PURCHASE, N.Y. – Filmmaker, activist and athlete Jean Strauss is coming to Manhattanville College to share the experiences that made her an advocate for adoption reform in America and led her to help change the law in one state.
Strauss, the wife of Interim Manhattanville President Jon Strauss, didn’t begin making films until she was 50 years old. But her short film “Vital Records” helped pass a law in Illinois that provided birth certificates to roughly 350,000 people who were adopted in that state.
“My inspiration definitely came from meeting my birth family,” Strauss said in a college press release. “When I found my birth mother, it turned out she was also adopted, which led to my first documentary film about finding her and helping her find her birth mother and the friendship that developed between the three of us.”
Strauss, who played tennis professionally at one point in her life and almost qualified for the U.S. Olympic Rowing Team in 1980, has five books, one feature film and several short films, including the one that influenced the Illinois Legislature to reform adoption laws. She also has a second feature film in production focusing on the impact her story had that she never expected.
Strauss’s upcoming talk will center on how her career as a writer and filmmaker influenced her to become an adoption-reform advocate.
“I’m going to show a lot of film clips and talk about writing, filmmaking and women’s and social issues,” she said, “and how a small story that occurred in my life became part of a larger narrative that helped change the law.”
Strauss will speak at the Berman Students’ Center 7:30 p.m. April 17.