“I want to honor my mother, who had no voice. I put my mother on the same level as the people The Women’s Fund has helped. My wish for her would have been that she be an empowered woman… I want to honor my infant daughter. To honor them both—and the potential they could have reached.”
—Lin Carleen, Founder, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham
Armed with a vision of a fund that would create greater opportunities for women and girls, Lin Carleen founded The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham in 1996. She wanted to create an endowment fund to honor the memories of her mother and her infant daughter, both of whom did not have the opportunity to reach their full potential as women. Her vision for this endowment fund is to encourage the full participation of women and girls in the community by creating opportunities for educational, physical, emotional, social, artistic, and personal growth and empowerment.
For the first fourteen years, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham was a component fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. In 2011, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, became an independent 501(c)(3) organization with an endowment solely to support programs for women and girls in the Birmingham area. In 2000, the Women’s Fund published Portraits and became the leading authority on the status of women in the region. In its role as a convener for agencies to address critical needs for women, the Women’s Fund’s major focus for the past five years has been on domestic violence. In 2009, the Council on Foundations tapped The Women’s Fund and its Voices Against Violence campaign for its national Critical Impact Award. The Women’s Fund was cited as being on the cutting edge of social change.
“It’s not my fund. I just planted the seed. And the trees are getting bigger.”
—Lin Carleen, The Women’s Fund Founder
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR IMPACT
- TWF published Portraits 2000, a study of the needs and assets of women and girls in the Greater Birmingham area that continues to be the authoritative source document for organizations that are developing programs to address these needs.
- We awarded more than $1.5 million in community responsive grants to area nonprofit organizations in the five-county catchment area (Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, and Walker) that comprise the greater Birmingham area.
- We established an endowment of $2 million dollars fueled primarily from 984 individual donor gifts.
- TWF was invited to participate in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Women’s Funding Network, MS Foundation Katrina Relief grant 2006 ($145,000) and in the Katrina Policy Grant 2007 ($55,000).
- In collaboration with a Giving Circle of female attorneys, in 2006 TWF launched a community-level initiative, Voices Against Violence, to reduce the incidence of domestic violence assaults in Birmingham. Get involved and help support this heroic work
- TWF received Alabama’s portion of a class action suit against Nine West Shoes through former
Our Work Today
At the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, we continue to work together to transform the conditions of poverty and to create an equal and just future for low-income women and girls. Most recently, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham has expanded its initiatives to address the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Women’s Economic Security.
Contributions to The Women’s Fund support our increasing endowment, from which the interest on investments provides grants for our initiatives.
Our work is rooted in a tradition of educating women of all means about how we can help each other by engaging as activist philanthropists. It is this singular commitment of women helping other women that sets The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham apart from other philanthropic foundations.
Jeanne Jackson, President/CEO
Jeanne became President/CEO of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham in June 2011. She has worked for more than 30 years creating and administering programs in government, non-profit agencies, and institutions of higher education in the fields of leadership development and environmental planning. Most recently, Jeanne was Director of the Hess Center for Leadership and Service at Birmingham-Southern College. She holds an M.A. in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia and a B.A. from Mary Baldwin College.
Mary Page Wilson-Lyons, Program Director
Mary Page joined The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham in February 2013. She has long had a passion for Women’s Studies and exploring the systemic causes of women’s issues. As a resident of Birmingham’s West End neighborhood, she has a particular perspective and drive to address the issues of violence and chronic poverty that many Birmingham women face. Before joining TWF, Mary Page taught high school abroad in Székesfehérvár, Hungary, served as a chaplain at the Metro State Prison for Women in Atlanta, GA, and worked as a graduate research assistant and teaching fellow at Emory University. She holds a Master in Divinity from Emory University in Theology and Ethics and a B.A. from Birmingham-Southern College.
Wright Wiggins, Development Associate
Wright joined The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham in March 2012. Though interested in many non-profit causes, she has a particular passion for TWF because of its local focus and commitment to educating women about how to better help each other. Before starting her role as Development Associate, Wright worked as a paralegal at Fischer & Associates, LLC for nearly three years. Wright has a B.A. in Political Science from Birmingham-Southern College.
The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham
2201 5th Avenue South, Suite 110
Birmingham, Alabama 35233
Phone: (205) 326-4454
Board of Directors
Linda Friedman, Chairman
Lin Carleen, Founder
Brooke Tanner Battle
Vicki L. Briggs
Judith S. Crittenden
Brenda Mitchell Hackney
Alesia M. Jones
Cheryl A. Kidd, Esq.
Emily Hess Levine
Debra Taylor Lewis
Deborah J. McGill
Dianne A. Mooney
Barbara H. Oberman
Judge Nyya Parson-Hudson
Lindsey F. Tanner, CPA
DeLynn M. Zell, CFP
|2002–03||Virginia Gilbert Loftin|
|2009||Mary Lynne Capilouto|
|2011||Donna Dearman Smith|
INTERVIEW WITH THE WOMEN’S FUND FOUNDER, LIN CARLEEN
Echo: A Conversation with Lin Carleen
By Mary Katherine Foster, The Women’s Fund Intern
“There’s an echo,” Lin says, as we settle into the second-floor study room of the library. She turns, taking in the light from the windows surrounding us. “Not much of an echo, but enough to make a difference. I hope it doesn’t bother us.” She settles into her chair and looks up at me, her eyes and face bright and attentive as the stained glass colors on her shirt. I can’t help, but smile. I can’t help, but ask her to share:
The seeds for The Women’s Fund were planted early in my life. This was related to how women and girls were treated in my family. My mother was a stay-at-home mom with no high school diploma, and her whole life was to be ready at all times to serve my domineering father in whatever way he dictated. My father did not respect women—me or my mother. He verbally abused us both. I lived with put-downs and criticisms. A classic example was, “There is no reason for you to go to college because all you’re going to do is get married and have two or three children.” My self-esteem was zipp-o. I was silenced in my family. Males were important. My brother was the promising one. He was going to be somebody. He would have a college degree and a profession. And I was going to be someone’s wife.
I didn’t know I was smart until I got to college.
In addition to all of this, my father was subject to sudden fits of rage. They could appear at any moment in the form of violent outbursts, accompanied by flying objects, such as heavy glass ashtrays, books, whatever was nearby. My mother was as afraid of my father as my brother and I were. All of this had a profound effect on my self-esteem and my ability to voice my opinions.
As expected, I married and had a child. I was not fulfilled in this relationship. I initiated a divorce and started volunteering in various women’s groups. I became aware of women’s issues, some of which were my own struggles, such as single parenting and financial issues. It was a whole new world out there, and I decided that I wanted to do something about it. I’m an entirely different person today. There was a giant shift for me: from being a protected housewife to be an assertive, independent, and confident woman. I now know that I can take care of myself under any circumstances. I spent a lot of time learning about myself, growing as a person—I didn’t come out the same. It was like someone had put me into a meat grinder. You can’t be the same if you’re serious about growing as a person.
I wanted to do something for the working poor. I had always been interested in social justice causes and had volunteered in various programs over the years. At the time, I was employed by a large hospital system and initiated a new program. It invited the working poor employees—kitchen workers, room cleaners, laundry personnel—to complete their high school diploma (GED). This program would help them improve their reading and writing skills or learn keyboarding, all on work time. After a year in this work place program, their self-esteem and confidence soared. Some received high school diplomas, and some had increased their confidence, which helped them apply for better jobs. They were transformed and could never go back to who they were before.
I wanted to fund something for women and girls that was similar to this program—something that would change lives and that would last. I had heard of a Women’s Fund in Minnesota. After I had gone to two national conferences, studied many pages of material about women’s funds from the national office, and had called several executive directors, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I envisioned an endowment fund, the interest of which would provide operating money while building principle in perpetuity.
I called Sheila Blair, the Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham at the time, and talked to her about the possibility of starting a Women’s Fund for the Birmingham area. She was very receptive to the idea and immediately set up a lunch meeting with her, Frances Verstandig, and Cameron Vowell. These women had been thinking about having a women’s fund in Birmingham for some time. We decided to begin as soon as possible.
Once I signed the agreement, my donation became a component fund of The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. It’s not my fund—I just planted the seeds. And the trees are getting bigger. I realized that The Women’s Fund could be a way to honor my mother, who was limited in her opportunities and who never found her voice, and my daughter, who I lost a few days after birth. Honoring them in this way could empower girls and women. My mother never reached her full potential, and my hope in starting a program, much like the one I started at the hospital, is that women like my mother would be able to gain access to resources that could change their lives. My daughter did not have the opportunity to reach her potential, and I wanted girls like my daughter to have the opportunity to build their self-esteem, to learn that they can be whoever they choose to be, and to gain confidence in the knowledge that they can make a difference in the world.
More than anything else, I would like the women of Birmingham today to know how important they are: “You are role models for your children. It is possible for your behavior to influence your children, and your children’s children, for generations to come. For example: if your children see you abused, your daughter may allow herself to be in an abusive relationship, and your son may become an abuser. You provide the vision and create the map of where you and your family will go.”
The Women’s Fund has become a very important part of my personal evolution as a woman. It has been a healing experience for me and my mother and for me and my daughter. The Fund is not only a gift to them and to the women and girls of Birmingham, but it has also turned out to be a treasured gift…to me.
Lin pauses, and I look up. Holding still, we find the room echoing, ringing with her last words. “I guess that echo didn’t bother our talk,” she says. We smile as the echo wears thin into the windows and out to the world beyond our study room—not much of an echo, but enough to make a difference.
—as composed by M.K. Foster