No matter her age, Anne Mansfield-Meron always sparkled with vitality. She was a doer who never hesitated to be involved.
On Nov. 27, 1998, Mrs. Mansfield-Meron passed at age 87, only a few months after her family foundation provided funds to establish the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice.
As a young woman growing up in Chicago, she looked beyond the safe, front office of her employer, a garment maker. What she saw was a sweatshop unfit for workers. It prompted her to help organize the Ladies Garment Workers Union at her place of employment.
In a day when women stayed at home with the kids, Anne helped her first husband, Albert M. Mansfield, start and run International Products and Manufacturing Co. She drew up budgets. She represented the company at conferences. She even knew how to rewind generators for the company that grew to be one of the leading suppliers of rebuilt automobile electrical systems.
And as a mother and grandmother, Mrs. Mansfield dared to be different. She showed up at her youngest daughter’s sweet 16 birthday party in go-go boots and hot pants. As a widow, after Albert’s death in 1976, she once went on a double date with one of her grandchildren. At 81, she married Sam Meron. Even then, she remained involved in the activities of family and friends.
“Her grandchildren always said she wasn’t like a grandmother you could visit to have tea,” her eldest daughter, Meme Hopmayer, told the Chicago Sun Times after Mrs. Mansfield-Meron’s death.
At the memorial service, the grandchildren remembered their grandmother as a modern-day woman, full of questions for them on the latest happenings and styles.
A dynamo who made a difference, Mrs. Mansfield–Meron acted on her convictions. By example, she impressed her children and grandchildren with her values.
So what were the convictions that motivated this daughter of poor Russian immigrants? Her father, a painter, was a staunch union man. As a teenager, she went to a labor union camp. Mrs. Mansfield personally witnessed the impact of poor working conditions. Thus, she fought hard through the labor movement and at her own company to protect workers’ rights.
The Glencoe resident’s commitment to social justice went beyond the labor movement. Mrs. Mansfield and her husband, Albert, formed a foundation in the early 1960s to assist organizations and individuals working for social justice.
Since then, the Albert and Anne Mansfield Foundation has supported a variety of causes, including legal programs for the poor. It also has given grants to enable law students to work for social justice organizations.
Above all, Mrs. Mansfield-Meron prized education. Perhaps because her father had insisted that she go to work rather than accept a scholarship to Northwestern, she provided the funding so that all of her children and grandchildren could pursue higher education.
It wasn’t just her family that benefited though. Mrs. Mansfield was one of the founders of the South Side School of Jewish Studies, a private institution giving Jewish children an education in the history and values of their culture. The school’s existence depended on donations made by concerned members of the community. Both students and parents at the school knew of the Mansfields’ generosity.
Recently, the family foundation turned its attention to Roosevelt University, donating $400,000 to establish the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice. Several months before her death, Mrs. Mansfield-Meron attended a ceremony at the university in honor of the opening of the Institute. Even though she was ill, she wanted to be involved in the development of the Institute.
“She was one of those old-time liberals who believed in it and practiced it, “ said Roosevelt University President Emeritus Theodore Gross. Her children, Meme Hopmayer and Seymour and Benetta Mansfield, are continuing their mother’s legacy by joining the Institute’s advisory board.
Before she passed, Mrs. Mansfield-Meron was quite ill. Yet she never complained. And at times, she didn’t even want to hear what the doctors had to say, Hopmayer said. “She just bore her illnesses. It was as if she turned her back on death.”
In his funeral eulogy, Rabbi Norman Cohen of Minneapolis characterized Mrs. Mansfield-Meron as an exemplary mother and teacher who touched many lives. Her example will remain an inspiration to the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and its work.
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