Mary Elizabeth Garrett: Society and Philanthropy in the Gilded Age ((2008)

Book List
Publishing information: 
Kathleen Waters Sander. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. 322pp. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-8018-8870-0.

Mary Elizabeth Garrett lived from 1854-1915 and was one of the most influential philanthropists of America’s ‘gilded age’, though until now her story has received little attention. Barred by social convention from using her evident abilities in the business sector where her father was a railroad mogul, Garrett instead used her energies and fortune - worth nearly $100m in today’s money – to advance women’s education and suffrage in America. Her biggest donation of $354,000 to endow the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1893, came with a crucial condition – that female students be admitted on the same terms as men, thereby revolutionizing women’s place in both higher education and the medical profession. The use of her wealth to build an institution capable of effecting wider social change shows that today’s ‘new philanthropists’ are not the first to realize the power of money to shape society for the better.

  • History of philanthropy
  • Inspirational donations
  • Women's Philanthropy