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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 17:29 GMT
Bianca Jagger: Champion of peace
Bianca Jagger

Bianca Jagger is taking a prominent role in opposing the planned war against Iraq. For years, she has campaigned for a more humanitarian approach to world problems.

"How many times has the United States been successful in exporting democracy to other countries?"

Bianca Jagger poses this rhetorical question in answer to the argument that America will create a climate in which freedoms can flourish once it has liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein.

Her scepticism is based on her own experiences in Central America. She regards a visit she made to Honduras in 1981 as one of the formative episodes of her life.

She was part of a delegation which witnessed a death squad, from the US-backed military, marching away a group of refugees. Despite having guns trained at them, Jagger and others trailed the soldiers with cameras until they released their captives.

At wedding to Mick Jagger in 1971
Taking the Mick in 1971
From then on, she decided to devote her career to the cause of human rights.

It was not an easy transformation.

She was the beauty who had captured the heart of rock's ultimate lothario - having the gall to wear a plunging neckline and see-through blouse when she married Rolling Stone Mick Jagger in 1971 in St Tropez.

Now, she was becoming something of a moral priestess - rock chick to compassion chic, or so it seemed.

Such impressions have long since disappeared. For, over the past two decades, Bianca Jagger has compiled an impressive curriculum vitae of humanitarian causes.

Campaigning for justice

She has fought for the rights of indigenous groups in Brazil, held talks with warring factions in Northern Ireland and campaigned for the victims of Aids.

She has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Albert Schweizer Institute that helps the sick in the developing world, and worked for Amnesty International in their campaigns against torture and the death penalty.

On one trip to war-torn Bosnia, in 1993, she rescued a boy who doctors said would die unless he could be flown abroad for treatment.

After endless appeals to friends in high places, she persuaded the commander of a British tank battalion to escort her on a harrowing two-day trip through a mountain road to Split.

Addressing a UN coference on violence against women in 1999
Addressing a UN coference on violence against women in 1999
The boy was saved and she remains friends with him and his family.

In many parts of the world, Bianca Jagger has campaigned for the victims of violence against women. She was born in Nicaragua, in 1950, into a society that valued only men.

Her family was reasonably well off. But her parents divorced when she was 10.

Her mother - who had never worked - was forced to open a roadhouse canteen to afford her daughter's convent education.

"My mother was turned into something less than a person by that very repressive Catholic society. I decided that, under no circumstances, was I going to be a second-class citizen because I was a woman."

At the age of 16, she won a scholarship to the Paris Institute of Political Studies. It was in the French capital that she met, and fell immediately in love with, Mick Jagger, then a tax exile.

A rolling stone...

At first, the hedonistic lifestyle was appealing. But later, the endless circus of celebrity life failed to satisfy the stability she craved.

"I no longer was a person in my own right who had my own thoughts, my own beliefs, my own working life."

The couple divorced after eight years. Thanks to a pre-nuptial agreement, Mick saw to it that Bianca received a meagre half-million pound settlement. Today, she lives on an investment income and the fruits of a lucrative lecture tour circuit.

Bianca Jagger
Bianca Jagger's record of campaigning is formidable
She looks back with little fondness to those married days, though they produced her daughter Jade whom she sees often, along with her two grandchildren.

And, despite huge offers, she has refused to kiss and tell.

Yet, her star quality and designer elegance ensure the occasional re-appearance in the gossip columns.

Networking in the corridors of power in Washington, and attending countless fundraising dos, has brought her into contact with influential people.

She has had well-publicised relationships with two US Democratic senators, Christopher Dodd and Robert Torricelli.

Bianca Jagger has been characterised as well-informed, forthright, difficult, driven, all the adjectives one might expect from a humanitarian campaigner.

Her appearance on the current anti-war platform is consistent with her belief that, in her words, "Individuals can make a difference. I feel that one of the failings of our society today is that people have begun to lose the belief that you can influence the decision-makers".

Update 22 April 2008: In a previous version of this article we wrongly stated that Bianca Jagger had ridden naked into the club on a horse. This is incorrect - she was in fact dressed in a full-length Halston gown, and did not ride into the club. The horse was brought to her as a birthday surprise, whereupon she mounted it, and photographs were taken. We apologise to Ms Jagger for any distress or embarrassment our error caused.

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