My father traveled from Mexico to Illinois as an immigrant worker in the late 1940s. He initially worked in the fields and laid railroad track. Thanks to a chance encounter and eventual friendship with a generous man who liked the Spanish language, my father became a US resident and was able to secure a job with John Deere. He rose from assembling tractor tires to translating their operating manuals. The family returned to Mexico, but my father’s work for John Deere provided us with a middle-class upbringing. My mother was passionate about education. She aggressively pursued scholarships for us so we could receive a good education.
My childhood was challenging, but amazing people touched my life. I was transformed from a fearful girl with no self-esteem into a determined and passionate woman who changed the course of her life. An opportunity to travel to San Diego at 19 revealed a new world, and I decided to stay. There was no putting the genie back in the bottle. With support from family, friends and mentors, I became a wife, a mother and a lawyer and, later, a partner in the largest law firm in the world.
I have been involved in many causes, but I knew I wanted to find my true passion and focus on one thing. The day I saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire, I realized that, although I had faced a lot of challenges, I was given the opportunity to develop to my full potential. I knew then that I wanted to devote all of my resources to help give every little girl the chance to do the same and to have an impact in turn on her children, her family, her community and the world.
Although I have had a great career and done well financially, I have never considered myself wealthy. I didn’t really understand my own capacity to make a BIG + bold gift. I made a commitment that is financially challenging for me because the need is so great, the people committed to the cause are amazing, and I believe that now is the time to create lasting change. The gentleman who sponsored my father’s residence could have never imagined the cascading impact he had on my father, my family and all of those who, directly and indirectly, will benefit from my ability to boldly support women and girls around the world.
In 2013, I made my BIG + bold gift to the Global Fund for Women. Its mission is to advance the rights of women and girls worldwide by increasing resources for and investing in women-led organizations and women’s collective leadership for change.
Christine Switzer Describes the Impact
Director of Development, Global Fund for Women
Maria is an incredibly generous and sophisticated donor who understood the importance of investing in a global women’s fund, and the power of giving general support for women and girls.
When Maria made her $1 million gift, she made a statement about her belief in our work, our values and the importance of eliminating gender violence and achieving gender equality for global development.
By stepping into leadership and making a visible commitment to our organization, Maria inspired another donor to increase her giving to the $2 million level. The impact was huge. When donors like Maria make substantial gifts, we are able to take exponential leaps to transform the women’s movement and to shape gender equity across the globe.
Her commitment and willingness to make the stretch was truly an inspiration. Her desire to encourage others to invest in global women’s rights and movements has also had a big impact on the Global Fund for Women. By motivating others to give as much as they can, to address the root causes of global poverty and inequities, she is increasing resources for women and girls. The global women’s movement desperately needs more supporters like her if we are going to make the changes we seek in our lifetime.
Her unrestricted gift and others like it allow us to be strategic and creative in the way we address the enormous unmet needs around the world, and to make greater strides to achieve lasting change.