Esther Saks will be honored with the Founders Award for her support for civil rights, women’s reproductive rights and education for girls. The Founders Award honors leaders who have worked and advocated on behalf of women and girls for 30 years or more.

Esther has been active in social issues since the 1960’s, when she became involved in school integration as a member of the Evanston PTA. She was the founding President of Northlight Theatre in 1976, and after completing a Graduate Degree in Art History at the University of Chicago, went on to found the Esther Saks Gallery. Located in River North, the Esther Saks Gallery often hosted social action and political receptions. As an art dealer and gallery owner, Esther mentored and promoted women artists, and often provided her gallery for fundraisers supporting women’s groups.

Not content to limit herself to the arts, Esther was involved in a variety of causes and organizations impacting women. She was an early supporter of the Midwest Women’s Center job-training program, and was among Chicago Foundation for Women’s first donors in 1985. In 1999, Esther was a founding board member of The Young Women’s Leadership Charter School (YWLCS), Chicago’s only public school for girls. Now in its seventeenth year, it focuses on a lottery enrollment of inner city young women. It is pleased to boast a record of 100% graduation and college attendance for the last four years. Additionally, YWCLS has produced three Gates Millennium Scholars. Esther continues to serve on the board and to advocate for opportunities that enhance young women’s lives.

Esther and her now deceased husband, Alan Saks, were previously honored by the ACLU and more recently she and her four daughters were honored by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.