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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 3:54 am | Fair 44º

 
 
 
 

Steven Crandell: Laura Spelman Rockefeller Could Always ‘Paddle Her Own Canoe’

“Surely whatever others may think, it is our opinion that women, even as man, ‘can paddle her own canoe.’”

Those were the words of Laura Spelman at her high school graduation in Cleveland in 1855. The daughter of an Underground Railroad operator, an outspoken opponent of slavery and eventually an independent-minded teacher, she went on to become the wife of a philanthropic pioneer and industrial titan, John D. Rockefeller.

She helped him with his business as well as his philanthropy.

“Her judgment was always better than mine,” said her husband, who built Standard Oil into the first modern industrial corporation.

“Without her keen advice, I would be a poor man.”

Her deep religious faith drove her charitable activity, and her efforts to provide educational opportunity and training to newly emancipated African Americans were reflected in the strong support the Rockefellers gave to Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women in Atlanta that was named in her honor.

Click here for more information about women philanthropists, in a free guide, Women and Giving, that I wrote with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

— Author and writer Steven Crandell helps integrate story and strategy for organizations, with nonprofit foundations a particular focus. “Thinking Philanthropy” aims to provide practical, thought-provoking ideas about giving. This article was cross-posted on Tumblr. Steven can be contacted at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @stevencrandell. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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