Astraea At 40

This is what 40 years of lesbian feminist activism looks like.

In 1977, a small group of indomitable women gathered around a kitchen table in New York City and said, “if there’s going to be a women’s movement that prioritizes the needs of lesbians and women of color, we’re going to have to fund it ourselves.” And that’s what they did. They began my making small grants to lesbian activists and artists from diverse cultural, racial, and class backgrounds who were organizing locally. This small group of multi-racial, multi-class women worked to address the lack of funding for progressive women’s organizing, specifically led by lesbians and women of color. They believed that even the smallest of gestures, when combined, could create, nurture and strengthen significant social change. They were right. Over time, Astraea expanded our grantmaking across the United States. In 1996, in recognition of the need for solidarity with a growing global movement of LGBTQ people fighting for their rights as part of wider struggles for social justice, we made our first grant to an organization outside the United States—in fact, it was the first grant made by any foundation in the US to an LGBTQ group outside the US.

Forty years later, we continue to honor the legacy of our founding mothers; uncompromising in our vision of rights for all, upholding values such as belief in self-determination, community empowerment, movement building, and building across issues and generations. Today Astraea is a multi-gendered, multi-racial, multi-identity organization that grew from a lesbian feminist vision. We are the first grantmaker to hundreds of organizations, and play a catalytic role for LGBTQI organizations across the globe. By seeding nascent ideas, groups, and movements, these initial grants have grown into long-term partnerships and coalitions in the quest for LGBTQI justice. Our grantmaking has grown in both reach and scope. Today, we support organizations in 27 countries, including the United States. Our headquarters are still in New York City, but our staff and board are based in dozens of countries. With the help of a devoted team, our knowledge and decisions are fiercely guided.

1977

Astraea is founded by a cross-class, multi-racial group of women activists to fund a burgeoning national women’s movement that is inclusive of lesbians and women of color. We become one of the first women’s funds in the world.

1977

1977

1980

After spending several years fundraising, Astraea announces our first grantee partners. Each grant is between $200 and $1,000. The first groups we funded were based in the Northeast United States and include the Lesbian Mothers Custody Center of New York City, North Country Women’s Center, and New England Women’s Symphony.

During the 1980s, we work to create our U.S. funding panel. This moment marks the start of our long tradition of activist-led grantmaking.

1980

1980

1989

Katherine Acey became Astraea’s first hired staff. Later, she will became our first executive director.

1989

Katherine Acey (center)

1989

1990

Astraea is one of the founders of the Women’s Donor Network. We also help found the International Network of Women’s Funds.

Astraea “comes out” as a lesbian foundation and goes national; we change our name to Astraea National Lesbian Action Foundation.

1990s

Astraea marches in NYC Pride, 1995

1990

1991

We formally launch the Lesbian Writers Fund. The $5,000 grants support and champion the leadership of women writers, including Dorothy Allison, Cheryl B., Nikky Finney, Juliet P. HowardAudre Lorde, Sassafras LowreyLisa C. MooreAchy Obejas, Adrienne Rich, and Sarah Schulman.

Dorothy Allison
Dorothy Allison at the Lesbian Writers Fund Gala

1991

1996

Astraea becomes the first US organization to provide critically-needed funding to international LGBTQI groups, working at the intersections of racial, economic, social and gender justice.

1996
AWID Conference, Guadalajara

1996

2002

With the help of a major donor, we create the Lesbian Visual Arts Fund, which promotes the work of contemporary lesbian visual artists who show artistic merit and share Astraea’s commitment to visibility and social justice feminism. Visual Arts Fund recipients included Lydia Conklin, elaine gan, and maia cruz palileo.

2002

2000s

We launch a U.S. Movement Building Initiative to provide significant multi-year support to LGBTQ racial justice organizations across the U.S.

2012

2012

We are the recipient of the U.S. government’s first significant investment in international LGBTQI rights.

2012

2013

We merge our arts funding streams to create the Global Arts Fund, which provides support to LGBTQI artists working in multiple differences. We have a Community Arts Panel comprised of queer and trans artists who make our funding decisions.

We become the first public foundation in the U.S. to work with the federal government to support international LGBTQI rights.

2003

Global Arts Fund grantee partner Batucada Feminista La Tremenda Revoltosa

In partnership with a group of young queer and trans members of Resource Generation, we start Funding Queerly, a giving circle that supports small LGBTQ community organizing groups across the U.S.

2013

Funding Queerly grantee partner API Equality Los Angeles

2013

2014

Astraea launches CommsLabs with the first convening in Colombia. We become the first funder to make a major investment in media, communications, and technology in LGBTQI activism globally.

2014

Activists at CommsLabs Colombia work to master the intersection of activism and technology

2014

2015

In partnership with intersex activists, and with the support of seed donors Kobi Conaway and Andrew Owen and a leadership gift from the Arcus Foundation, we launch the first Intersex Human Rights Fund in the world.

2015

Intersex Human Rights Fund grantee partner Ação Pela Identitade

2015