More Than Money
Issue #19

Women, Money, and Power

Table of Contents

“Queen Liliouokalani”

1838 - 1917

Served for three years as the last royal monarch of Hawaii before she was overthrown by a group of American businessmen and the Hawaiian islands were annexed by the United States. She was put under house arrest and forced to swear allegiance to the new regime. Later in her life, she spent her time working with charities and supporting native Hawaiian health and educational efforts. Her life is an unusual but apt illustration of some of the difficulties for wealthy women in positions of influence.

Madam C.J. Walker

1867 - 1919

Walker was America's first black woman millionaire. She founded a cosmetics and hair care company, which was the first to cater specifically to black women. Her company went on to create jobs for thousands of women. Throughout her life she gave generously to civic causes, particularly education.

Margaret Slocum Sage

At her husband's death in 1906, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage inherited $63 million dollars, making her the richest woman in America. Her husband had been notorious as a miser who had opposed charity in any form. Margaret, however, had different ideas: she became the first woman in the United States to form a major foundation (which she named, ironically, after her husband). Only Rockefeller and Carnegie had larger endowed foundations at the time. Margaret Sage was a champion of women's rights, and had an abiding commitment to promote social and political reform. An innovator who pioneered some of the best practices now accepted in strategic philanthropy, Ms. Sage worked at addressing the root causes of poverty, and supported academic research aimed at changing public policy.

Catherine Muther

Catherine Muther was one of the few women to be an officer of a large, publicly held corporation, and from this experience became committed to using her business expertise to advance the position of women. She has started a business "incubator" that provides critical support to new, women-owned information technology companies; invested in two of the nation's few women-led venture capital funds; and given grants to the Stanford Graduate School of Business to help them develop women faculty.

"Philanthropy and investing are complementary methods of promoting social change - in my case, leveraging resources for women and girls," Ms. Muther says.

Caroline H. Newhouse

Among the many organizations Caroline Newhouse supports is Career Transition for Dancers, a nonprofit group that helps professional dancers overcome the often traumatic experience of finishing their careers at an early age. As a sculptor and painter, Newhouse had many young dancers as models and admired their passionate commitment.

Newhouse's wealth comes from a communications business her husband helped to found, which includes 26 newspapers, Random House book publishers, and Conde Nast magazines.

"It's a fact of life," Newhouse says. "There are much richer people than I am, but I have enough to help. It never occurred to me not to give it away."

Jean Fairfax

Winner of the 1998 Leadership for Equity and Diversity Award from Women & Philanthropy, Jean Fairfax has accomplished much in her 78 years. She has worked for racial and gender justice on many fronts, including with the American Friends Service Committee, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, World Council of Churches, National Public Radio, and Harvard Divinity School. Since the 1970s, she has become increasingly active in philanthropy.


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