Heather Booth


“Change will come, if we organize, and only if we organize.”

“If we organize, we can change the world.

And when we organized, we did change the world.”

Heather Booth

As a teenager, Heather visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. She was moved by the memorial to the people of the Warsaw Ghetto who fought back against Nazi oppression. Their bravery set her on her life’s path. While at the University of Chicago, a friend with an unplanned pregnancy called her—abortion then was a felony and illegal abortions were dangerous.  Heather found a doctor who agreed to do the procedure.  She braved tremendous personal risk in founding what became known as JANE, a secret network offering safe abortion services.

Heather rode the crest of the waves of change through the 1970s, forming multiple national coalitions to address pressing social problems. In the 1980s, she took heed of activist Alice Palmer’s words, “if you don’t do politics, politics does you,” and began working on electoral campaigns. She worked in Harold Washington’s successful, groundbreaking mayoral campaign in 1983. In 2000, she spearheaded an unprecedented Get Out the Vote effort for the NAACP’s National Voter Fund, which increased African-American turnout by nearly two million voters. Her strategy in this effort will be influential in the present and future politics.

Major influences on Heather were the civil rights, women’s, labor, and other movements, as well as legendary Saul Alinsky, a guiding force in community organizing. This combination of influences, along with other elements, led to the theory of change that is behind Midwest Academy, which Heather founded in 1973 and continues still today as a training school for organizers in the progressive movement.

A strategist in over 65 campaigns ranging from voter registration in the 1960s to immigration reform and the need for fiscal responsibility, Heather has been—and is—a force for change.