Celebrating four decades of feminists investing, training and connecting to advance racial, gender and economic justice.

40 Moments
& Movement Makers

The Women’s Foundation of California is the result of fierce individuals, inspired connections and committed networks working together. Over four decades, how the Women’s Foundation of California does its work and who does the work has evolved. And yet there are elements of our vision that remain unchanged, like our founders understanding that the people closest to the problem are also closest to the solutions.

Here are forty moments that shape our past, present, and future as we advance gender, racial and economic justice.

#Happy40WFC

Eighties

Where it all began

1979

Dedicated to investing in the woefully underfunded work of women, a dynamic group of activists and community organizers meet at the Women’s Building in San Francisco and sows the seeds of what becomes the Women’s Foundation.

Founding members of the Women’s Foundation

1980

The Women’s Foundation becomes official when Ruth McGuire makes the first investment with a contribution in Louise Hoyt’s name.

1981

The Women’s Foundation holds its first public event.

1982

The Managing Inherited Wealth program, later known as Women Moving Millions, kicks off at the Women’s Foundation.

Selection from the 1983 Women’s Foundation annual report

1983


  • People-powered from the very beginning, the Women’s Foundation boasts a volunteer network of over 150 people.

  • The Managing Inherited Wealth program, later known as Resourceful Women kicks off at the Women’s Foundation. In the 1990’s, Resourceful Women incubated and midwifed Women Donors Network.

1985


  • Partnering with the Ms. Foundation, the Women’s Foundation establishes the National Network of Women’s Funds.

  • Gathered together in a living room, nine women who don’t yet know each other band together to create the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation and advance the cause of justice for women and girls in LA.

  • Partnering with the Ms. Foundation, Astraea Lesbian Foundation, and Mama Cash, the Women’s Foundation establishes the National Network of Women’s Funds at a joint meeting of the National Black United Fund and National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy. A few years in, the National Network of Women’s Funds changed its name to Women’s Funding Network.

Founding members of the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation

1986

The Los Angeles Women’s Foundation begins its grantmaking program with ten grants to organizations across the city.

1988


  • Less than a decade after its creation, the endowment of the Women’s Foundation hits one million dollars.

  • With an anonymous gift of $50,000, the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation begins to build an endowment.

Women’s Foundation founding member Roma Guy

Nineties

An era of experimentation and expansion

1990


  • The Women’s Foundation and the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation begin their collaboration with an event on violence in women’s lives.

  • With “Come Into the Sun,” a conference focused on the impacts of incarceration on women and girls, the Women’s Foundation digs deeper into the impact of the prison systems on gender justice.


The Women’s Foundation celebrated 20 years as the nineties came to a close

1992

The Los Angeles Women’s Foundation launches their Economic Justice Initiative.

1994


  • A long partnership begins when the Young Women's Freedom Center receives their first grant from the Women’s Foundation.

  • Uniting forces again, the Women’s Foundation and the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation set up the Women’s Fund of California as a vehicle for workplace giving.

  • Understanding the importance of face-to-face connection, the Women’s Foundation hosts the first Ground Breakers/Dream Makers Gala and a two-day conference on “Women, Money, and Social Change”


Excerpt from a 1994 annual report from the Women’s Foundation

1995

With three quarters of a million dollars, the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation launches the Women’s Health initiative.

1997


  • Bolstered by leadership from the Women’s Foundation, the City of San Francisco passes the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

  • The Native American Fund is established to support organizing within indigenous communities across California at the Women’s Foundation.

1998

The Women’s Foundation Girls Tech Up! program gets 17 organizations online and cruising the world wide web.

The Girls Tech Up! program in action as Evelyn tutors Maria

1999

Through their combined efforts the Women’s Foundation and the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation fund over $1.5 million in grants - the largest round of funding yet.

Cover of the 1999 California report on Women and Girl’s Lives across the state

Oughts

Coming together to build something greater

2001

The Women’s Foundation invests more than $2 million dollars a year in community organizations and establishes the Smart Cookie Scholarship Fund for first generation Latinx college students.

Khmer Girls in Action

2003


  • We’re better together! The Women’s Foundation and the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation merge to become the Women’s Foundation of California.

  • The Women’s Policy Institute is formed and passes its first bill in just a years time.

2004


  • California Latinas for Reproductive Justice founded in December 2004 with The Women’s Foundation of California serving as one of their initial funders.

  • A new board of directors convenes to reflect the statewide nature of the newly merged Women’s Foundation of California.

The new board of directors for the Women’s Foundation of California

2005


  • Together with organizations like Arriba Juntos and The Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment, The Women’s Foundation of California created La Cocina.

  • La Cocina's incubator program offers affordable commercial kitchen space and hands-on technical assistance to low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs who are launching, growing and formalizing food businesses.

  • We embark on the Road to Equity Tour and hold community listening sessions with over 1,000 people across the state in ten different cities.


One of the many listening sessions held across the state as part of the Road to Equity Tour

2006


  • The Women’s Foundation of California became the first institutional funder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Since then, the organization has blossomed into an important hub for community organizing in the region.

  • The Women’s Foundation of California awards the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative its first grant. The Collaborative's mission is to improve the health, safety, and the rights of the nail and beauty care workforce to achieve a healthier, more sustainable, and just industry.

  • In a banner year, the Women’s Policy Institute gets three bills signed into law on licensing for liquor stores, ensuring access to medical care for survivors of human trafficking, and rights for domestic violence survivors.

  • The Women’s Foundation of California provides The Community Water Center with its first grant.

    “The Women’s Foundation of California really has supported us, not just with money, but by being a reference for other funders and creating a community of powerful women working for change throughout our region.”
    - Susana De Anda, Co-Founder, Co-ED of the Community Water Center


2007


  • Connecting California takes place for the second time and brings together over 80 community leaders building power and advancing gender, racial, and economic justice across the state.

  • Our investment work reaches new heights and we celebrate a total grantmaking portfolio exceeding $20M over our short history.

2008

Exercising our civic spirit, we create our first voter guide.

The listening sessions during the Road to Equity tour were a multi-generational effort

2009

We launch the One Million Women for Women Campaign to raise over one million dollars from women across the state of California.

Teens

Standing strong and moving forward

2010

We bring together over 100 Women’s Policy Institute alumni for our first statewide convening to strengthen networks and coalitions, deepen their skills, and spark new possibilities across sectors.

WPI Fellows

2011


  • We establish the Legislative Action Fund to support the policy advocacy that is flourishing within the Women’s Policy Institute.

  • On International Women’s Day, we host a women’s leadership summit in the Central Valley as we continue to expand our focus beyond Los Angeles and San Francisco.


2011 annual report image

2012

We made over 50 legislative visits and sent 7,966 letters to legislators across the state to push for policy that advances gender, racial, and economic justice.

2013

With incredible organizing from partners across California, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is signed into law in on its fourth attempt.

2014

10th time is the charm! The CalWorks and CalFresh Expansion is finally passed expanding support to formerly incarcerated folks across the state.

Women’s Policy Institute Fellows from the 2014 cohort

2016

We send a stellar delegation to the White House for the United State of Women Summit in Washington, DC.

2017

We launch the Philanthropy and Public Policy Institute.

2018

We organize the first of its kind Gender Justice Funders Convening in partnership with Philanthropy California, Blue Shield of California Foundation, the California Endowment and Foundation CHANEL.

2019

We introduce seven pieces of progressive feminist policy with our work with the Women’s Policy Institute.

2019 Women’s Policy Institute fellows in action

Gender Justice Champions

The Women’s Foundation was created by people who knew they were more powerful together. The work of the Women’s Foundation of California has been and always will be the result of an incredible network leaders championing gender justice.

Here are just a few of the phenomenal leaders who fight ceaselessly for a better California for us all.

Elmy Bermejo

Elmy Bermejo

President, San Francisco Commission on the Environment

@ElmyBermejo
San Francisco Commission on the Environment

Longtime government and civic leader Elmy served as a Senior Adviser and Outreach Director for Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, the first woman ever elected to this position in California. She also served under President Barack Obama’s Administration as the Regional Representative for the Secretary of Labor in the Western United States. Elmy is President of the San Francisco Commission on the Environment and board member of The Beneficial State Foundation and the Women’s Foundation of California.

Michelle Cale

Michelle Cale

Philanthropist

@PurplePousette
LinkedIn

A fearless leader and visionary, Michelle Cale is the former board chair and member of the Women’s Foundation of California. She has devoted her time and energy to philanthropy and is using it to single handedly educate a new generation of women philanthropists, showing them that philanthropy is not something you have to wait to do when you are older, but something you can do at any age.

Kim Carter

Kim Carter

Founder, Time for Change Foundation

Time for Change Foundation

Kim is a WFC Board member, an alum of WPI-State, WPI-Local and the Philanthropy and Public Policy Institute. After WPI she founded Time For Change Foundation, helping to secure affordable housing to help women rebuild their lives.

Patti Chang

Patti Chang

CEO, Feed the Hunger Foundation

Feed the Hunger Foundation

Fierce advocate for women and former President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, Patti now leads Feed the Hunger Foundation to increase access to healthy food.

Susana De Anda

Susana De Anda

Co-Founder, Co-ED, Community Water Center

Community Water Center

Susana De Anda, is the co-founder and co-executive director of the environmental justice organization Community Water Center in Visalia, CA, a WFC grant partner.

Senator María Elena Durazo

Senator María Elena Durazo

California State Senator, District 24

@SenMariaEDurazo
https://sd24.senate.ca.gov

State Senator to California’s District 24, Maria was born the seventh child in a family of 11 children to migrant worker parents. She has been involved in the labor movement with UNITE-HERE International, Los Angeles Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, and the National AFL-CIO Executive Council. Maria served as the Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee and as National Co-Chair of Barack Obama Presidential Campaign.

Laurel Firestone

Laurel Firestone

Activist

@FirestoneLaurel
Community Water Center

A clean water activist, Laurel believes water activism will also have an impact on statewide water policy. Co-founder and co-director of the Community Water Center, Laurel was recently appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom as a Board Member of the State Water Resources Control Board. WFC gave Community Water Center their very first grant for $5,000 in 2005.

Tracy Gary

Tracy Gary

Philanthropist

@tracygary1
Unleashing Generosity

Tracy Gary is a women’s philanthropy pioneer and champion. At 21, Tracy inherited $1 milion and resolved to give it away to rebalance the inequality she saw around her. Throughout her 40-year career she has worked as a philanthropic and legacy advisor, nonprofit entrepreneur, donor activist mentor and changemaker and has collaboratively started 23 nonprofits including the Women’s Foundation of California.

Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza

Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter

@aliciagarza
Black Futures Lab

Alicia is co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement and, most recently, Supermajority. She is also a world renowned organizer, writer, speaker and movement leader committed to advancing racial and gender justice.

Roma Guy

LGBT- and women's-rights activist, Roma played a founding role in the SF Women’s Building, SF Women Against Rape, La Casa de las Madres and the Women’s Foundation of California. Roma advocates for women's access to healthcare in San Francisco and in 2018 she was chosen by the National Women's History Project as one of its honorees for Women's History Month in the United States.

Mary Ignatius

Mary Ignatius

Organizer

@MamaMarySF
Parent Voices

As a Statewide Organizer at Parent Voices, Mary advocates to increase investment in child care. Alongside other parent organizers, she works to ensure that more state funding is allocated to the early education system. Parent Voices is a WFC grant partner.

Judy Patrick

Judy Patrick

Former CEO, Women's Foundation of California

@JudyPatrickWFC
Women's Foundation of California

A leader in the nonprofit sector, Judy has spent 30 years working in the field. She worked at the Women’s Foundation of California for a decade and a half, including 7 years serving as CEO. Judy managed the merger that created the statewide foundation, and prioritized strengthening the leadership of women closest to the problems that needed solving. She co-founded the Women’s Policy Institute.

Lateefah Simon

Lateefah Simon

President, Akonadi Foundation

@lateefahsimon
Akonadi Foundation

President of the Akonadi Foundation, Lateefah is civil rights advocate and racial justice leader. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the Jefferson Award for extraordinary public service. Lateefah began her career at the Young Women’s Freedom Center, a WFC grant partner.

Kat Taylor

Kat Taylor

CEO, Beneficial State Bank

@BeneficialState
Beneficial State Bank

Kat Taylor is CEO of Oakland-based Beneficial State Bank, and founding Director of TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation (TKREF), and wife of billionaire investor and activist Tom Steyer. She works in service of restoring social justice and environmental well-being.

See all of our celebrated Gender Justice Champions

As we celebrate four decades of steadfast work and look towards the future, it could not be clearer that the connective and bolstering work of the Women’s Foundation of California is more critical than ever. The Women’s Foundation of California is vital to the flourishing network of organizations across the state that shift the balance of power and create the world we know is possible.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:
We were made for this moment.

We are standing at the brink of incredible change in our state and in our country. Our movements are counting on our unrelenting support. If you share our sense of urgency and purpose, join us by investing in gender justice and the Women’s Foundation of California for the next 40 years.

We can imagine a gender just future.
Your investment will make that vision real.

Donate Today

Upcoming Events

There could be no better way to honor our 40 year history, celebrate how far we’ve come, and look ahead to the next 40 years together than to celebrate with our community.

We hope you will join us for one of the upcoming 40th Anniversary events.

October 17

San Francisco 40th Anniversary Celebration

San Francisco City Hall

Learn More

November 14

Los Angeles 40th Anniversary Celebration

Los Angeles Vibiana

Learn More