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Our History

A Vital Force for
Gender & Racial Justice

Founded in 1983, the Women’s Foundation is the first statewide women’s foundation in the nation and remains the only grantmaking organization in Minnesota dedicated exclusively to growing equity and justice for women, girls, and gender-expansive people.

How it All Started

We were born out of radical investment in a feminist future as the first statewide foundation in the nation dedicated to gender equality. Women’s Foundation of Minnesota resources gender justice movements and the people who make it happen across Minnesota.



The first women’s rights convention organized by women is held in Seneca Falls, New York.

Sojourner Truth


Sojourner Truth, a formerly enslaved worker turned abolitionist and women’s rights activist, delivers her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

Anna Julia Cooper


Anna Julia Cooper’s essay, “The Colored Woman’s Office” highlights how Black women’s multifaceted experience with oppression positions them as the most important actors in social change movements.


Women gain the right to vote with the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ending almost a century of protest. Poll taxes, local laws and other restrictions continued to block women of color from voting and it takes more than 40 years for all women to achieve voting equality.

Rosa Parks


Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama, defying segregation laws and inspiring the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which ended only when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled bus segregation unconstitutional in 1956.


The Equal Pay Act makes it explicitly illegal to pay women a lower wage than men simply based on sex.


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer with 15 or more employees to discriminate on the basis of sex, as well as race, religion or national origin.


Title IX bans sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities, an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which did not prohibit sex discrimination at educational institutions.


Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States with its decision in Roe v. Wade.

Sandra Day O’Connor


“It [the Supreme Court] is the body to which all Americans look for the ultimate protection of their rights. It is to the U.S. Supreme Court that we all turn when we seek that which we want most from our Government: equal justice under the law.”

Sandra Day O’Connor, Opening Statement from Senate Nomination Hearings, September 9, 1981


A fund is born! WFM founded as very first statewide women’s foundation in U.S.

Mary Lee Dayton


First women’s fund in the world to receive a $1 million gift, thanks to generous gift from Mary Lee (and Wallace) Dayton.


Oprah Winfrey becomes first Black woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show.


Distribute first grants: $115,000 to 16 nonprofits in Minnesota


Lois Jenson, Patricia S. Kosmach, and Kathleen Anderson filed the lawsuit Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co., after years of harassment at Eveleth Mines. The case became the first sexual harassment class action tried in US federal court and set a precedent for future harassment trials.

Reflections of Risk


WFM publishes first research report, Reflections of Risk: Growing Up Female in Minnesota.

Total WFM grantmaking tops $1 million.

Kimberle’ Crenshaw coins the term intersectionality.


Carol Moseley Braun makes history as the first black woman U.S. Senator, representing Illinois. Janet Reno becomes first woman U.S. Attorney General.


The Family and Medical Leave Act establishes that workers (working for a company with 50+ employees) can in many instances take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn child or newly adopted child.


Funding goal of $10 million in invested assets is secured. Largest endowment of any women’s fund!

Madeleine Albright


Madeline Albright becomes first woman U.S. Secretary of State.


WFM publishes first Status of Women in Minnesota & launch 14-community statewide listening tour.


WFM launches girlsBEST (girls Building Economic Success Together), a grantmaking and public awareness initiative to build the economic power of Minnesota girls.


Status of Women of Color in Minnesota research report is published, highlighting gender inequalities in the state’s workforce and political institutions, and disparities that impact the health and safety of Minnesota women of color.

Nancy Pelosi


Nancy Pelosi becomes first female Speaker of the House.

Dr Reatha Clark King


Dr. Reatha Clark King Fellowship named to build the leadership of young women of color in philanthropy and nonprofits.


The State of Minnesota and City of Minneapolis declare Oct. 28, 2008 Women’s Foundation of Minnesota Day in honor of our 25th anniversary.

Completed 18-community Road to Equality Tour.


Beyonce is Top Certified Artist of the 2000s as well as Billboard’s Top Female Artist of the Decade.
Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director.


MN Girls Are Not For Sale launches to galvanize the resources to end the sex trafficking of girls in Minnesota through grantmaking, research, public education and convening.


Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) signed into law representing the first successful broad-based legislative agenda to prioritize women’s economic security as key to the overall economic security of the state

Wenda Weekes Moore Internship


Wenda Weekes Moore Internship named to build a pipeline of women of color leaders in philanthropy, and includes an internship with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Young Women's Cabinet


WFM launches Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, a seven-year, $10 million, first-of-its-kind public-private partnership with the Governor’s Office of the State of Minnesota.


Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor, is the first Native American woman elected to statewide office in Minnesota and is the highest-ranked Native American women serving in elected office in the U.S.


WFM Board approves update to mission statement, adding racial equity to gender equity.


Gloria Perez named WFM President and CEO.

Kamala Harris


Kamala Harris becomes the first Black, first South Asian, and first woman Vice President in the U.S.


WFM adopts new strategic plan, Transforming for a New Day, with a commitment towards moving from equity to justice and becoming an anti-racist organization.


Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overrules both Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), giving individual states the full power to regulate any aspect of abortion not protected by federal law.

Leigh Finke


Leigh Finke becomes the first transgender legislator in Minnesota House.


Protect Reproductive Option (PRO) Act becomes law, codifying reproductive rights in Minnesota.

Looking Towards the Future

As a community foundation, we listen through data and stories, invest in communities on the ground, advocate for policy change, engage cross-sector partnerships, and grow new narratives about women, girls, and gender-expansive people.

We celebrate the Minnesota women, girls, and gender-expansive people who made things happen then and now. Together, we are growing a legacy for the next generation, and resourcing transformative futures.