One Special Dame: Remembering Anita Roddick

| Tue Sep. 11, 2007 4:49 PM EDT

I first met Anita Roddick at a meeting of the Social Venture Network in the fall of 1991. I say "met," more accurately: I encountered a human thrill ride. I was a newbie at that early gathering of progressive-minded entrepreneurs and, progressive though they were, they were also clubby, and the skepticism about whether nonprofit (and "radical!") Mother Jones belonged in this business club was palpable. I girded myself for some power networking.

Anita, unquestionably the queen of the social venture movement, was standing behind a little table for The Body Shop at the "Product Expo," and I approached to introduce myself. I was still several steps away when she spotted Mother Jones on my name tag and pounced. "Mother Jones! That's the most bloody brilliant magazine!! It's an inspiration! Tell me what you're doing here."

Profane charm, infectious enthusiasm, straight to the heart—in a few seconds Anita had given the new kid on the block instant credibility. It was just the beginning of her generosity to me and to Mother Jones. Anita's wear-it-on-her-sleeve enthusiasm was one part of her effectiveness as a businesswoman and activist—it was hard to resist her energy, not that it would be smart to try.

Her commitment to the causes she cared about ran deep, and a few years and several rollicking collaborations later, she joined the board of Mother Jones' nonprofit parent. There are lots of stories from her years as part of the Mother Jones famly, and in the next few days, I'll share some as part of our tribute to her. Anita's (and husband Gordon's) generosity, connections, and business smarts have helped MoJo through more ups and downs than the Cyclone. In that, we're not alone—today there are dozens of causes acknowledging the significance of the Roddicks' support—but we owe her a special debt. And we intend to pay it back in the only way that she would care about—with "bloody-brilliant," kick-ass journalism.

Jay Harris
President & Publisher