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The People’s Publisher Who Changed My Life Forever


Publisher Betty Ballantine--she believed in the power of ideas, and was willing to take risks to bring new ones to light. (Credit: Richard Ballantine/Kathy Ballantine 1980, via Associated Press)

Originally published on Common Dreams, February 2, 2019

It’s 1970. In my VW bug, I pull up in front of the Durant Hotel on the edge of the UC Berkeley campus and sit. I’m waiting for Betty Ballantine, and all I know is that she’s a big-time New York publisher. So, of course, I imagine her appearing in sleek suit, high heels, and full-on makeup. But soon, approaching my car with a smile is a slightly graying gal in sneakers and flowered cotton pants. Her warmth immediately puts me at ease.

Little did I know that this person, who passed away February 12th, would set the course of my life. Her obituary appeared today in the New York Times.

Betty had asked if she could meet with me on her way to Stanford to talk with Paul Ehrlich about his rec