New autobiography by late Hill activist Libby Frank


Libby Frank, a lifelong peace and justice activist who lived in Chestnut Hill's Hill House for 42 years (and in Mt. Airy before that) before her death on Dec. 12 last year, is the subject of “Life of Libby: Chasing Peace & Justice with Humor Guts & Passion,” an autobiography she co-wrote with long-time friend and fellow activist Heather Shafter of Mt. Airy.

The book was launched in an online Facebook stream on Tuesday, March 19 and has since hit bestseller status in all three categories on Amazon.

“Libby began her activism in the 1940s,” Shafter told the Local in a recent interview. “She participated in actions to support farm and factory workers, end public swimming pool segregation and end the Vietnam War. For decades, Libby worked on Middle East peace and justice, seeking to develop understanding across diverse perspectives. She was an inspiration.”

As a young woman, Frank belonged to a local folksong group that met the legendary Pete Seeger to sing “The Hammer Song.” They asked Pete Seeger why the song's lyrics only mentioned “my brothers.” Seeger, a longtime folk hero of Frank’s, later credited her with inspiring him to change the lyrics in The Hammer Song to include “my sisters.”

“Libby had such incredible stories,” said Shafter. “Going to the World Youth Festival in East Berlin, hosting Jane Fonda at the Bergen County Peace Center in NJ and leading a delegation of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) through five countries in the Middle East are just a few examples. I wanted to write all these stories down and share them with everyone. Even more than that, I wanted to know where Libby came from and what path led her to take all these actions. How did she become the person who did these things, and how did she even know what to do?”

Frank was born in McKeesport, PA, but she spent most of her childhood in Cleveland, OH, where she attended elementary school through college. Before moving to Philadelphia, she lived in the Bronx, Chicago, Columbus, OH; Teaneck, NJ; and White Plains, NJ. She moved to Philadelphia to take a job as Executive Director of the U.S. National Section of WILPF. She had earned a B.A. at Cleveland College.

Frank’s parents did not condone her activism. According to Shafter, “She mostly tried to hide her activities from them and felt compelled to move out of her parents’ house after college because of the tension her activities caused. She believes that her Jewish upbringing gave her a strong sense of justice and that folk music initially got her hooked on peace and justice work. 

“But she also had personal experiences that lit a fire for justice. For example, her parents would not allow her best friend into the house because her best friend was Black. She felt this was very wrong, even at a young age. She was also spurred by the Holocaust and protested at the British Consulate after the war to allow European Jewish refugees into Palestine.”

Shafter grew up between Northeast Philadelphia (where her mom lived) and Southampton in Lower Bucks County (where her dad and stepmom lived). After George Washington High School, she earned a degree in 2000 from Drew University in Madison, NJ, in French and Women’s Studies and a master's from Temple University in 2005 in Adult and Organizational Development. She has lived in Mt. Airy since 2018 and before that in Glenside for 14 years and Roxborough for four years.

She is now Chief Operations Officer for a company called BRODY Professional Developments and had never published anything beyond a poem in a school newspaper until she met Frank. 

That was in 2003, through the Philadelphia chapter of WILPF, and she was so inspired that she decided to collaborate with Frank on the new autobiography. The project took ten years, and Frank died shortly after reviewing and helping to edit the final manuscript.

When she was not engaged in activism, Frank held a combination of secretarial and teaching jobs. She also taught at several Hebrew schools, from secular to orthodox, and had administrative roles with Hebrew schools. She was married to Morton Frank for more than 60 years until he died in 2023. They had two sons, Alan and Reuben Frank. Reuben is a sportswriter and an Eagles announcer for NBC Sports. Alan is a software engineer. Both are in their 60s.

Shafter will be speaking about the book and signing copies at Big Blue Marble on Thursday, June 13, from 7-8:30 p.m.

For more information, Google “Life of Libby: Chasing Peace & Justice with Humor Guts & Passion.” Len Lear can be reached at