A black and white photo of the outside of an office building showing two floors through the window.Bettman Archive

Ford joins the feminist movement

In the late 1960s, a handful of intrepid women within the Ford Foundation who saw their concerns reflected in the emerging feminist movement, approached then-president McGeorge Bundy to propose that the foundation expand its support of civil rights to include women’s rights. He listened—and it’s because of their audacity and insistence that Ford began to support gender equity.


Birth control becomes legal

As states started to legalize contraception in 1965, Ford began funding reproductive health research and organizations like Planned Parenthood, which was founded on the revolutionary idea that women have the right to make their own decisions when it comes to their bodies. Planned Parenthood has since become America’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider, treating 2.4 million patients last year alone, and now works with more than 120 organizations worldwide.

A black and white photo of a white person with a short bob wearing a dress holding an advertisement for Planned Parenthood.H. William Tetlow/Getty Images

Mariam Chamberlain smiles and looks at documents next to a colleague.
Mariam Chamberlain (right) led Ford’s efforts to develop the field of women’s studies.
Ford Foundation

Putting women at the head of the class

Ford developed the academic field of women’s studies with the Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and others, to help us—and society as a whole—understand the social and cultural constructs of gender and their relationship with race, ethnicity, economic status, and more. Today, there are more than 535 women’s studies programs offered in more than 700 institutions in the United States and across 40 countries worldwide.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg creates the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project

In 1971, Ginsburg, then a law professor at Rutgers University, and attorney Brenda Feigen created the Women’s Rights Project with the help of Pauli Murray and Dorothy Kenyon. With Ford’s support, the project handled 300 discrimination cases in its first two years and has since been behind systematic legal reform for women’s equality.

A black and white portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 1970's.Getty Images

A black and white phot of a Black woman and white woman reading books in a library.Ford Foundation

The Women’s Law Fund becomes the first nonprofit to address sexual discrimination

In partnership with law professors Jane Picker and Lizabeth Moody and the Cleveland Foundation, Ford established the Women’s Law Fund in 1972. One of its most notable cases was Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, a landmark case that reached the US Supreme Court in 1973 and made restrictive maternity leave unconstitutional, an important decision that grappled with equal employment and a women’s right to bear children.

Working women get down to business

Ford funded 9to5 National Association of Working Women, which, over the course of its nearly 50 years in existence, has successfully helped pass major policies, such as the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and, most recently, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Fun fact: The organization also inspired Dolly Parton’s hit song, “9 to 5,” a feminist and worker’s anthem.

A black and white photo of women protesting outside holding handmade protest signs.David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Stephanie Okereke, a Black woman wearing a brown bandana over her shoulder length hair, directs a cinematographer as they look through
Director of Dry, Stephanie Okereke, prepares her next shot.
Nextpage Productions


The American Film Institute helps women pursue careers behind the camera

In 1974, the institute created its acclaimed workshop for women directors with Ford funding, which has trained more than 300 filmmakers to date. This decision kicked off a strategic commitment at Ford to support all types of women artists and writers, and to champion films—such as DifretDry, and Half the Sky—that amplify the voices, stories, and perspectives of women. This work continues today through our Creativity and Free Expression program.