Around the World and Back Again

Mary Ripley spent 18 months traveling the world with her mother via boat, train, car and rickshaw. She camped under a brightly colored tent in the Cairo desert. She saw Everest from her hotel room in Darjeeling. She felt a sense of overwhelming peace while watching Gandhi weave a basket.


Her trip was in 1934, only 14 years after women won the right to vote in the United States. With the help of local guides, they traveled to 18 countries. Mary was just 19.

“It opened my eyes to different cultures and different lives,” 97-year-old Mary recounted from her retirement community in California. “There were [gender equality] limitations in the U.S. and I saw similar inequality abroad.”

When she got home, she decided to change things. She became a devoted advocate for family planning and reproductive rights. She was one of over 100,000 people who marched in Washington D.C. for the Equal Rights Amendment in the late seventies.

Going Global

Then, she went global. Inspired by the enthusiasm of Anne Firth Murray, she started giving to the Global Fund for Women at its inception. In 1989, you would have found Mary, by then a volunteer, in the Global Fund office stuffing envelopes.


“At that time, there wasn’t an organization that concentrated on the rights of women: their needs and their opportunities,” said Mary. “We knew that we were part of a worldwide network of women. That was exciting.”

Mary is one of our founding donors. For the past 23 years, she has given about $30 a month to the Global Fund. She is living testament that all gifts matter.

“I can’t give lots of money, but what I have I give to the Global Fund,” said Mary.

Seeing Change

It’s been 78 years since Mary returned from her round the world trip, and she has seen many changes in the women’s movement since then. From Global Fund grantee partners winning the Nobel Peace prize, to others playing a key role in the Egyptian revolution, there is much to celebrate.

“We have yet to reach the ultimate success, but it’s so exciting to see and hear the stories from different women who have incredibly exciting things happening in their lives,” said Mary.

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