During her years of public service, Ruth Messinger built relationships with leaders, celebrities and public figures who made lasting contributions to our world. Here’s a look back at Ruth’s four decades in the public eye.
Four famed feminists in the early ‘80s: Carol Bellamy, the first woman ever elected to citywide office (City Council) in New York; Ruth, the first woman to receive the Democratic nomination for mayor in New York City; Ellen Chesler, then-Bellamy’s chief of staff and a passionate supporter of women political leaders; and the late Betty Fridan, a leading figure in the second wave of American feminism in the 20 th century.
Ruth Messinger (right) with singer, songwriter, actor and activist Harry Belafonte and his then-wife Julie Robinson, a dancer, actress and costume designer, in the 1980s. The couple supported Ruth’s run for Manhattan Borough President. Photograph by Jerry Ruotolo
Ruth Messinger (center) with the late Bella Abzug—lawyer, U.S. Congress member, champion of women’s rights and leading social activist in the ‘60s and ‘70s—and Trudy Mason, a longtime New York State Democratic Committee member and leader. Ruth volunteered on several of Abzug’s political campaigns and remembers her as “a character and a half” during those periods.
Ruth Messinger (left) with singer Valerie Simpson and Maya Angelou, the late, acclaimed poet, memoirist and civil rights activist. Photograph by Eduardo Patino
Ruth Messinger and the prolific, acclaimed American writer Kurt Vonnegut in the 1980s.
Ruth Messinger; William Luers, then-head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite in the 1980s.
Ruth Messinger with singer, songwriter and activist Judy Collins in 1988. Photograph by Star Black
Ruth Messinger with some powerful supporters of her Manhattan Borough President campaign in 1989: the late Michael Harrington, a democratic socialist, political activist, theorist and educator, and author; nationally recognized feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem; and the late Edward “Ted” Kennedy, the third longest-serving member of the United States Senate. Photograph by Richard Laird
Ruth Messinger campaigning in 1989 along with activists Jesse Jackson and Rev. Herbert Daughtry for the New York City mayoral campaign of David Dinkins, far left. Dinkins was the first and, to date, only African American to hold that office.
Ruth Messinger meeting the late anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela at New York City Hall after his 1990 release from 27 years in prison.
Ruth Messinger with President Bill Clinton at one of his 1992 campaign events. Ruth was one of the very first New York officials to endorse him, and he found her a valuable asset while campaigning throughout the city and state. “I got to know him, I got to talk with him, I got to ride on the campaign plane that he took down to Washington during those weeks there was a huge pro-choice march,” she said. “I did the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle with him.” When Ruth ran for mayor of New York five years later, Clinton returned the favor by campaigning for her. “The amazing thing about Bill Clinton is he’s never forgotten [what I did for him],” Ruth said. “Politics is a business which is very often very, very loyal and then very often just full of people who stab people in the back. And Bill Clinton is a person who is very, very loyal. And it means a lot to me that he did that and that he is that kind of person.”
Ruth Messinger with then-New York State Senator David Paterson and the late Gregory Hines, dancer, actor, singer and choreographer campaigning in 1992 for Carol Moseley Braun, who became the first female African American senator, along with many other distinctions. Paterson was New York’s first non-white state legislative leader and first African American governor.
Ruth Messinger and Rev. Al Sharpton face off at a New York City Democratic mayoral debate in 1997. Ruth ultimately won the primary against the famous civil rights activist, Baptist minister and television and radio host.
Ruth Messinger with legendary folk singer and social change activist Pete Seeger, who often performed at the camp for underprivileged children on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Ruth volunteered and worked as a teenager. She and other counselors were with him in 1955 the morning he was preparing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which investigated American liberals and progressives suspected of having Communist ties. “Like virtually every other performer, he was subpoenaed to come,” Ruth said. “He was at camp asking people if he looked OK to go to Washington. The answer was probably no, but he had on the only fancy clothes he had: a tweed jacket, a checked shirt and a tie. He looked a little funny.” At the hearing, Seeger told the committee he had nothing to tell them—“which is what the best of them did,” Ruth recalled. Knowing Seeger bolstered Ruth’s lifelong passion for folk music as a tool for social change. She stayed connected with the entertainer until his death in 2014.
Ruth Messinger with journalist and anchorman Nick Clooney and his son, actor, writer and producer George Clooney, after a 2006 rally for Darfur on Washington’s National Mall. Nearly a dozen leading members of Congress—including Nancy Pelosi and then-Senator Barack Obama—and other powerful celebrities joined them to address a crowd of 60,000 people to demand immediate action to counter the genocide. Jews made up a significant percentage of the crowd because AJWS had helped mobilize communities across the country and taken responsibility for ordering hundreds of buses carrying more than 25,000 people to join the demonstration.
Ruth Messinger and the late Elie Wiesel, writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, Holocaust survivor and AJWS founding board member, at an AJWS event.
Ruth Messinger and former AJWS Vice President for External Affairs Phyllis Goldman with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2008 White House Christmas party.
Ruth Messinger and Hillary Clinton at the 2013 annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, which convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Ruth Messinger and Dr. Ruth Westheimer, sex therapist, media personality and author, at a 2014 AJWS book event with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo, who documented the lives of Indian families living in one of Mumbai’s poorest slums.
Ruth Messinger and President Jimmy Carter at a 2015 Carter Center event on ending violence against women.
Ruth Messinger and award-winning actor and singer Mandy Patinkin on an AJWS Study Tour to Cambodia in 2016.