Two weeks after graduating from Clark University Jessie Mindlin set off on a cross-country adventure, hitchhiking across Canada (with a college friend) to spend the summer in Oregon learning to “work the land.” She’s lived in the Pacific NW ever since. Now a lawyer in Portland, Oregon, Jessie picks up the story here:

I’ve devoted my legal career to promoting social justice, and to serving survivors of rape and sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking. I never intended to make this my life’s work. I first volunteered for a domestic violence hotline and shelter in college in Massachusetts, when a professor offered extra credit to students who helped staff the new (and still fledgling) domestic violence shelter. Soon after, I began volunteering for the rape crisis center, too.

After graduation, I decided I wanted to experience “life on the land” so I signed up to volunteer as a summer intern on a 150-acre women’s commune in Southern Oregon. The internship turned out to be non-existent, and the farm operations were deminimus. There was no electricity, no running water, and only a broken axe for splitting wood while the only way to cook food was to split firewood for an old, ginormous cast iron stove. Wanting to learn some substantive farming skills, I moved to Estacada, OR, where I spent the next 10 months on a 50-acre farm. Next stop was Portland, where I worked as a waitress, a victim advocate, a residential counselor for runaway youth, and a trial assistant / alternatives-to-incarceration worker for the public defender’s office. Eventually I headed north for law school at the Univ. of Washington. I’ve been a lawyer since 1990, .

I love my work and feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. It is meaningful, emotionally and intellectually rewarding, and has taken me places I never imagined I would go. I’ve lectured to the Suriname (unicameral) legislature on laws critical to protecting survivors’ rights and to helping them escape a life of violence; traveled throughout the East Caribbean training law enforcement, judges, and community members; and collaborated with government officials and NGOs in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. This past year, I spent several months at McMurdo Station, in Antarctica, facilitating community listening sessions and helping to launch a Victim Advocate program for the National Science Foundation. (The picture of me in the green cylinder is just before I headed down the Ob Tube to look and listen for seals at the beginning of the thaw.) After decades of working for non-profits, just this week I left the organization where I spent the last 17+ years and launched a national consulting practice focusing on gender-based violence. I’m looking forward to working less while still doing my part to help create a more just world.

When I’m not working, I love to travel with my family, sea kayak / go kayak camping, and enjoy all the Pacific NW has to offer. My older son is a reporter in Durango, Colorado, and my younger one is a rising college senior on the east coast, majoring in neuroscience. Alex, the kids, and I have traveled across East Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia. (We did a country count recently — I’ve traveled to all 7 continents and 40+ countries.) Pre-kids, I spent 7 months traveling across SE Asia, 2+ months trekking in Nepal, and made numerous visits to Brazil. (Our kids would relish an opportunity to tell you how, when they were 10 and 12, their parents hitched with them to the border with Laos so as not to spend another day stuck in a small mountain village in northern Thailand, or what it’s like to squeeze 1 adult and 2 kids (ages 6 and 8) onto a single motorcycle. (What can I say? There are no buses in Mbarara, Uganda. Alex was working at the hospital and I wasn’t about to let the kids ride solo. I did offer the drivers extra $$ if they drove more slowly than usual.) I remain close friends with a small group of LHS classmates, some of whom have been brave enough to join me on trips to Belize, Brazil, and camping along the Oregon coast. I’m grateful for all of this. And remain humbled to do the work I do.