Kathy LeMay has committed her life to global social change. She began at the age of 14 launching an anti-apartheid campaign in her small Massachusetts mill town. Several human rights campaigns later which resulted in a lot of press in a conventional rural community, she recalls her mother’s nervous boss saying, “Will your daughter be appearing in the newspaper as a REGULAR thing?” Kathy’s mother’s reply: “With any luck, yes.”
At the age of 23, Kathy traveled to the Balkans during the siege on Bosnia. During that time she met and learned from women who had survived the rape-genocide camps and who would work tirelessly throughout the war to provide for the country’s women and children. Kathy returned to the states, shared their stories and in the mid-1990’s helped to raise a quarter million dollars for food, medical care, and trauma counseling. Funds also supported women survivors to testify at the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague and to protect their families while they told of the atrocities they endured.
Since then Kathy has traveled the United States and the world listening to, learning from, and raising money for those who’ve survived war, genocide, gender-based violence, and climate-induced disasters. In the course of her work, she has raised $175M, led international women’s human rights organizations, become a sought-after public speaker, a published author, and served as a philanthropic advisor to some of the world’s most renowned philanthropists. It was however when she finally arrived in these halls of power that she realized that she didn’t feel like she arrived. She had achieved what she dreamed of growing up as a girl in a small mill-town and she had never felt as lost or far away from what she loved.
Now, after thirty years in global social change, Kathy is going back to roots, re-connecting with community-based social change and drawing on what she learned during her early years of community organizing and global activism. In addition to launching a podcast with her dear friend and sister-in-crime, Jacki Zehner, in the summer 2020 she will assume a leadership position at an organization working to protect the rights and autonomy of indigenous peoples.