Half-Life of a Zealot

Half-Life of a Zealot

Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 25 b&w photos Published: October 2006

Author: Swanee Hunt

Activism, Gender and Sexuality, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs

Swanee Hunt’s life has lived up to her Texas-size childhood. Daughter of legendary oil magnate H. L. Hunt, she grew up in a household dominated by an arch-conservative patriarch who spawned a brood of colorful offspring. Her family was nothing if not zealous, and that zeal—albeit for more compassionate causes—propelled her into a mission that reaches around the world.

Half-Life of a Zealot tells how the girl who spoke against “Reds” alongside her father became a fierce advocate for progressive change in America and abroad, an innovative philanthropist, and Bill Clinton’s Ambassador to Austria. In captivating prose, Hunt describes the warmth and wear of Southern Baptist culture, which instilled in her a calling to help those who are vulnerable. The reader is drawn into her full-throttle professional life as it competes with critical family needs.

Hunt gives a remarkably frank account of her triumphs and shortcomings; her sorrows, including a miscarriage and the failure of a marriage; the joys and struggles of her second marriage; and her angst over the life-threatening illness of one of her three children. She is candid about the opportunities her fortune has created, as well as the challenge of life as an heiress.

Much of Swanee Hunt’s professional life is devoted to expanding women’s roles in making and shaping public policy. She is the founding director of Harvard’s Women and Public Policy Program at the Kennedy School of Government, chair of the Initiative for Inclusive Security, and president of the Hunt Alternatives Fund.

Swanee Hunt’s autobiography brims over with strong women: her mother, whose religious faith and optimism were an inspiration; her daughter, who fights the social stigma of mental disorders; the women of war-torn Bosnia, who transformed their grief into action; and friends like Hillary Clinton, who used her position as First Lady to strengthen the voices of others.

Hunt is one more strong woman. Half-Life of a Zealot is her story—so far.


Half-Life of a Zealot, the compelling memoir by Swanee Hunt, the daughter of oil magnate H. L. Hunt, draws the reader in from the first page and refuses to let go.” — Ruth Dawson, Philanthropy News Digest

“[A]n extraordinarily frank account of an unusual life, and one that is only half over. There is much more to come from Swanee Hunt. In fact, you get the impression that while the old man might have been apoplectic at his daughter's philosophical and religious beliefs, he would be favorably impressed by her determination and drive to accomplish all but impossible goals. Lord knows, readers will be.” — Sandra Dallas, Denver Post

“[E]ngaging. . . . Her ability to wield power and yet not lose the common touch is what makes Hunt's memoir so intriguing, and, indeed, what has helped her improve the lives of so many.” — Karen Fragala Smith, Newsweek International

“[Hunt is] her daddy’s daughter in the sense that she is an overachiever, but boy! Is she not the parsimonious H. L.’s political heir. Nor is she boring. Good book. Inspiring woman.” — Blue Ridge Business Journal

“Often intimate and revealing, Half-Life of a Zealot also looks past Hunt’s own life to confront the challenges facing the world’s women today—from the global perils of poverty and poor healthcare to the more personal challenges that come with juggling kids and a demanding career. Through it all, Hunt’s abiding hope is to engage women in the political process. Her message: think big, ask a lot of questions, and know that you have a place at the table.” — Ruthie Ackerman, Salon

“Having inspired leadership among women worldwide, [Hunt’s] is a story of the double-edged blade of inherited fame and influence coupled with a constant search for the greater good.” — Kelley Carmichael, World Pulse

“Hunt has written hundreds of articles in newspapers and academic journals. In this book, she is also an engaging raconteur of such tales as her computer being hacked in spy-ridden Vienna and her failure to raise a herd of bison. All in all, Hunt’s memoir provides insights into women’s philanthropy and international diplomacy.”
— Richard Magat, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly

“This must-read book is a great example of the power of one. Hunt's remarkable compassion and accomplishments stand tall as a lesson to us all.” — Verna Noel Jones, Rocky Mountain News

"Hunt may not be a literary giant, or even a legitimate politician, but she is clearly a compelling individual. Her charisma makes her memoir a surprisingly engaging read." — Carolyn F. Gaebler, Harvard Crimson

“For a dozen years I’ve watched Swanee Hunt transform her resources into possibilities for others. This book shows the creative nexus of personal values, political savvy, and global reform that has made hers a life well lived.” — George Soros

“Swanee Hunt is the woman behind the women, supporting their leadership throughout the world. Through them, she touches millions who will never have the privilege of browsing in a bookstore. This beautiful book tells why and how.” — Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia

“Swanee Hunt’s life reads like a novel. Born into a powerful, conservative, and patriarchal American family, a young girl grows up to use her part of that power to support the powerless and to encourage peace and women’s leadership around the world. To discover the fascinating story in between, you must read Half-Life of a Zealot.” — Gloria Steinem


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Swanee Hunt is the founding director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, chair of the Initiative for Inclusive Security (formerly Women Waging Peace), president of the Hunt Alternatives Fund, and a member of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations and the boards of the International Crisis Group and Amnesty International. The U.S. Ambassador to Austria from 1993 until 1997, she is the author of the award-winning book This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace, also published by Duke University Press. She has written hundreds of articles for American and international print media, including a nationally syndicated column for the Scripps Howard News Service. She has two masters degrees and a doctorate in theology.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

1. Roots: Rural and Right 1

2. Two Steps Forward 62

3. Finding My Voice 131

4. Politics, Prestige, and Peril 196

5. Queen for a Day 267

6. Call Me Swanee 329

7. Tender Mercies 381

Index 395
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3875-8