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Early Influences

Eleanor Roosevelt is the role model for what a woman in politics can be: compassionate, courageous, and selfless.

Jane Lakes Harman was born on 28 June 1945 in New York City to Dr. Adolf Lakes (1911-1998) and Lucille Geier Lakes (d. 1993). Her mother, whose family had emigrated from Russia, was born in the United States, and was the first in her family to attend college. Her father, born in Poland, moved to Cologne, Germany, as an infant. In 1934 he received his medical degree in Germany, the last year Jews were allowed to graduate under Nazi rule. Soon after, he emigrated to the United States, where he completed his medical training in New York. He married Lucille Geier in 1943. In 1949, they moved with their young children, Jane and David, to California, where Dr. Lakes built a successful medical practice in Culver City and started the Beverly Glen Hospital in Rancho Park.

Harman's early life was shaped by her parents' insights about freedom, their respect for human rights, and their strong belief in self-determination. She attended public schools in Los Angeles, and graduated from University High School in 1962.

Baby Jane Lakes Harman, ca. 1948.


Jane with her brother, David Lakes, 1960.

The stimulus for Harman's career in government and politics came in 1960 when she was an usher at the Democratic National Convention at which John F. Kennedy was nominated as the Democratic candidate for President. She recorded the events of the Convention in a Smart Shopper's Memo book, including her meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt who became Harman's role model for what a woman in politics can be: compassionate, courageous, and selfless.

Photographs of Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy by A. David Gurewitsch in Eleanor Roosevelt: Her Day (New York: Interchange Foundation, 1973).

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 © 2005 Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063 Page last updated on Friday, 02 March 2012