Swanee Hunt

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Swanee Hunt
Swanee Hunt 2017-01-10 - Photo by Martha Stewart (32144028510) (cropped).jpg
Swanee Hunt in 2017
United States Ambassador to Austria
In office
November 4, 1993 – October 18, 1997
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byRoy M. Huffington
Succeeded byKathryn Walt Hall
Personal details
Born (1950-05-01) May 1, 1950 (age 71)
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)Charles Ansbacher
RelationsHelen LaKelly Hunt (sister)
June Hunt (sister)
Ray Lee (brother)[1]
FatherH. L. Hunt
EducationTexas Christian University (BA)
Ball State University (MA)
Iliff School of Theology (MA, D.Th.)
OccupationDiplomat, professor

Swanee Grace Hunt (born May 1, 1950) is Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, is the founding director of the Women and Public Policy Program[2] at the Kennedy School,[3][4] and is a former United States Ambassador to Austria. She is a recipient of the PEN/New England Award for non-fiction.

Early life[edit]

Hunt was born May 1, 1950 in Dallas, Texas, the youngest of four children born to the oil tycoon H.L. Hunt and Ruth Ray. However, not until her father's first wife died did Swanee Hunt's parents marry in 1957 and it was only then that she and her siblings moved into the Hunt mansion, built to resemble its namesake, Mount Vernon. This unusual early childhood and her mother's profoundly fundamentalist faith had a lasting impact on Swanee Hunt's world view.[5]

Hunt grew up in Dallas, Texas, where she attended the Hockaday School.[6] She lived for many years in Denver, Colorado, where she was active in many community and philanthropic activities. Her several siblings include sisters Helen LaKelly Hunt and June Hunt.


While Hunt had hoped to attend college in the east, her ultra-conservative father refused, so Hunt began college in her hometown at Southern Methodist University.[5] Hunt earned her BA in philosophy from Texas Christian University, an MA in psychology from Ball State University, and an MA in religion and a doctorate in theology from Iliff School of Theology.[7]


Hunt is an expert on women in politics,[citation needed] having conducted research, training, and consultations with women leaders in some 60 countries. She is the chair of the Washington-based Institute for Inclusive Security (including the Women Waging Peace Network) which advocates integrating women into peace processes.

In 1981, she co-founded the Hunt Alternatives Fund with her sister Helen. The organization is focused on strengthening youth arts organizations; supporting leaders of social movements; opposing sex work by directly funding increased policing, public shaming, and prosecution; and increasing philanthropy. Based in Denver until 1997, the organization was relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1997, when Hunt founded WAPPP at Harvard University. She has lectured at Harvard's business, law, divinity, and education graduate schools.

Swanee Hunt was appointed in 1993 as ambassador to Austria, where she was notable for writing a weekly newspaper column and radio program.[8] She served at the height of the Bosnian War and urged that the US government step up its efforts to secure peace in this embattled region, a message not always well received back home. Nonetheless, Hunt did what she could and directed much of her efforts at women in the affected areas, organizing conferences designed to promote East- West learning, such as "Bosnian Women Stepping into Politics" (1999) and "Vital Voices: Women in Democracy" (1997) at which then First Lady Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address.[5]

By 1997, Hunt was ready for a change and the opportunity to do so came when the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University offered her the task of establishing the Women and Public Policy Program. Since stepping down as Director of the Program in 2008, she has continued on at the Kennedy School as the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy. Since then, Hunt founded and directs the Institute for Inclusive Security, in which "Women are an essential tool to prevent violence, stop war, and restore communities after deadly conflicts." In addition, she focuses on demanding an end to commercial sex around the globe as well as her "Political Parity campaign which works to elect more women to higher office as such "improves policy outcomes and lifts public trust." Most recently, she has been active in Iran and Rwanda, spearheading efforts there to improve the lives of women and girls.[5]

She is active in Democratic politics (in contrast to most others in the Hunt family, who have historically supported Republican and conservative causes) and, in addition to fundraising events for candidates, she convened Unconventional Women, a six-hour program featuring more than 20 female political leaders for an audience of 3000 in Denver during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Hunt is also a talented classical composer and photographer.[5] Her musical composition "The Witness Cantata" has been performed in several cities.[9]

Awards and honors[edit]

Swanee Hunt has earned dozens of U.S. and international awards, recognitions, and inductions from leading organizations, highlighting her achievements as a diplomat, academic, activist, and artist, as well as her commitment to global and local philanthropy.[citation needed]

Her awards and acknowledgments have come from organizations including:

  • The United Way
  • The International Peace Center
  • The National Mental Health Association
  • The White House Project
  • Women for Afghan Women
  • Nomi Network's 2013 Abolitionist Award
  • The Women's Image Network Awards Humanitarian Tribute[10]

Her book This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace won the 2005 PEN/New England Award for non-fiction[11] and includes a foreword by former president Bill Clinton.

Hunt has received honorary doctorates from Webster University (1994), the University of Denver (2002), Graceland University (2005), Mount Ida College (2007), Pine Manor College (2007), Cambridge College (2007),[7] Southern Methodist University (2013),[12] Smith College (2014),[13] William James College (2014),[14] and Southern New Hampshire University (2016).[15]

In addition to receiving medals of honor from both the government of Austria and the province of Graz, Swanee Hunt has been inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame[16] as well as the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Personal life[edit]

At age 20, Hunt married Mark Meeks, a seminary student. Hunt gave birth to daughter Lillian in 1982, and the marriage dissolved soon after.[5]

In 1985, Hunt married conductor Charles Ansbacher, who died on September 12, 2010. She has three children, among them filmmaker Henry Ansbacher, and three grandchildren.[5]


  • This Was Not Our War. Duke University Press. 2001. ISBN 978-0-8223-3355-5.
  • Half-Life of a Zealot. Duke University Press. 2006. ISBN 978-0-8223-3875-8. Swanee Hunt.
  • Worlds Apart: Bosnian Lessons for Global Security. Duke University Press. 2011. ISBN 978-0-8223-4975-4. Swanee Hunt.
  • Rwandan Women Rising. Duke University Press. 2017. ISBN 978-0-8223-6257-9.


  1. ^ Stanley H. Brown, H. L. Hunt (Chicago: Playboy, 1976) 192–193.
  2. ^ "Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP)".
  3. ^ School, Harvard Kennedy. "Swanee Hunt". Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  4. ^ "Ambassador Swanee Hunt - Inclusive Security".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Collection: Swanee Hunt papers | Smith College Finding Aids". findingaids.smith.edu. Retrieved June 29, 2020. This article incorporates text available under the CC BY 3.0 license.
  6. ^ Hunt, Swanee (October 4, 2006). Half-Life of a Zealot. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822338758. Retrieved August 3, 2016 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ a b "Ambassador Swanee Hunt's CV". Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  8. ^ "Milestones". Swanee Hunt. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  9. ^ "The Witness Cantata". Swanee Hunt. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  10. ^ Network, Women’s Image. "The WIN Awards 2013 Film & Television Nominees & Honorees Rosalind Jarrett Sepulveda, Cecilia DeMille Presley & Ambassador Swanee Hunt". Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  11. ^ "News Release - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum". Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  12. ^ "SMU prepares for 2013 Commencement May 17-18". Southern Methodist University. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  13. ^ "Smith College's 2014 Honorary Degree Recipients". Smith College. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  14. ^ "William James College Announces 34th Commencement". William James College. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  15. ^ Keane, Lauren (April 23, 2016). "SNHU Announces 2016 Commencement Speakers". Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  16. ^ "Swanee Hunt - Colorado Women's Hall of Fame".

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Roy M. Huffington
U.S. Ambassador to Austria
Succeeded by
Kathryn Walt Hall