AWI founder Christine Stevens dies
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2002:
Christine Stevens, 84, died on October 10 in Georgetown,
Maryland. Born in St. Louis, she attended the University of
Michigan. “Her father, Dr. Robert Gesell, headed the physiology
department,” wrote New York Times obituarist Wolfgang Saxon. “Dr.
Gesell was a pioneer in the compassionate treatment of research
Christine Gesell married New York real estate magnate and
Broadway play producer Roger Lacey Stevens in 1938. They had a
daughter, Christina Gough, who still lives in New York City.
After Roger Lacey Stevens and associates bought the Empire
State Building in 1951, Christine Stevens founded AWI from a
rent-free office, focusing initially on the use of shelter animals
in laboratories. In 1955 Stevens started the AWI political arm, the
Society for Animal Protective Legislation.
Longtime associate Ann Cottrell Free recalled to ANIMAL
PEOPLE that AWI and SAPL led the struggles for passage of the 1958
Humane Slaughter Act and the 1966 Laboratory Animal Welfare Act.
Said Free, “I was a reporter in 1950-something with the
National Observer, and I was in Senator Hubert Humphrey’s office on
some kind of business when he handed me a letter and said, ‘You have
to get to know this young woman Christine Stevens, because she is
interested in the same kinds of issues as you.’ So I wrote to
Christine, and she called me, and the next thing I knew I was on my
way to meet with her in New York. We clicked, and worked closely
together for many years.”
AWI relocated to Washington D.C. in 1972 when Roger Lacey
Stevens became founding chair of the John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts. He died in 1998.
“Christine Stevens was a giant voice for animal welfare,”
eulogized primatologist Jane Goodall. “Passionate, yet always
reasoned, she took up one cause after another and she never quit.
Millions of animals are better off because of Christine’s quiet and
very effective advocacy.”
Added World Wildlife Fund species programs director Sue
Lieberman, “I met Christine when I moved to D.C. in 1987, and we
worked together to stop the wild bird trade. She was an inspiration.
I worked with her at several meetings of the Conventional on
International Trade in Endangered Species, and at this month’s CITES
meeting in Chile will keep her in my thoughts.”
“It was a privilege to work with her for the past 20-plus
years,” said Cathy Liss, her longtime chosen successor. “It
probably goes without saying, but AWI is carrying on with its work