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 by 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.