In Memory of Jane Briggs Hart ’43

In Memory of Jane Briggs Hart ’43

Written by Nataly Cifuentes ’16


Jane B. Hart ’43

Earlier this year, one of Manhattanville’s most inspiring alumnae, Jane Briggs Hart ’43, passed away on June 5th at the age of 93. Fearless and passionate, Jane was one of the first female aviators in Michigan, actively advocated for women’s rights, and contributed to the funding of higher education.

As part of the Class of 1943, she attended Manhattanville and earned an Honorary Degree in 1978. Later, she obtained a degree in anthropology from George Washington University.

Jane became an aviator at an early age and the first female pilot in the state of Michigan, and her fascination of air travel went beyond planes. She participated in the Lovelace Foundation’s Woman in Space Program, where a group of women underwent a series of fitness tests developed by NASA as a way to select their astronauts. At the time, though, women were not allowed to become astronauts, and although she was one of the few women, a group known as the Mercury 13, to pass these rigorous tests, NASA notified them that they would not be selected from space flights. With a strong mind and not afraid to express herself, Jane said to a group of college students in 2001: “The men just could not get it, and the country lost a great opportunity. All of you women engineers would have had a hell of a time trying to find a job back then. It was like they were trying to segregate space.”


Jane Hart, Aviator

In 1943, Jane married Philip Hart, an Army captain during World War II who later became U.S. State Senator from Michigan. Together, they had a family of nine children.

Jane shared an immense interest in politics with her husband and was actively involved in his political campaigns as well as other social justice movements. In fact, she participated in an anti-war demonstration at the Pentagon in 1969 which led to her arrest. Although her husband did not agree with many of her decisions, she always counted on his unconditional support. She held several leadership positons in groups that advocated equal rights. For instance, she served as vice chairman of the Oakland County Democratic Committee, as well as a board member and national convention delegate for the Birmingham, Michigan League of Women Voters. In addition, she was a founding member of the National Organization for Women.

horseback riding

Jane Hart, Horseback Riding Competition

Her passions also included a variety of other activities. Interested in sailing, Jane participated in the Port Huron to Mackinac Boat Race as part of an all-women crew. Furthermore, she enjoyed horseback riding from a very early age, as she grew up in Detroit riding and hunting with the Bloomfield Open Hunt and competing at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

In honor of her achievements, Jane Hart was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007. Additionally, her philanthropic interest in education led her to establish an endowed scholarship for anthropology at George Washington University.

Manhattanville is immensely proud of having an alumna who embodied the College’s values by living such an accomplished and fulfilling life. An exceptional woman and activist, Jane Briggs Hart ’43 will forever remain in our hearts.


*To read more on Jane B. Hart ’43: | |

*Photos from the Jane B. Hart Collection at the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan.


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