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  • Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women's Movement, 1870–1967 by Joan Marie Johnson
  • Mary Ann Dzuback (bio)
Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women's Movement, 1870–1967. By Joan Marie Johnson. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. Pp. 303. $39.95 cloth $29.99 e-book)

Throughout the nineteenth century, women raised money for temperance campaigns, suffrage conventions, and aid for the poor, the mentally ill, and orphans. Much of this funding came from men or from women's own carefully guarded private resources. But women more often contributed time, organizational skills, and network contacts, because, without direct access themselves over a long period of time to the money economy and capital accumulation based on their [End Page 425] own labors, women relied on men for the bulk of their livelihood. Joan Marie Johnson challenges our understanding of women supporting these kinds of reform activities with her study of the centrality of women's direct funding for the suffrage movement and the organizations that drove it; higher education institutions as central loci for women's consciousness raising and intellectual development in the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century; and reproductive control, particularly contraceptives, through the twentieth century. Funding Feminism explores the ways that women-driven philanthropy provided donors and their beneficiaries power in shaping suffrage, educational, and reproductive reform. Johnson argues that this funding was crucial to the success of feminism and feminist reform efforts—it "radically" transformed possibilities for women (p. 6). The goal from the 1870s was to "increase women's opportunities and promote [gender] equality" (p. 7), initially through enhancing political and educational gains and then enabling women some control over reproduction. Yet the ways these various donors exercised their own funding power created tensions between donors and recipients regarding agenda, process, and strategy in the various organizations.

Funding Feminism explores the donors, the sources of their wealth, and how their approaches to suffrage campaigns differed from earlier nineteenth-century philanthropic endeavors. Johnson examines how donors' individual histories and frustration with lack of power motivated them to join networks with suffrage leaders to finance meetings, publicity, and infrastructure to promote women's suffrage, which resulted in greater centralization of suffrage organizations. Johnson analyzes feminists' attempts to organize working women, through the Women's Trade Union League, for example, and how donors' agendas shifted the organizations from the ground-up, democratic processes that had existed before they intervened. Johnson draws on both primary and secondary research to describe colleges women endowed with their wealth, with the explicit purpose of preparing women to become both highly educated and self-supporting, as well as the challenges they encountered from the men who tried to redirect [End Page 426] their donations. Johnson explores the motivations behind and specific goals of such founders as Sophia Smith (Smith College), Ellen Scripps (Scripps College), Josephine Newcomb (Newcomb College at Tulane), Phoebe Apperson Hearst (co-education at the University of California–Berkeley), Mary Garrett (the Johns Hopkins Medical School and Bryn Mawr College) with her partner M. Carey Thomas. Lastly, and perhaps the most interesting, Johnson examines the friendship and alliance between Margaret Sanger and donor Katherine McCormick, who provided organizational strategies and funding for what became Planned Parenthood and the contraceptive pill. A biologist trained at MIT, McCormick focused her money and energy on developing the Pill in the 1950s and 1960s, from financing the laboratory work and experimentation to the campaign for legalization and distribution through a variety of women's clinics and eventually Planned Parenthood.

Johnson's argument is quite persuasive: that wealthy donors' feminist commitments and large donations, coupled with smaller donations by women at the grassroots level, were critical to attaining women's suffrage, expanded educational opportunities, and reproductive control. She teases out how the tensions between wealthy donors and grassroots organizers made these reforms possible and inhibited their inclusiveness. Her signal contribution is in examining so closely and thoroughly how philanthropy helped initiate and sustain these campaigns for equality, rights, and justice for women. Moreover, Johnson articulates how their impacts crossed boundaries of race, class, ethnicity, and education. The reforms philanthropists financed from the 1870s were critical, when coupled with less...


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pp. 425-427
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