Honouring Shirley Greenberg

Photo by Peter Waiser

Tell me more!

When I picture Shirley Greenberg, I see her at her kitchen table with a serious look, clearing the piles of paper and folders of her many philanthropic pursuits. She is pushing them aside, settling in to listen, learn….and sometimes debate. 

A women’s health advocate, lawyer, philanthropist, godmother to Canadian feminist movements, and dear friend, Shirley died last month at the age of 90. She leaves a remarkable legacy that includes a leading role in our own story. I hope you will take a moment to learn even more about her life.

I met Shirley ten years ago after a friend connected us over email. Soon, I found myself at that kitchen table for the first time, facing several hours of probing questions about The MATCH Fund and our work across the world. When I left that evening, I honestly wasn’t sure what would come next.

It turned out to be a cheque, delivered later that week. Shirely had become our first angel investor, believing in us when we were just an idea—just as she would with so many other feminist organizations across Canada. In 2013, she hosted an inaugural party in her own home to launch a revamped and reinvigorated MATCH Fund. She provided the lion’s share of our early grant budgets and her encouragement kept us fired up and moving forward. Standing on her shoulders, we took flight into the world.

But what I remember most are the quieter moments—the ones most folks never knew about. In those times, funding was drying up, and we faced the very real prospect of not being able to get grants out the door or make payroll. That’s when I called Shirley, and without fanfare, she always delivered. She kept the payroll covered and insisted that resources keep moving to feminist activists around the world. In a world that so often turns dark, Shirley was an unshakable source of light.

Today we hear a lot about feminist philanthropy, but Shirley embodied those words before they entered the mainstream. She trusted deeply in feminist movements and provided core, flexible funding to match. She gave selflessly, eschewing credit or special treatment. She showed up when we and so many others needed her most. Quite simply, the Equality Fund would not exist without her. 

It’s funny, I can almost hear Shirley telling us to get on with it. To keep doing what needs to be done. And we will. Gathered around kitchen tables of our own, we will be forever energized by her example and motivated by her resolve. 

But today, just for a moment, we pause to say: Thank you, Shirley Greenberg. Thank you for believing we could do it. We will never forget you.

—Jess Tomlin 

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