Historical Context to $2.1 Million Grant to Women’s Philanthropy Institute

More knowledge about how and why women give is a good thing for the world.


Editors’ NoteIn early January, Inside Philanthropy announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had gifted $2.1 million to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Below, the Institute’s Director Debra Mesch and Associate Director Andrea Pactor provide some historical perspective to the grant.  

While the history of women’s activism through philanthropy is long, the history of empirical research about gender differences in philanthropy is short. Anne Firor Scott recalled in her introduction to Making the Invisible Woman Visible (1984) that the study of the first strand of women’s giving accelerated as a demand for women’s history grew during the early days of the feminist movement in the 1960s. One rich area of study focused on women’s use of voluntary associations to advance civil society. Susan Ware noted that during the 19th century, women “may not have been voters or held political office, but…

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