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October 24: Sally Lilienthal and the Ploughshares Fund

October 23, 2015

Sally_Lilienthal_portrait_2Sally Lilienthal, an anti-nuclear activist and philanthropist who founded the Ploughshares Fund in 1981, died at 86 on this date in 2006. Lilienthal was a writer and a sculptor and was deeply involved in the arts, serving on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for most of the 1970s. She and her third husband, Philip Lilienthal, also founded the northern California chapter of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and she was national vice chairwoman of Amnesty International in 1977, when the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Ploughshares Fund was launched at the start of the Reagan Administration, when the “possibility of a nuclear war was the very worst problem in the world,” she later said. “I thought that if a lot of people felt the same way I did but didn’t know what to do about it, we might get together and search for new ways to get rid of the nuclear weapons that were threatening us all.” The Fund has given out more than $50 million in peacemaking grants since its founding.

““We started with nothing. I mean really nothing. But in the first year, we were able to give away about $100,000 to individuals and small organizations to study the problems of nuclear weaponry and to get ordinary citizens informed about the issues and the danger.” —Sally Lilienthal