Apparently, 12 is Frances Sheehan’s lucky number. Over the past dozen years, she’s managed and distributed $12 million in grants to Chester County organizations committed to improving the physical, mental and dental health of residents. Before that, she ran Chester County’s Planned Parenthood for 12 years, transforming it from a small operation into a national model.
A community-housing organizer in the pre-gentrified Brooklyn of 1979, Sheehan moved to Cleveland to work with a women’s rights group. There, she volunteered for an undercover sting operation with the 6 o’clock news. “I went on a job interview and wore a wire,” recalls Sheehan, who resides in Swarthmore. “The man offered me two different jobs. I could make a certain amount of money for being a receptionist—or more for being his companion.”
The TV station aired footage as part of a three-night special. Other women then came forward with their stories, and they all filed EEOC suits against him. His career was over. “More importantly, the public saw that this behavior would not be tolerated,” Sheehan says. “And that’s how we bring about positive change.”