Funding Social Change: Gender and Philanthropy in the Twentieth Century

Endorsed by WASM

Friday, March 31, 2023, 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Gender; Race; Social and Cultural


Fighting entrenched crises resulting from poverty, racism, sexism, or other inequities requires time, labor, and money. Although many factors contribute to a social movement’s success, funding makes a considerable difference in activists’ abilities to promote, implement, and sustain social change. This roundtable explores the tensions surrounding funding and social movements in the twentieth century. Paying particular attention to gender, our panelists offer insights into the ways that Black, White, and Latinx activists have negotiated funding relationships to forward social change, furthering our understanding of the importance of philanthropy in addressing historical conflicts through research, education, and public history projects.

Session Participants

Chair: Alice M. O'Connor, University of California, Santa Barbara
Alice O’Connor is Professor of History and Director of the Blum Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She teaches and writes about poverty and wealth, social and urban policy, the politics of knowledge, and the history of organized philanthropy in the United States. Among her publications are Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History; Social Science for What? Philanthropy and the Social Question in a World Turned Rightside Up, and the co-edited volumes Beyond the New Deal Order (with Gary Gerstle and Nelson Lichtenstein); Urban Inequality: Evidence from Four Cities (with Chris Tilly and Lawrence Bobo); and Poverty and Social Welfare in the United States: An Encyclopedia (with Gwendolyn Mink). Her work has appeared in a number of historical and interdisciplinary journals, including the Journal of Urban History, the Journal of Policy History, the Annual Review of Sociology, and the Du Bois Review. Before joining the UCSB faculty in 1995, she was a program officer at the Ford Foundation and the Social Science Research Council and a National Science Foundation fellow at the Center for the Study of Urban Inequality at the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation and a fellow at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University. Her current research focuses on wealth and inequality in the post World War II United States, and the origins of the second Gilded Age. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Fund for Santa Barbara, a non-profit community foundation that supports grassroots organizations working for social, economic, environmental and political change in Santa Barbara County.

Panelist: Tanisha C. Ford, The Graduate Center CUNY
Tanisha C. Ford is Professor of History and Biography and Memoir at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She has written extensively on the cultural politics of modern social movements. Ford is the author of Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul (UNC Press, 2015), which won the OAH Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for Best Book on Civil Rights History, Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion (St. Martin’s, 2019), and co-author (with Deborah Willis) of Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful (Aperture, 2019). Her scholarship has been published in the Journal of Southern History, NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, the Black Scholar, and QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking. She writes regularly for public audiences, with feature stories, cultural criticism, and profiles in the Atlantic, New York Times, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Aperture, The Root, Bitch, and Town & Country. In 2019, Ford was named to The Root 100 Most Influential African Americans list for her innovative, public-facing scholarship. Her research has been supported by the Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Ford Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and University of London’s School of Advanced Study, among others. She is working on a new book-length study, Our Secret Society: America’s Forgotten Black Philanthropists for Racial Justice, which examines the webs of money, power, and influence that financially bolstered the Civil Rights movement.

Panelist: Kristine Ashton Gunnell, UCLA Center for the Study of Women
Kristine Ashton Gunnell completed her Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University and holds appointments as a Research Affiliate at UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women and Visiting Scholar at Claremont Graduate University. She specializes in the history of Women and Gender in the American West, especially the role of religious women in public and private life. Gunnell is the author of Daughters of Charity: Women, Religious Mission, and Hospital Care in Los Angeles, 1856-1927 (DePaul Vincentian Studies Institute, 2013), and won the Arrington-Prucha Prize from the Western Historical Association for her article, “Daughters of Charity as Cultural Intermediaries: Women, Religion, and Race in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles.” U.S. Catholic Historian, volume 31, number 2 (Spring 2013): 51-74. She is currently writing a history of the Daughters of Charity Foundation and the sisters’ efforts to combat poverty in the late twentieth century.

Panelist: Joan Marie Johnson, Northwestern University
Joan Marie Johnson, PhD, has written extensively about the history of women and gender, education, race, social reform, and philanthropy. She recently published Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement, 1870-1967 (University of North Carolina Press, 2017; Gender and American Culture Series) and has a new forthcoming book, The Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States (Routledge, February 2022, Seminar Series), intended for use in college classrooms. She is also the author of Southern Women at the Seven Sister Colleges: Feminist Values and Social Activism, 1875-1915 (University of Georgia Press, 2008) and Southern Ladies, New Women: Race, Region and Clubwomen in South Carolina, 1890-1930 (University Press of Florida, 2004) and co-editor of the three volume series, South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times (University of Georgia Press, 2009-2012). She has published on black and white women in the Journal of Women’s History and the Journal of Southern History and other journals and anthologies. She has delivered papers and chaired panels at the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Southern Historical Association, Southern Association for Women Historians and other meetings. She received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her PhD in history from UCLA.

Johnson is the Director for Faculty in the Office of the Provost at Northwestern University and leads programming and initiatives for faculty, focused on the successful recruitment, retention, and support of faculty at all stages of their careers. Prior to joining the Provost’s office, Johnson taught Women’s/Gender History at Northeastern Illinois University for twelve years. She was the co-founder and co-director of the Newberry Seminar on Women and Gender at the Newberry Library in Chicago. She frequently gives public lectures on women’s history at institutions and organizations including the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Newberry Library, Susan B. Anthony House, Frances Willard House Museum, the National Archives, Chicago Public Library, California Women’s Museum, Association of Fund-raising Professionals, Chicago Women’s Foundation, Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee and Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis.

Panelist: Erica L. Kohl-Arenas, UC Davis
Dr. Erica Kohl-Arenas is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis and the national director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life. She is a scholar of grassroots community development and the radical imaginations and deferred dreams of social movements that become entangled with the politics of professionalization, institutionalization and philanthropy. Kohl-Arenas is the author of book “The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty” (UC Press, 2016) and is currently working on a book about radical world building projects from the 1960s and today in rural California and beyond. She is the co-organizer of two action research projects, including one on transforming higher education to better support activist and public scholarship, and another on the reclamation of land and agriculture in building self-determined futures in rural Black Mississippi as a co-conspirator with the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture).

Panelist: Rachel Marie Wimpee, Rockefeller Archive Center
Rachel Wimpee is a historian of the 19th and 20th centuries and Assistant Director of Research & Education at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC). In this role, Rachel oversees an array of public engagement and digital outreach initiatives to broaden and diversify the audiences for archival research and the history of philanthropy. She is managing editor of RE:source, the RAC’s digital storytelling and publishing initiative that examines the role American philanthropy has played in the past. In 2013, Rachel joined the RAC as a Program Officer and Public Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. From 2015 to 2018, she led a three-year historical services contract with the Ford Foundation, to help deepen understanding and awareness of the Ford Foundation’s archival resources.

Since joining the RAC, Rachel has given talks and written about subjects as varied as civil rights, grantmaking, philanthropic support for urban programs, field building, refugees and human rights, gender and LGBTQ+ history, and foundation responses to moments of crisis. She is currently co-leading an oral history and book project on the history of foundation engagement with impact investing and for-profit tools for social good.

Before joining the RAC, Rachel was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities program at New York University and during her doctoral studies taught in the French, Philosophy, and Humanities departments. Rachel holds an interdisciplinary PhD in French and French Studies from New York University, with research interests in gender, cultural representation, and the role private giving plays in social change.