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Vital Voices mourns the loss of Kathy Hendrix and celebrates a life well lived

A Tribute to Kathy Hendrix

On June 22nd Vital Voices lost one of its founding mothers, mentors, and greatest advocates: Kathleen Burns Hendrix.

A veteran journalist, with The Los Angeles Times for more than two decades, Kathy, as she was known, had an extraordinary gift for storytelling. She could transport you to Borneo recounting her early days in the Peace Corps in the 1960s or to Nairobi where she covered the United Nations Third World Conference on Women in 1985.

Kathy was a fierce champion for, not only women’s rights, but for civil rights and LGBTQIA+ rights. She had an insatiable curiosity for people and the world, which was reflected in her excellence and decency of reporting. At The LA Times—from 1974 to 1993—she wrote about women in the Middle East, life in a Mexican village, Vietnam veterans, and lengthy features about the diverse communities of Los Angeles. She reported on Pro Peace and followed the long path of its anti-nuclear march across the United States, Europe, and finally to Moscow.

In 1993, Kathy joined the Clinton Administration as Deputy Director of the President’s Interagency Council on Women at the White House. She was one of the members and organizers of the US Delegation to the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and lead implementation of the outcomes of that historic gathering. She served at the State Department and played a key role in the creation of Vital Voices as a US government initiative. So dedicated to advancing women’s rights and leadership around the world that, 10 years later, Kathy came out of retirement to serve as Vital Voices’ Vice President of Programs. At Vital Voices she crisscrossed the globe supporting political leaders in the Pacific Islands, entrepreneurs in India, human rights leaders in Kenya and peace activists in Northern Ireland.

Kathy was a born mentor—always reaching out and supporting young women. She played an instrumental role in many of our lives and career paths. She was always there on the other end of the line, ready to offer sage advice. She had a wicked sense of humor and was a deeply loyal and committed friend—she always showed up for others.

Kathy loved bringing people together. She was the ultimate host. Her delicious meals, inspired by her travels, were matched only by the people whom she brought together, whether in her glorious Georgetown Washington, DC garden or on her big front porch in Canandaigua, NY. A gathering at Kathy’s place was not to be missed.

Her elegant and eclectic home was always filled with international treasures, books, and piles of papers she perennially planned to sort through.

In the last years of her life, she was working to build a Vital Voices Council in the Finger Lakes of New York to connect a committed, new group of women with the work of Vital Voices.

She is survived by her former husband and lifelong friend, Omar Hendrix, and by many cousins.

Kathy Hendrix touched countless lives and will be deeply missed by all at Vital Voices who had the pleasure of knowing her and working with her, and by so many around the world.