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Monday, November 23, 2009

A Nanny for the Ages - Harriette's Story

The 2010 INA Nanny of the Year will mark the 20th Anniversary of honoring outstanding professional nannies for this organization. Do you know who the first INA Nanny of the Year is?

Harriette Grant was the epitome of a Professional Nanny. Here is her story, as told by Glenda Propst in remembrance of her dear friend. This article first appeared in the June 2001 NAN newsletter and has reprinted with permission.

Harriette's Story
Harriette Grant passed away on June 30, 2002. She had been a nanny for 40 years. You can read her story in the book Like a Second Mother but here is my tribute to her life and her enormous contribution to nannies everywhere.

A nanny for the ages by Glenda Willm Propst


These are some newspaper headlines from 1961:
U.S. Breaks Off Diplomatic Relations With Cuba;
John F. Kennedy Inaugurated as President of the U.S.
Peace Corps Established by Kennedy;
UN General Assembly Condemns Apartheid;
‘Freedom Riders’ Attacked by White Citizens in Anniston and Birmingham;
Bay of Pigs Invasion;
Kennedy and Khrushchev Meet in Vienna to Discuss Disarmament;
Berlin Wall Constructed; Actor Gary Cooper Dies at Age 60.


These are some popular books from 1961:
Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein;
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller; and
Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller (the first legal publication in the U.S.).
Some of the popular movies that year were:
"West Side Story,"
"The Hustler," and "Judgment at Nuremberg."

And among the most popular songs were:
"Love makes the World Go Round,"
"Moon River,"
"Where the Boys Are," and "Exodus."

How many of you remember any of these events and cultural markers? How many of you were even born in 1961?
Well, even if we are among those who were not yet born in1961, there was an event that in some way affected all our lives that year. This event did not make the headlines, but it changed our lives all the same.

In July, 1961, Harriette Grant began her career as a nanny. At that time there were no newspaper articles about nanny salaries or benefits there were no formal nanny training programs in the United States, there were no nanny support groups, and there were no nanny organizations.

Harriette was just 19 when she started taking care of Sylvia Whitman. In the book "Like a Second Mother," Sylvia writes about a very different Harriette from the person we know. Sylvia’s "Rat," as she affectionately called her, changed her hair color every week, and their house was the best patrolled in the neighborhood because all the policemen had a crush on Harriette.
Harriette was with the Whitmans nine years, and she maintains a close relationship with Sylvia Whitman, who is now all grown up with a child of her own.

In 1970 Harriette moved to Washington, DC, to care for the Brown children, with whom she stayed for 20 years. Even after the children were teenagers, Harriette remained and helped the Browns part time (she took a second part time job with another family in the neighborhood).
Harriette was there when one of the Brown children graduated from Princeton University, and when her other "child" graduated from High School. While she was in DC, Harriette began to get serious about solving the problems surrounding the lack of support nannies had.
Harriette Grant was one of the founders of the very first nanny support group in the USA. It was called ADCAN - the Association of DC Area Nannies. The group still runs strong today, and prides itself on being the oldest nanny support group in the nation.

Harriette was also a founding member of International Nanny Association, served on its board of directors, and was the INA’s first Nanny of the Year in 1990.

She was one of the three co-founders of NAN in 1992.

When Harriette moved to New York City in 1999, she became one of the founders of the Professional Nannies of New York.

I first met Harriette Grant at the INA conference in Vail, Colorado, in 1988. We were going to be serving on the INA Board together. It did not take long for us to realize that we had the same concerns, the same vision, and the same passion for the nanny profession. After the conference, we burned up the phone lines on a regular basis.

We became very good friends, and in 1992, along with Eva Harkness, we founded the National Association of Nannies.

In 1997, when Harriette asked me to run with her for Co-President of NAN, one of my greatest concerns was that it might hurt our friendship. We promised each other not to let that happen. I think we’d both admit that at times it has been a struggle, but we served as Co-Presidents for the last four years, and we are still on speaking terms. We did not always agree, but we always respected each other and we have always tried to make what was best for NAN our top priority.
NAN benefited from her vision, her professionalism, her steadfastness, her wisdom, and her commitment to the Nanny profession.

It’s a little overwhelming to think of all the things that have happened in the last 40 years, and of how far the nanny profession has come. I think of all the changes Harriette saw and of all the nannies she encountered on her journey.

When I think of Harriette Grant, I think of the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail."

Harriette led the way where there was no path. She blazed a trail for 40 years, .As her torch is passed, we can all learn a valuable lesson from her life, her example, and her dedication to her career.

It is up to each of us to continue the work that Harriette started. We are pioneers of the nanny profession, and it is our job to continue to blaze the trail.

Harriette, you have been our friend, our leader, and our inspiration. We will never forget you and we will work hard to continue your legacy.

You leave us with many wonderful memories but a hole in our heart that only you could fill.

Rest in peace dear friend.


Do you know a Nanny for the ages? Do you know an outstanding nanny that should be recognized by her peers for the work she does, the professional and personal accomplishments she has achieved in her career? Many nannies are uncomfortable asking to be nominated or are unaware of the award and recognition they deserve. Individuals, agency owners/staff and nanny support groups leaders are encouraged to reach out to your nanny community and consider nominating one – or more – nannies for the 2010 INA Nanny of the Year. Nomination details are available here.

Also NEW this year is the INA Nanny of the Year Mentor Program. Past Nanny of the Year award recipients are available to work closely with Nanny of the Year nominees and those individuals who wish to nominate a nanny for the INA Nanny of the Year award.

Past Nanny of the Year award recipients have volunteered to help guide nominators and nominees through the nomination and applications process and are available to serve as a resource for those individuals considering nominating a nanny or those nannies considering accepting nomination.

Past Nanny of the Year award recipients are also available to work closely with nominees as mentors throughout the Nanny of the Year nomination and application process.

2 comments:

Becky Kavanagh November 23, 2009 at 8:08 PM  

Thank you all for reprinting this article honoring Harriette! How inspiring and wonderful. 1990 was my first INA Conference, and I was blown away when the first Nanny of the Year was presented to Harriette. What a shining example to us all!

Kristen March 2, 2010 at 4:58 PM  

Harriette, was such a wonderful nanny and paved the way for us. Thank you Harriette for all your years of outstanding service to the nanny field. You are and will be forever the orginial SuperNanny. I am glad that I didn't miss the dance.

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