Growing up in a wealthy family in New York City, I was raised to believe that I would always be taken care of.
As a Harvard student I got involved in social activism and was outraged to learn how many people never have that experience of safety. It didn't seem fair, and I decided I wanted to change this unequal terrain. I felt that the only true safety comes when we work together and watch out for each other, and so I began my life's work as a community organizer with low-income women.
In my 30s, I inherited $250,000, plus a house and land. I tried to get a group of friends, varied in race and class backgrounds, to help donate the money, but the group I gathered balked at taking ownership of ‘my money’. Eventually I donated the $250,000 to the Boston Women's Fund, Haymarket Community Foundation and anti-poverty projects led by low-income people. Later I sold the house and gave $400,000 to Cutting EJ, a community organizing project for economic justice that I co-founded.
Giving away all the money meant stepping away from the prescribed path of how I was supposed to live, and letting go of the guarantee that money would always be there to take care of me. I had to re-learn how to live. Many donors want a guarantee their donation will have big results, especially when contributing large sums. I feel that we have to take more risks. I listen to the people I'm giving to, and they inspire me to give more.
As candidate for governor of Massachusetts in 2006, I spoke publicly about being a formerly wealthy person who gave all my money away. That was risky too, but playing it safe won't bring about social justice.
| Northeast | 40 to 59 Years Old | Under $1M | at least 50% | Inheritance |
| LGBTQ | Social Justice | Fairness |