‘A tenacious and unstoppable trailblazer’: Center for the Women of New York founder Ann Jawin, a Douglaston resident, dies at 97

Photo by Dean Moses

Ann Juliano Jawin, a Douglaston resident and founder of the Center for the Women of New York, died on Dec. 31. She was 97 years old.

News of Jawin’s death came less than a month after she celebrated the grand opening of a brand-new women’s center in Fort Totten. Members of the community expressed condolences for the pioneer who dedicated her life to women’s equality and empowerment.

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Ann Jawin, founder of the Center for the Women of NY. Ann was an outspoken activist who, for decades, devotedly dedicated herself to improving the lives of all women throughout the city of New York,” said Councilman Paul Vallone on Twitter.

Born in 1922, Jawin was the youngest of seven children in an Italian-American family. Her parents came from Sicily and settled in Brooklyn in modern-day Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The educator and activist was a staunch advocate for the second wave of women’s liberation in the 1970s. In 1979, she authored “A Woman’s Guide to Career Preparation: Scholarships, Grants, and Loans,” which taught women about financial independence and equal workplace opportunity.

She joined the National Organization for Women (NOW) and served as the chair of the Task Force for Education and Employment. In 1987, Jawin established the Center for the Women of New York (CWNY), which illuminated the importance of pay equity, reproductive rights and the elimination of sex trafficking. Throughout the years, the Center also taught the history of the women’s movement.

“Ann was a tenacious and unstoppable trailblazer who devoted her life to empowering women and never took no for an answer. Just last month, she succeeded in her 16-year legal battle with the city to open CWNY’s beautiful new facility in Fort Totten, which is the only building completely dedicated to full equality for women between the New York metropolitan area and Seneca Falls. This new building will ensure that Ann’s unparalleled service and dedication to women’s rights will be remembered by our community for generations to come,” read a statement from the Jefferson Democratic Club.

In December 2019, Jawin celebrated the opening of the CWNY building at 207 Totten Ave. Prior to the facility’s establishment, CWNY operated out of another building in Fort Totten before the city kicked them out. A legal battle between the two parties resulted in a deal, in which the city gave the organization the opportunity to restore and use another historic building.

“The new building will allow the Center to expand its function with corresponding opportunities to reach many more women,” said Jawin. “The renovation of this beautiful historic building will allow not only a ‘home’ for the Center but also permit space for a wider variety of programs.”

Jawin intended to use the new facility for multiple purposes including a women’s history and culture museum, career exploration and training and a conference center. The conference center would allow like-minded organizations to come together and find solutions for long-standing women’s issues.

Jawin is survived by her children Ronald and Paul Jawin and grandchildren Alixandra, Rachel, Erica and Tom Jawin. A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5, at the Unitarian Church at Shelter Rock, located at 38 Shelter Rock Road in Manhasset.

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