Abigail Lippincott was one of the earliest women to establish a planned gift for her heirs, outlining her bequest on March 16, 1697. The bequest of property and money is noteworthy from two standpoints.
First, most women prior to that time, and up until the 1900s, did not have estates that could be passed to heirs. Typically, men passed their estates to their male children with the expectation the child or children would look after their mother. Second, the Lippincott estate was quite sizable for its time, even for most men.
Successful English and Scottish philanthropic organizations became models for Americans in the 1800s, emphasizing self-help and training for poor individuals. By the 1830s, volunteerism was flourishing among American women and men with a focus on community and church work.
Philanthropy among women became a badge of citizenship and empowered women at a time when they were otherwise disenfranchised. Engaging in philanthropy became an appropriate form of investment activity for women. Indeed, it became a mark of a woman’s respectability.
Fast forward 200 years, and the playing field for female philanthropists has grown considerably, fueled by a massive transfer of wealth. Forty-five percent of American millionaires are now women and women control 48 percent of estates worth more than $5 million. By 2030, researchers estimate that as much as two-thirds of all wealth in the United States will be controlled by women.