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.
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.
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.
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 Difret, Dry, and Half the Sky—that amplify the voices, stories, and perspectives of women. This work continues today through our Creativity and Free Expression program.