A look at how, by inventing philanthropic institutions, American women have played a crucial role shaping the American economy since the first days of the Revolution.
Gaudiani (Generosity Unbound: How American Philanthropy Can Strengthen the Economy and Expand the Middle Class, 2010, etc.) and her husband and business partner Burnett, educators and economic consultants to philanthropic organizations, consider the not-for-profit social sector to be a uniquely American third sector of the economy “that mobilizes citizen idealism and responsibility [and] provides a marketplace where buyers and sellers of ideas to improve the nation (and the world) can meet to do business.” The authors demonstrate that in each of the wars in U.S. history, beginning with the Revolutionary War, women have played a major role in organizing financial support for soldiers--e.g., going door to door in Philadelphia, Esther Reed raised $7,000 to purchase new uniforms for Washington's soldiers and inspired women throughout the colonies to do likewise. Charity work provided the vehicle for enterprising women of that day whose other activities were severely restricted. Reed's activities, write the authors, began a tradition of female civic leadership and led to the creation of social entrepreneurship. The Russell Sage Foundation, established by Margaret Olivia Sage in 1907 and still active today, became the nation's first think-tank, and it began with the mandate of looking at the impact of social welfare on workers' lives and issued a number of groundbreaking studies on the need for workplace safety and public-health measures. In 1803, the first Widows' Society, headed by Isabella Graham, received $15,000 from the New York State legislature to support its work. Although the book ends with the role of women such as Francis Perkins and Mary McLeod Bethune in the New Deal, its implications for today are clear.
An interesting sidelight on the transformation of laissez-faire capitalism and the shaping of markets toward more ethical behavior.