Pioneering feminist, humanitarian Ani Mander, 67

Anica Vesel Mander was known as a professor of women's studies and a feminist author. Rape was declared a war crime by an international tribunal partly because of her efforts. Her childhood in pre-World War II Yugoslavia led her back to Bosnia, where she worked with rape victims and orphans.

Mander, of Bolinas, died of breast cancer on June 19. She was 67.

Born in 1934, Mander was the granddaughter of the chief rabbi of Sarajevo, Samuel Vesel, whose portrait still hangs in Sarajevo's Ashkenazi synagogue. She was of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic heritage.

She was 6 when the Nazis occupied Sarajevo and her family fled to an Italian-occupied island off the Dalmatian coast. They remained on Korcula for three years, until they could get to Rome. In 1949, her family arrived in the United States, and settled in Carmel.

Mander, who was known as Ani, earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at U.C. Berkeley and her doctorate in women's studies from the Union Institute in Cincinnati.

In 1965, she married Jerry Mander. They divorced in 1982, but remained close friends.

Mander was the founder of Moon Books, a division of Random House that was considered to be the first feminist press. She was the co-author of "Feminism as Therapy" and "Blood Ties: A Woman's History," a memoir she wrote by interviewing her grandmothers about their life stories. She also founded the women's studies department at New College of San Francisco.

In 1994, when her son Yari volunteered at a camp for Bosnian orphans and refugees that was based a short distance away from Korcula, she returned there to visit. As a result, she became deeply involved in the plight of Bosnian women and children.

"She felt that the principle 'never again' should apply to any group of people that were being persecuted, regardless of their religious or ethnic background," said Yari Mander. "And she felt that this was occurring in the former Yugoslavia and wanted to do something about it."

She was a dedicated mother, said her son. "Up until the day she died, she was looking out for us."

Mander is survived by her sons Yari Mander of San Francisco and Kai Mander of Albany, and grandson Ezra of Albany.

Donations can be made to the women's shelter: Ambasada Lokalne Demokratije Barselona-Sarajevo and sent to Yari Mander, PO Box 689, Bolinas, CA 94924.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."