doors for me that would likely have remained closed if not for her help. In the two decades since then, I’ve met a many people, often people like me, who share the debt of gratitude I feel for Jean. She will never be forgotten.

– Scot Nakagawa

Her Spirit Lives On

It is so hard to think of a world without Jean in it. So many of us will miss her steady, wise, caring presence – always an inspiration to those committed to working on social justice and human rights. Just last year she introduced some of us at Our Bodies Ourselves to a younger colleague from another country, once again making one of those invaluable connections amongst activists. Her spirit will live on in the work at PRA and elsewhere, that’s for sure.

– Judy Norsigian

An Admired Reader, Thinker, and Writer

Jean was an unflagging supporter of New Words Bookstore and the Center for New Words. As a customer, she bought armloads of books and attended countless events. She was the first to contribute to our fundraising campaigns. As a writer, she read from her published works and captivated the audience with her research and insights about health and about politics. When we needed her to serve on our Board, she didn’t hesitate, and through the years, we relied on her knowledge of grassroots groups, and her vision of our part in the larger progressive movement. No one was more encouraging or consistently generous. Inevitably, she energized us. To each of us, she was a dear friend and comrade, an admired reader, thinker, and writer, and a constant source of wit, political savvy, and compassion.

– New Words Bookstore

Friendship and Political Thought

When I remember Jean Hardisty, I think of her great capacity for friendship and political thought.  She brought both of these gifts to our long conversations over several decades about what we as white feminist women could do to attack and dismantle racism.  The subject was always the work, not just self-education or changed individual behavior, but the work of going deep to dismantle racism’s very structure.  For Jean, this work was to understand and expose the Right because she recognized the way it had a design to build on and perpetuate a racist politic that would solidify and increase white dominance.  The title of her book, Mobilizing Resentment, went directly to that racist politic.  Intellectually fearless, Jean’s life work was to understand and explain how this country’s deeply embedded racism is used to move social and political changes that promote injustice and inequity.

Jean told me in our last phone call that she hoped to live long enough to finish writing her article on neoliberalism and poverty.  How very much I wish that article could have been finished as Jean’s last zestful strike at capitalism and racism.  As I grieve Jean’s early death, I focus on our friendship—the small bottle of vodka we kept for her in our home freezer for warming up our conversations when Jean stayed with us during Highlander board meetings—and the way she broadened my understanding of how taking on the Right was a direct face up battle against racism.

– Suzanne Pharr

Ahead of the Moment

It is a tribute to Jean Hardisty’s brilliance and influence that so many people can tell you a story about how she changed the way they think and what they do to advance social justice. In fact, I have noticed that many stories about Jean are mainly about the person doing the telling. I believe that’s because she had gift for transforming the lives she touched.

When Jean Hardisty called me in 2004 I had collaborated with Political Research Associates on projects going back some fifteen years, including bringing Jean to brief social justice leaders in the Northwest. I greatly admired her, in part because she had the ability to make an unvarnished presentation on the right-wing juggernaut land on you like an irresistible invitation to reexamine and strengthen progressive strategies. A less gifted presenter could simply overwhelm you with the magnitude of the threat, and a less honest one might tell you we could turn the tide on the Right just by improving our messaging or electing a Democratic president. Jean told it like it was, without hyperbole or self-aggrandizement. To hear her was to aspire to the heights of her analytical clarity and the depths of her passion for justice.

For all my familiarity with PRA, I don’t think I’d ever gotten a call from Jean herself. Jean told me she was planning to step down as executive director and asked whether I would consider applying for the position. To say this was unexpected would be wild understatement.  At the time I was running a racial justice program and had spent much of the preceding decade contending with anti-immigrant, militia, Christian Right, and all other manner of right-wing organizing. To me, this was a bit like a parish priest being summoned to the Vatican (if the Vatican were run by a liberationist lesbian). Although this was only an invitation to apply, I felt very flattered—as well as intimidated. I had never been an executive director and I knew Jean would be a tough act to follow. But, saying “No” to Jean Hardisty presented its own difficulties. (Who says “No” to Jean?)

To my relief, I had an irreproachable reason for declining her invitation. In a few months I would be leaving the U.S. to spend a year or more in Brazil, the land of my birth. George W. Bush was in his second term and I thought it a good time to seek rejuvenation in Brazil’s powerful social movements. Jean said that seemed like a good idea, sounding as cheery as she had before I apologetically declined. But she had planted a seed of suggestion.

Sure enough, the fates would send me to Boston and to PRA to become research director. Three years later, I became ED. Jean was semi-retired by then, but remained very engaged with the world and with PRA. She was always generous with her time and offered me guidance on various matters of politics and PRA—generally over martinis. She helped to orient a new generation of board and staff to PRA’s work, opened doors for me, was forever encouraging, and was especially polite when she thought I was barking up the wrong tree. I felt then, as I do now, responsibility for maintaining her rigorous standards and applying her by-now-legendary cardinal rules for this work.  During particularly trying times I would tell her, “I’m doing my best with your baby.” “I know you are,” she’d respond.

One of Jean’s qualities that I most admire was her constant, rigorous, reassessment of threat and opportunity. Jean was not one to rely on an old playbook, or rest on her laurels. She was in the moment, and sometimes ahead of it.

Fifteen years ago Jean wrote the book on right-wing backlash, Mobilizing Resentment. In her last article for PRA’s The Public Eye magazine, published just last fall, she declared that backlash politics were no longer the essence of the right-wing threat and challenged us all to reevaluate the present conjuncture of forces. “The U.S. is drifting toward oligarchy,” she argued, “while people living here seem to lack the indignation and power to overthrow neoliberalism.” She added, “If the Left is to mount a defense of the victims of neoliberalism… [a] good first step is to recognize that there has been a shift in the mechanisms and strategies that elites are using to achieve dominance.”

To the end, Jean invited us to join her in sharpening our analysis in order to take more strategic action in defense of human rights and democracy. This is the legacy she bequeathed to PRA and to us all, and for which I’ll be forever grateful.

– Tarso Luís Ramos

Laying Contradictions Bare

Jean and I started “traveling” together after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.  We were members of the Women Donors Network and joined with others, spurred on by Resource Generation, in raising $1 million a year for three years for The Twenty-First Century Foundation, a remarkable African-American public foundation that already had relationships with Gulf Coast grassroots organizations.  We co-hosted fundraisers, first at her house on Day Street in Somerville and later at mine in Jamaica Plain.  We loved talking in detail about the menu and who would prepare and serve the food.  It was from Jean that I first heard the description, “heavy hors d’oeuvres,” which to Jean meant plenty for a meal no matter the time of day.  She would say, “You have to feed people well before you ask them for money.”  I know we bonded around some long remembered experiences and expectations of Southern hospitality.  And we did raise money, due in large part to the message of conditions on the coast and the work that good folks there were doing, a message that sold itself.  Co-hosting with Jean was a tutorial in generosity, hospitality, and the good sense to offer a superb but not overly long program.

It was my good fortune to travel with Jean several times to Mississippi when she was researching her study of racism in the allocation of federal childcare subsidies in the state.  She was the brains of our tandem, and the celebrity.  I was the driver, mapping our routes, driving us to childcare centers, to the offices of NAACP leaders, university professors, and consultants, and to daycare centers in women’s homes, from Biloxi and the Gulf Coast to Jackson and to the rural Mississippi Delta.  We even enjoyed a bizarre overnight at one of the premier casino hotels on the coast, the Beau Rivage, “reasonable” accommodations, we were told, recommended by Jean’s local contact, because it was the casinos, a booming new economy, that were first constructed after the hurricanes.  Once I played entertainment director, scoring same-day tickets to a Millsaps College concert by John McCutcheon, one of Jean’s favorite singers.  She was thrilled at the lagniappe—an unanticipated concert in the middle of a work trip–and she would have appreciated my use of the Louisiana French word “lagniappe.”

But the richness of the travel was in the conversations over the miles we spent in the car; our observing the persistent poverty; Jean’s good humor as she was wheeled, I walking alongside, the literal mile between connecting flights in O’Hare; Jean describing her awe at the love and dedication of the many young, all poor, women caring for children under untenably challenging circumstances; debriefing her interviews; her delighting in her swim in a motel pool and mine at locating one of Robert Johnson’s graves; giggling at the country kitsch we could find at a Cracker Barrel; reveling in the warmth of the people and the weather, yet she piercingly laying bare the contradictions.  I am sad that we never traveled together to my native Alabama because I know that, had I shared home with her, I would have seen it with new eyes.

I will take Jean with me as I continue to travel south.  I miss her mightily.

– Amelie Ratliff


Ever since we met some twenty years ago I’ve turned to Jean again and again to expand my knowledge, to sharpen my strategy and to have a good laugh. Her formidable intellect was matched only by her enduring kindness. I aspired to be as good a writer, and will always also re to be as good a person. I’m gratefulto have known her and I’ll never forget her.

– Rinku Sen

My Medicine

I first met Jean when she and I were both members of the board of the Crossroads Fund, a progressive foundation in Chicago which Jean helped establish.  As board members, we would look for groups organizing on behalf of low income marginalized communities, awarding small grants to further their important work.  We would visit groups in public housing, church basements, storefronts, wherever their organizing took place. As board members  gathered to figure out how to best use a limited financial resource, Jean helped us understand the broader context of social change into which these groups fit.  In her gentle but forthright way, she could make the most revolutionary concepts seem matter of fact.

JoAnn Chase, Faith Smith, Michael Chapman, LaDonna Harris, and Jean Hardisty
JoAnn Chase, Faith Smith, Michael Chapman, LaDonna Harris, and Jean Hardisty

Another amazing woman is LaDonna Harris, a Comanche woman whose leadership over seven decades has impacted positively on every Native person in this country.  She founded an Ambassador’s Program for young Native people.  Annually about 20 Native young professionals are selected to engage in an exciting year of experiences intended to hone their leadership skills.  One year, I had the honor of sitting in as LaDonna facilitated an orientation.  She asked each of them to describe where their “medicine” came from.  The response from participants was deep felt and very emotional.  Some credited their grand-parents knowledge, the lessons learned from centuries of struggle faced by their home community, so many powerful sources.

For me, the term ”medicine” has many meanings. It is the source of healing in our lives.  It embodies the seven sacred teachings of my tribe, of respect, wisdom, love, bravery, honesty, humility and truth.  It is what gives meaning to our lives.

Jean was my “medicine.” The joyful anticipation of spending time with Jean at Crossroads meetings, at PRA meetings or just getting together came from knowing she would generously share her knowledge and experience and that she manifested the seven sacred teachings important to my tribe in the way she lived her life.  And better yet she could laugh with genuine delight at herself and our human situation.

Carrie Peters, a Menominee woman, celebrated Jean on Facebook in a message that deserves repeating; “May she rest in peace and help the Creator solve the world’s problems.”

– Faith Smith

Jean’s Rules for Fighting the Right

Jean Hardisty was one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve had the privilege to know. Like many other friends and colleagues, I remember and revere Jean for her extraordinary political contribution in service of progressive ideas and action – the clarity of her vision, her razor-sharp intellect, her nuanced analysis, her unerring ability to be ahead of the curve and see what was coming down the political pike long before most of us had a clue. But when I think of Jean, it is her kind and generous spirit – her humanity – that rises above all else.

I first got to know Jean through Grassroots International, an aid and solidarity organization supporting social movements in the Global South, when she was on the board and I was on the staff. She subsequently hired me as development director at Political Research Associates, and I joined the PRA family. (We were a good fundraising team, even though Jean disliked asking anyone for money. In fact, she was a “natural” fundraiser: her quiet charm, her humility, her wisdom, and her ability to listen to and empathize with others inspired great trust and loyalty among PRA supporters.)

Of the many lessons I learned from Jean about fighting the Right, two in particular have stayed with me. One was about the importance of distinguishing between leaders and followers. I remember the time she came back from attending a conference of Concerned Women for America, the Christian Right organization led by Beverly LaHaye. Jean was there as part of her ongoing research on the anti-feminist women’s movement. She recounted, in some detail, a lengthy conversation she’d had over tea with a CWA member she’d met at the conference. The woman waxed rhapsodic about Beverly LaHaye; Jean’s focus was on understanding why, from this woman’s perspective, LaHaye and her fundamentalist and patriarchal ideas were so appealing. And – typically –Jean saw the person behind the words. “She (the CWA member) was very sweet. I liked her. She was genuine.”

The other key lesson I learned from Jean was to avoid the temptation to imitate the Right’s penchant for name-calling and demonizing. Their leaders may vilify immigrants, trash welfare recipients, rant against LGBT people. PRA provides facts and analysis, based on rigorous research. It does not indulge in ad hominem attacks. It does not disrespect people’s basic humanity. In these days of Fox News’ mendacious bomb-throwers and The Daily Show’s gleeful character assassination, that stance may seem quaint, even naïve. But there’s a principle behind it that says everything about the changes Jean wanted to see in the world and spent her life fighting for: a world of justice, dignity, and respect; a world free of poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, hate, and violence. And she pursued that vision not only with a fierce but gentle passion, but also with an impish and irresistible sense of humor. Even as I write this, I can see her face light up and hear that infectious laugh….

– Peter Snoad

Righteous Anger, Gentle Being

About ten years ago, Jean took a group of donors and activists to Focus on the Family, James Dobson’s globally influential right-wing religious “family values” campus. She told us, “You can ask anything you want to ask our hosts (we were VIP guests for the day); you can probe and ask incisive questions, anything you want, but you have to be polite, be respectful, and you have to listen well to their answers.” When we debriefed after the visit, she would encourage us to identify the omissions and contradictions in their thoughts and arguments, ever honing our ability to analyze the social and political ramifications of rightwing policies and practices.

And… we would always laugh. Jean had a dry and very present sense of humor. She had a quiet voice, a quiet and ever so gentle way about her. I was always struck by the combination of her unapologetic and incisive analysis, her righteous anger at right-wing anti-democratic trends, and her soft, kind, and gentle way of being in the world.

Jean was one of a kind.

– Wendy Volkmann

Brilliant without Bluster

Brilliant without bluster. Leading by supporting. Jean was simply the best at sizing up policies and people. I seldom disagreed with her, but when I did I was usually convinced that I was wrong.

– Paul Watanabe

Jean’s Voice in My Ear

A year or so after I joined the Ms. Foundation for Women in 1996, I took over staffing our new Democracy Funding Circle, and Jean was the educational consultant. This group of fiercely progressive women donors knew that in order to build a progressive movement, one had to have a clear-eyed understanding of the opposition, and each year Jean led a series of conversations that were instrumental in informing the strategy and priorities for grant making. Informally called the “Fight the Right Circle”, it continued for perhaps 14-15 years, and Jean was a part of it almost every year – in fact, she was our inspiration and muse.

I learned a tremendous amount from Jean as we followed the twists and turns of the various factions of the right through those years. She taught us the distinctions between the Christian right and the neo-cons, the social conservatives vs. the economic hard-liners. She was enthusiastic about the work of our grantees, and helped us understand the strengths and challenges of the left as well. Jean was often the voice of caution when we were inclined to celebrate certain events as victories, and yet she excuded a positivity that I took for optimism that ultimately justice would prevail. As I read today’s news and parse the power and perspectives of Tea Partiers or Democratic centrists or myriad other groups, Jean’s voice is in my ear, helping me break it down, ask certain questions, read between the lines. She still informs my grant making.

But what I miss most, beyond Jean’s outsized intellect and knowledge, beyond her passion and commitment to social justice, is her personal warmth, the love and affection that shone in her eyes each time we saw each other, the delight I felt in being in her presence. In her own quiet way, Jean lit up a room.

– Susan Wefald

She Changed the World

Soft-spoken yet passionate. Thoughtfully acknowledging all points of view while leading us to a more profound understanding. Able to see and stick with the simple truths, what matters, transcending petty distractions. Always a pleasure to be with and learn from: patient, creative, funny, practical and effective.

Jean moved, inspired and enabled us to have higher aspirations – and to realize them. She touched and changed those she worked with – and she changed the world.

Over the course of a year of almost weekly Sunday breakfasts, with a small group of colleagues who became friends, Jean was a primary moving force and guiding light behind the conception of Crossroads Fund.  She then served on its founding Board, and as the second Board Chair, before having the wisdom to step away, while remaining supportive, so it could institutionalize beyond its founders.  Over hundreds of hours of conversations and site visits and deliberations, she shaped, invented, engaged, expanded our points of view, laid the lasting foundations for and nurtured an organization that – thirty-five years later – is stronger than ever as a continuously evolving, genuinely progressive force.

Jean was as empathic and caring as she was wise.  Decades ago, we had the misfortune to get and struggle, physically and existentially, with cancer at the same time.  She was courageous, grounded in ways that were transcendent, developed perspective, even humor, both calming and enlightening.  She came through, then, stronger in her appreciation of what’s precious, of meaning (and waste), even better able to live and do well.

A remarkable and profoundly beautiful human being.  We are all the better for her presence in the world.  I deeply mourn her loss, our loss, and am deeply grateful to have been touched and changed by her.

With camaraderie, commitment and love.

– Bob Weissbourd

Friend, Colleague, and the Founder of PRA

I knew and loved Jean as a friend for 40 years.  She was “Auntie Jean” to Faith’s and my two, now grown daughters, whom she knew from the time they came home from Mexico and El Salvador as babies.  But in this testimonial, I wish to speak about Jean as a political activist.  It is not only that Jean was deeply committed, over a life-time, to the most important social justice movements.  What is so special is the great gifts she brought to her political activism.  She was a mentor, a guide, and a teacher to me throughout my adult life and to virtually everyone who knew and worked with her for social change.  Here I tell some of my experiences with Jean to remember her talents and what she taught all of us about how to do political activism.

1975: Chicago, a small group of mid-20 year old women gather around the issue of domestic violence four years before Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon’s ground breaking book Battered Wives came out. There are no shelters in the state, no laws specifically providing protections and no enforcement of general laws on the books that might provide protection, no legal services being provided. That’s where I bonded with Jean, Eileen Sweeney, Susan Schechter—all gone now from cancer. Groups had been formed in New York and California that we knew of—basically legal groups suing police for not responding to calls for protection. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but we knew there was an issue that needed to be addressed, and we were going to take it on. The group decided that litigation was not the most productive way of approaching the pervasive problem of domestic violence. Instead we did major media work, we developed a coalition which did fundraising and established a network of shelters, we lobbied and passed legislation, and we met with and trained police. Did we solve everything?—no; but we looked at an issue and tried to develop a multi-prong strategy to attack the problem.

Jean needed a board for Midwest Research in Chicago. Having a lawyer on the board who was a supportive friend seemed good and I was willing to serve when she asked me to. Little did I know that I would be an active member of the Board for 25 years (long after Midwest Research had moved to Boston and become Political Research Associates). Throughout that period, working with Jean on the Board was an amazing experience. As a poverty lawyer, I worked on issues of race, inequality, gender, poverty, abuse of power. But Jean gave me a different perspective and put my work in a broader political context.

As a PRA Board member and close friend of Jean, I watched her work. She traveled widely to educate so many of us; we can hear her modulated voice rigorously documenting her arguments in an analytical style rather than espousing rhetoric. She taught us to carefully choose our words, to criticize each other’s work and constantly reevaluate the flaws in our own work. She routinely attended conferences of various movements of the right, engaging with conference participants without derision because she wanted to know what made the followers of those movements tick.

When I went from a full-time poverty practice at Massachusetts Law Reform Institute to be a professor at Northeastern University School of Law, Jean and I began trading drafts of manuscripts with each other, reading and discussing our work. She encouraged me to include a major section on the right’s influence on welfare reform in my first law review article (when I was not yet tenured) in the Yale Law Review. In hindsight, if I had been at any other law school than Northeastern, this might have killed my tenure possibilities, but I wouldn’t have cared. Jean and I were on the same wave length and she was right; it needed to be said.

We regularly discussed poverty, race, homophobia, and gender. One of the most intense experiences I had during my time on the PRA Board was working with Jean and Jude Glaubman in writing the monograph, “Decades of Distortion: The Right’s 30-Year Assault on Welfare” in 1997. There again I saw Jean’s infallible eye for detail and the persistent yet respectful way in which she ensured that PRA would produce nothing but the highest quality and most scrupulously documented report. Even within the last few months of her life, she and I had wonderful exchanges. She was excited about my work on critically assessing international social and economic rights; I was excited about her work on neo-liberalism.

Jean was prescient in recognizing the power that the various movements of the right would wield and in establishing Political Research Associates. She was our plumb line. When she retired officially from PRA, the Board asked me to put together a Memory Book in her honor. Many of her longtime friends and people whose lives she touched contributed to that Book. One of the recurring themes of the comments that people sent in was that Jean taught us not to underestimate the clout, finances and the organizing machinery of the Right. She has left us to carry on that legacy.

– Lucy Williams

Jean Hardisty

Our Favorite Reads

Jean published dozens of articles, reports, op-eds, and a groundbreaking book.  Here are a few of our favorites.  You can find her complete bibliography at

“Wrong About the Right”

Recently, a friend of mine presented a question to the “Left.” He asked, “are we a subcultural movement or a countercultural movement?” That question sums up, for me, the major bottom-up challenge we are facing in this time among progressives. Jean’s piece asks that same timely question in a different but no less pointed way.

– Scot Nakagawa, PRA board member

“My On-Again Off-Again Romance with Liberalism”

[This piece] correctly reminds me, and all of us on the Left, that we can’t do this alone.”

– Nikhil Aziz, Former PRA Research Director

The Last Chapter in Mobilizing Resentment Titled “What Now? Strategic Thinking About the Progressive Movement and The Right”

Jean’s insights around inclusion, identity politics, racial justice broadening our thinking and more are still relevant and at play today.  I return to that chapter periodically for quoting as well as affirmation for movement building “tendencies.”

– Katherine Acey, PRA board member

“From the New Right to Neoliberalism, the Threat to Democracy Has Grown”

I love that Jean’s last article for PRA was aimed at bringing in a new generation of activists and researchers—giving us a current understanding of the Right. Forever a teacher and mentor to us all.

– Rose Ethington, Former PRA Communications Director