Field Foundation of New York

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The Field Foundation of New York was one of the two organizations that had split off from the original Field Foundation in 1960, the other being the Field Foundation of Illinois. The foundation in New York was originally led by Ruth Field, the widow of the first Foundation’s creator Marshall Field III. It focused on enacting social change on a more national scale than the Illinois foundation. The New York foundation has a history of supporting racial equality, researching hunger in the United States, and improving the lives of those stuck in poverty. It finally spent itself out of existence in 1989.[1][2]

Original Field Foundation[edit]

The Field Foundation was originally established by Marshall Field III, the grandson of a well-known Chicago merchant who founded the famous Marshall Field's department store, in 1940. It was founded in New York to help victims of the Great Depression, and it supported the ideas and methods of the President Roosevelt’s New Deal.[3] Its board was composed of various business leaders, social scientists, judges, and scholars. The Foundation assisted other organizations supporting social change, civil rights, and child welfare, and also offered grants to groups such as the American Council on Race Relations, Provident Medical Associates in Chicago, and the Research Center for Human Relations in New York. By 1949, the Foundation’s assets totaled 11 million dollars and it offered grants of 150,000 dollars per year.[4]

Field III died in 1956, after which the organization started splitting due to different goals its members had. Field’s son Marshall Field IV desired that the organization focus its efforts locally within Chicago, where most of the Foundation’s assets lay. Field’s widow Ruth Field wished for the organization to expand its efforts nationally and promote social change. In 1960, the organization split into the Field Foundation of Illinois and the Field Foundation of New York.[4]

Accomplishments of the Field Foundation of New York[edit]

Under Hahn[edit]

The Field Foundation has a long history with various social movements. It was originally directed by Maxwell Hahn, under which it supported racial integration in the South in the 1950s, leading larger foundations after it. It was also one of the first supporters of black education campaigns, and focused heavily on child welfare and racial issues under Hahn.[5]

Under Dunbar[edit]

In 1965, Leslie W. Dunbar, director of the Southern Regional Council, succeeded Hahn and moved the organization’s focus more on those struggling from poverty and minority groups. In 1967 its examination of the state of poor Southern communities led to an expansion of food stamp and school lunch programs. It also pushed for the recognition of black lung disease, being among the first to do so.[5]

In 1970’s the organization under Dunbar started to examine federal activities more closely, studying surveillance, arms programs, and civil liberties violations. Examples include the organization since 1972 donating $1,073,800 to the Center for Defense Information, a federal oversight organization that examines Defense spending and priorities.[6] It was the largest funder of the organization. It also helped to save the Food Research and Action Center when its federal funds were cut under President Nixon in 1973. This led to disagreements within the organization over the government’s policies and affirmative action, eventually followed by Dunbar’s resignation in 1967.[5]

Under Boone[edit]

In 1980, American philanthropist Richard W. Boone became the director of the Foundation. Boone also believed in government oversight through independent organization. Under him, the Field Foundation funded the Study Group on Social Security, an organization monitoring Government reductions of benefits to the elderly, disabled, widows, and orphans. The Foundation became one of the earliest supporters of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 1981, offering $175,000 in its first year and $150,000 in the second.[7][8] Boone’s policies led the organization to support black voter registration programs, US resettlement of IndoChina refugees, funded the Communications Consortium Media Center, and researched hunger in the US. The organization purposefully spent itself out of existence in 1989,[3] choosing to empower other social activism groups to continue its legacy.[7]


  1. ^ "History". Field Foundation. 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  2. ^ "A Guide to the Field Foundation Archives, Part 1". Briscoe Center for American History. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Field Foundation of Illinois: Chicago Grants". Inside Philanthropy. 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  4. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference Field Foundation was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ a b c Kathleen Teltsch (19 February 1989). "Field Foundation, Civil Rights Pioneer, to Die at 49; Survivors Will Be Legion". New York Times. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  6. ^ William Poole (19 April 1979). "The Anti-Defense Lobby Part 1: Center for Defense Information". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  7. ^ a b Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (24 April 2007). "In Memoriam: Honoring Richard W. Boone". Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  8. ^ Karnofsky, Holden (May 20, 2016). "History of Philanthropy Case Study: The Founding of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities". Open Philanthropy Project. Retrieved July 15, 2016.