April 13, 2022
Learn about some of the key women who helped contribute to the success of United Way Bay Area throughout our 100-year history
Through the 100-year history of United Way Bay Area, women have played a critical role to its success. This month, as we celebrate Women’s History Month and our Centennial, we wanted to recognize the many women who contributed to the impact of UWBA. Test your knowledge and play along with our staff as they answer trivia about the women of UWBA in the video above, or read about some interesting facts below and quiz yourself on your newfound knowledge!
In 1922, the Associated Charities at the Community Chest (the former name of UWBA) was founded. As the Director of Associated Charities, Katharine “Kitty” Felton was one of the organizers for the Community Chest. Born in Oakland in 1873, Kitty was critical in developing many social services for the city of San Francisco from the first employment agency in the United States, to developing mental health counseling to deal with trauma (from the 1906 earthquake), to becoming an advocate for foster children and single mothers. She was also the founding member of what is known today as the Felton Institute. In her time, she was called “the conscience of the city” because of her dedication to social work.
Of the 36 United Way Bay Area’s founding directors, seven were women. They were Rosalie M. Stern, Amy Suseman Steinhart, Mary Swope Merrill, Emma Moffat McLaughlin, Edith McBean Kiersted, Christine P Donohoe, and Laura Livingston McKinstry.
In 1973, United Way Bay Area became the first major United Way to have female leadership. Leslie Luttgens was the first female president of UWBA in 1973, which at the time was called United Bay Area Crusade. Leslie started in 1964 as the Secretary of the United Community Fund, then served as the Vice-Chairman and then Chairman of the Crusade Membership Committee. Here is a quote from her during her time of service: “The ideal volunteer is the one who sees the community clearly and sees it as a whole”.
The grandson of Rosalie Meyer Stern, who was a founding board member of UWBA in 1922, Peter Hass (of Levi Strauss), uplifted and supported Leslie Luttgens and Adele Corvin in 1973 to be the first female heads of any United Way. Adele was the founding member of the UWBA Tocqueville Society.
Long-time staff member of UWBA, Laura Escobar has been responsible for managing and dispersing large sums of money during her time at UWBA. As of the end of 2022, she will have dispersed approximately $80 million in funds, supporting tens of thousands of individuals and families in the Bay Area. Laura was also recently recognized by the American Red Cross for her dedication to Employee Assistance Network (EAN) services in the Bay Area.
In 1977 Sidney Pucek was the founding director of “Helpline” which later transitioned to the service known today as 211. 211 connects struggling families with essential services and resources in times of crisis. Sidney hired Laura Escobar in 1989 as well as Anne Wilson in 1979. Anne served as UWBA’s CEO from 2000-2020.
Betty Geishirt Cantrell has been the SparkPoint Director for the Contra Costa chapter for 11 years. She has been with SparkPoint since its founding and currently holds the longest tenure at any SparkPoint location. SparkPoint serves Bay Area families who are seeking to improve their financial situation.
We hope you learned a little something today about the powerhouse women who have contributed to the success and impact of United Way Bay Area over the last 100 years. If you want to test your newfound knowledge you can take a quiz below!
If you are looking to connect with like-minded, powerhouse women who work to lift women and children in the Bay Area out of poverty, consider connecting with Women United. With networking, social events, and volunteerism, Women United take an active role in bettering our community.