About Ginetta Sagan

About Ginetta Sagan

"Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor." – Ginetta Sagan

Ginetta SaganGinetta Sagan, former honorary Chair of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA, devoted her life to defending the rights of those who were unfairly persecuted by repressive governments. She founded the first West Coast chapter of Amnesty International USA and then went on to found 75 other chapters around the country. As an advocate of human rights, she traveled widely, often to countries where her life was endangered. She researched and wrote meticulous reports about the abuses that she observed,serving as a witness and public voice of the oppressed. She inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps. As an activist and educator,she was instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Greece, Chile, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Vietnam. Ginetta's commitment to human rights serves as her legacy to future generations.

Chronology of Ginetta Sagan's life


1943-45, Italy. Participated in Italian Resistance Movement. Captured and tortured by the Fascist Police. Rescued April 23, 1945.

1948, Glasgow, Scotland. Underwent rehabilitation and conducted interviews with victims of WWII Concentration Camp victims and former Resistance members.

1949-51. France. Studied at the "Institute of Psychology" at the Sorbonne.


1951, Chicago. Enrolled at the University of Illinois to study child development and electroencephalography.

1952. Married Leonard A. Sagan.

1952-54. Worked at the Psychiatric Institute of the City Court of Chicago as an EEG specialist for juvenile offenders.

1953. Birth of Russell Loring Sagan.

1956. Birth of Duncan B. Sagan.

1957. Birth of Stuart Ross "Pico" Sagan.


1961-64, Japan. With the Usagikai organization, provided support for six orphanages in Nagasaki, providing food, medical care and building improvements.

1964-65. Resided in Boston, MA.

1967. Joined Amnesty International USA in Washington, DC.

1967-74. Greece. During the Colonels regime, made several trips to Greece to assist victims of oppression and torture. Organized conference in 1974 on victims of torture. Organized fund-raising concert with Joan Baez and Melina Mercouri in Berkley, CA

1969. Started the first AI Adoption Group "Group 19" in Palo Alto, CA.


1971. Founded the Western Region of Amnesty International

1971. Co-founded AI's Urgent Action with David Hinkley, Scott Harison and Ellen Moore

1971-86. Worked as volunteer to organize Adoptions Groups for AI USA

1973. Helped organize AI's first conference for the Abolition of Torture in Paris, France.

1973-76. Served on AI USA National Board of Directors.

1974, Chile. With Sally Lillienthal and Rose Styron, organized and supported a mission to investigate reports of oppression against health personnel. Organized the rescue of 400 prisoners of conscience, relocating them from Chilean prisons to the US.

1975. Argentina. With Rose Styron assisted journalists and other prisoners of conscience.

1975. Philippines. Raised funds to support AI mission to Spain and Philippines.

1976-77. Czechoslovakia. While living in Vienna, assisted families of the Charter 77 Movement.

1979-81. Served on the Board of Humanitas, founded by Joan Baez.


1980. "Italo-American Woman of the Year".

1981. Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, the Starr King School of Religion, Berkeley, CA.

1981. Founded the Aurora Foundation with Catherine S. Jones.

1981-88, Poland. Supported the Solidarity Movement in Poland with Joan Baez and Basia Piasecka Johnson.

1983-87. Served on the AI National Board of Directors.

1983. Aurora Foundation publishes "Violations of Human Rights in the Socialist Republic or Vietnam, April 1975- December 1988". Second edition published in 1989.

1985-86. Served as Chair of the 25th Anniversary Committed for AI USA.

1987. Jefferson Award Recipient.

1987. Visiting Scholar, Institute for Women and Gender, Stanford University.

1988-90. Affiliated Scholar, Institute for Women and Gender, Stanford University.


1990. Albert Schweitzer Award of Distinction.

1992-93. Poland and Russia. Sponsored workshop on teaching human rights.

1993, Ethiopia. Provided assistance to AI's Urgent Action Campaign to provide books and teaching material to human rights workshops.

1994. Elected Honorary Chair of the Board of AI USA.

1994. Guyana. Provided assistance to fund and organize a Human Rights seminar for educators from Guyana and other Caribbean countries.

1995. Yugoslavia. Fundraising for film on rape and torture of women.

1996. Awarded Italy's "Grande Ufficiale del Merito della Republica Italiana."

1996. Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom. White House Ceremony with President Clinton took place in 1997.


2001, Atherton, CA. Ginetta Sagan died at her home.

NOTE: This chronology is a work in progress. Its compiler, Sim Smiley, welcomes any corrections and suggestions.