For two years I had the privilege of working with Doris. It was a time packed with politics and history and stories and laughter -- and it was much, much too brief.
Doris was turning 90 and wanted to transition the Conant Family Foundation from her own philanthropy into one shared and governed by her grown children and grandchildren.
Members of the 3rd generation introduced me to organizations like Resource Generation and Solidaire, spaces where individuals with wealth privilege can become transformative social justice supporters and leaders. They challenged me to develop a truly intersectional lens for grantmaking, and to be accessible and transparent as a foundation leader.
My heart aches for the loss of Doris. But, as she hoped, her passion for justice lives on in the hearts and souls of her family members. Her spirit and legacy remain as bright as ever.
On Thursday, June 22nd, Doris Conant passed away in the close presence of her family at Glenbrook Hospital. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1925,
Doris was a political activist, feminist, a sculptor, a civic worker, a real estate developer, a philanthropist, a mother, and a grandmother. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania where she met Howard Conant (1924 - 2011), her husband of 63 years.
As a civil rights organizer in Chicago in the 1960's, Doris worked with women and families in public housing. With her son, Howard Jr., she joined the historic Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 and later marched with Martin Luther King in Chicago. Doris is included in the book, "Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975" (Barbara J. Love), and has inspired many, near and far, acting as a role model for feminists and philanthropists everywhere.
Doris had a profound appreciation for the arts, and an undying passion for learning, and spoke fluent Spanish, French and Portuguese. Her busy calendar was always filled with philanthropic lunches, political events, book club, theater, and the opera. She read the New York Times every day and loved to play tennis. Her love of tennis was something she and Howard shared with the whole Conant family.
Doris led ERA Illinois, advocating for Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. She was a founding member of the Chicago Foundation for Women always advocating for the rights of women in all that she did. Doris and Howard had three children: Alison Conant, Howard Conant, and Meredith George. Doris Conant is survived by her three children and seven grandchildren: Rachel Conant, Madelyn Hjertmann, Sarah Frank, Monica George, Sophie Conant, Mason George, and Andrew Frank. A Celebration of Doris' life is pending.
Memorials may be made to Fund for Investigative Journalism at Chicago Public Media (WBEZ) www.donate.chicagopublicmedia.org , or North Lawndale College Prep (Phoenix Pact) www.nlcphs.org, or Chicago Foundation for Women www.cfw.org, or Human Rights Watch, www.hrw.org.