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Funding Feminism

Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement, 1870–1967

Joan Marie Johnson

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Sozialwissenschaften, Recht, Wirtschaft / Allgemeines, Lexika


Joan Marie Johnson examines an understudied dimension of women's history in the United States: how a group of affluent white women from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries advanced the status of all women through acts of philanthropy. This cadre of activists included Phoebe Hearst, the mother of William Randolph Hearst; Grace Dodge, granddaughter of Wall Street "Merchant Prince" William Earle Dodge; and Ava Belmont, who married into the Vanderbilt family fortune. Motivated by their own experiences with sexism, and focusing on women's need for economic independence, these benefactors sought to expand women's access to higher education, promote suffrage, and champion reproductive rights, as well as to provide assistance to working-class women. In a time when women still wielded limited political power, philanthropy was perhaps the most potent tool they had. But even as these wealthy women exercised considerable influence, their activism had significant limits. As Johnson argues, restrictions tied to their giving engendered resentment and jeopardized efforts to establish coalitions across racial and class lines.

As the struggle for full economic and political power and self-determination for women continues today, this history reveals how generous women helped shape the movement. And Johnson shows us that tensions over wealth and power that persist in the modern movement have deep historical roots.

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Joan Marie Johnson



supporters of Margaret Sanger, Ellen Scripps, Alice Paul and NAWSA feud, coercive philanthropy, founding of Scripps College, history of women doctors, Mary Dreier, American Birth Control League, women in the labor movement, Jane Stanford, Indiana Fletcher Williams, Phoebe Hearst, Gertrude Pinchot, Sweet Briar College, Why did the woman suffrage movement succeed, coeducation at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, development of the Pill, history of Planned Parenthood, history of women’s colleges, coeducation at the University of Rochester, Jessie Ashley, Katharine McCormick, Women’s Trade Union League, working girls’ societies, Elsie Clews Parsons, Juliet Rublee, founder of Smith College, Mary Garrett, Grace Hoadley Dodge, coeducation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wealthy women and feminism, Mary Ware Dennett, Anna Howard Shaw, history of birth control, history of coeducation, Margaret Robins, Sophia Smith, Alva Belmont, history of the Women’s Trade Union league, race and class divisions in the women’s movement, merger of the YWCA, founding of Stanford University