Nell Newman

On this date in 1959, environmentalist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Elinor Teresa “Nell” Newman was born in New York City to actors Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. She worked as a child actor under the name Nell Potts. She attended Putney School, a high school in Vermont established to spread progressive education, and earned a B.S. in human ecology at the College of Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Newman moved to California, where she served as the executive director of the Ventana Wilderness Sanctuary as well as the development director for the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group.

She worked for fundraising institutions until 1993. Her commitment to health and sustainable agriculture led her to convince her father to let her establish Newman’s Own Organics: The Second Generation as an organic division of his Newman’s Own line. Her first snack creation, Newman’s Own Organic pretzels, became the number-one food snack in America in its first year of production. She has created over 100 organic food products and compiled her thoughts about how to make a difference in life in her 2003 book The Newman’s Own Organics Guide to a Good Life: Simple Measures That Benefit You and the Place You Live.

In 2010 she started the Nell Newman Foundation, which awards grants in these core areas: environment, education, arts and culture, spiritual, scientific, human services, emergency relief, animal welfare and international affairs. The foundation “stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and seeks to further equity and social justice through its grant making.”

Newman is an admirer of freethinkers Walt Whitman and Edward Abbey, citing Abbey’s 1968 autobiographical “Desert Solitaire” as “very special to me.” (Life Productions, March 5, 2020) She received the Rachel Carson Award in 2014 from the National Audubon Society for her environmental leadership and was inducted into the Specialty Food Association’s Hall of Fame in 2017 and the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019.

She married Gary Irving, a native of Wales, in 2005 in California. They met when Newman bought a surfboard at Irving’s store. Julie Norris of the British Humanist Association conducted the service.

PHOTO: Newman at the 2011 Broadway Barks pet rescue benefit in New York City; Nick Step photo under CC 2.0

Freedom From Religion Foundation