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Rosalind Wright Harris

Date of Death: April 15, 2021

Date of Birth: October 11, 1923

Biography:

Rosalind Wright Harris, 97, died peacefully in her home in Brunswick, Maine on April 15, with her children, Alison and Peter, by her side. At the end, her mind was as sharp as ever and her spirit unbowed; only her body failed her as she battled Multiple Myeloma.

Rosalind was born October 11, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois to Louise Leonard Wright and Quincy Wright. Her father was a founder of the discipline of International Law and a professor at the University of Chicago. Her mother was on the national board of directors of the League of Women Voters where she focused on international affairs.  Later she was the director of the Council of Foreign affairs in Chicago and the director the Chicago branch of the Institute of International Education.

Rosalind was a proud alumna of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools where she was educated through high school, except for a year at the International School in Geneva, Switzerland when she was 13.  In 1943, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College and joined the U.S. State Department in Washington in the Public Liaison Division.

In 1945, she was a member of the 6-person State Department team sent to San Francisco to organize the international conference that resulted in the creation of the United Nations. There she met Michael Marcus-Myers Harris, an architect with Harrison & Abramovitz in New York City.  He joined the team to design meeting spaces for the conference. They married in Chicago in 1946 and moved to a walk-up apartment in New York City. Their daughter, Alison, was born in January 1947 and their son, Peter Quincy, was born a year later, also in 1947.

After the State Department, Rosalind worked for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the International Graphic Arts Society, and the American Labor Education Service. Later, she was the administrator of the Kenworthy Swift Foundation that makes grants in support of children’s mental health. She served as their administrator for 25 years until she left New York City for Maine in 2015.

Starting in the late 1950s, she became involved with many international organizations. In 1958, she joined the board of the American branch of the International Social Service. Later, she served as president of ISS-USA and on the executive committee of the international ISS organization. She was ISS’s representative to the United Nations from 1966 to 2015.

She was on the executive committee for the group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the UN, generally known as CONGO, and served twice – 19 years apart – as CONGO’s president. As president, she was instrumental in developing the model for international NGO forums held in parallel with major UN conferences, starting with the 1974 Population forum in Bucharest. Subsequently, she helped plan and run four forums focused on women in Mexico City, Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing, and others on Habitat (Vancouver) and on Drug Abuse and Trafficking (Vienna). 

She was a board member and president of the NGO Committee on UNICEF; a founder of the International Women’s Tribune Center that emerged from the 1975 women’s forum in Mexico City; a member of the Committee of Correspondence, a network of women leaders around the world; a member of the UN Advisory Committee for the Unitarian-Universalist Association; and a member of several other international organizations involved with child welfare, crime and drug trafficking, and women’s education and economic development.

In the meantime, Michael Harris became a partner in Harrison & Abramovitz and served as assistant planning director for the UN Headquarters in New York and oversaw its construction.  Later, he was partner-in-charge for the design of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library at the UN; the UN Children’s School; four new buildings at Rockefeller Center: the Time-Life, Exxon, McGraw-Hill, and Celanese Buildings; and many other significant projects in New York City and elsewhere. With two children, they fled their walk-up apartment in 1947 and were “pioneer” tenants at Peter Cooper Village before construction was even complete. Later, they moved uptown to 89th Street and eventually to 67th Street where Michael and, later, Rosalind served as president of the building’s co-op board. 

Throughout Alison’s and Peter’s childhood she spent every summer with them at her parents’ summer home in Thetford, Vermont, far away from the bustle of New York City.  In the city and in the country, Rosalind was an exceptional cook and gracious hostess, as well as a talented seamstress, knitter and needleworker. She was an avid reader and addicted to solving New York Times crossword puzzles. Her New York City home was always open to visitors – family, friends, and friends of friends from abroad or from her children’s circles as they moved from school age to young adulthood. In 2015, after 56 years the same apartment on 67th Street, Rosalind moved to Thornton Oaks in Brunswick.

In Maine, she was member of the Friends of Bowdoin, People Plus, the Camden Conference and the Topsham Garden Club. Until the pandemic, she regularly attended concerts and theater in Brunswick and Portland, lectures at Bowdoin College, the annual Camden Conference on international affairs, the World Affairs Conversation Group at People Plus, as well as many activities on the Thornton Oaks campus.

Rosalind was pre-deceased by her husband, Michael M. Harris, who died in 1982, and her brother, Christopher Wright.  She is survived by her daughter, Alison Harris; her son Peter Quincy Harris; her nephew and niece, Malcolm Morehead Wright and Diana Sewall Wright; three grandchildren, Michael Quincy Harris, Benjamin Parker Harris, and Margot Harris Dillon; and seven great-grandchildren: Piper, Jacob, Abigail, Elias, Quincy, James and Isaac.

Arrangements are being handled by Funeral Alternatives in Brunswick. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the American Branch of the International Social Service. A celebration of Rosalind’s life will be scheduled when it is safe to gather together.

 

 

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