• 1888

    Henry A. Wallace was born in Iowa in 1888 to an activist family. His grandfather founded an influential magazine, “Wallace’s Farmer,” and his father would later serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. When Henry A. Wallace was young, his father invited one of his Black graduate students to live with them because racial segregation kept him from living in the dorms. That’s how young Henry began a friendship with the brilliant botanist George Washington Carver, a relationship that would influence his views on race and ecology for the rest of his life.

  • 1933

    Henry A. Wallace was a key champion and architect of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Appointed to his father’s old job as Secretary of Agriculture in Roosevelt’s first term, he successfully pushed the president and Congress to include farmers in the package of reforms being developed for the economy. Government intervention in what had been a destructive and out-of-control free market system resulted in a huge boost to farmers’ incomes, saving many from total collapse.

  • 1942

    Wallace redefined the role of Vice President, taking on genuine leadership in the Roosevelt Administration’s preparations for World War II. But his time as Vice President is perhaps best remembered for the ideals he championed in his most celebrated speech. In 1942, in the middle of World War Two, he rejected Life Magazine publisher Henry Luce’s famous call for an “American Century” and other calls for America’s domination of the postwar world. Instead, Wallace urged that “the century on which we are entering can and must be the century of the common man.” He warned against unfettered free enterprise and “international cartels that serve American greed” and said they “must be subjected to international control for the common man, as well as being under adequate control by the respective home governments.” To Luce’s notion of American exceptionalism, he declared: “There can be no privileged peoples. We ourselves in the United States are no more a master race than the Nazis.” The popular speech was the inspiration for Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

  • 1944

    Wallace foresaw many of the dangers of 21st Century American political life. Among his most insightful predictions was his famous New York Times essay warning of the danger of “American fascists,” who “deliberately pervert truth and fact,” and “carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity.” “They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest,” he wrote. “Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

  • 1948

    Frozen out of the Democratic Party for refusing to keep quiet about his beliefs, Wallace formed a new “Progressive Party” and launched a long-shot bid for president. The campaign was driven by Wallace’s unshakeable commitment to justice and peace – fighting racial segregation, promoting equal rights for women, preventing the Cold War – even though they were politically unpopular causes whose time had not yet come. During the campaign, Wallace’s commitment to racial equality earned him enemies. He refused to speak before segregated audiences and toured the region with a mixed race staff. Southern whites responded viciously. “They were egged, and they were tomatoed,” wrote Studs Terkel of Wallace and his companions. “They were threatened. They were driven out of town.” A sheriff warned, “Mr. Wallace, this is very dangerous. You may not live through this week.”

  • 1959

    Henry A. Wallace’s innovations in agriculture were commercially successful through his company Pioneer Hi-Bred International. Wallace then put his fortune to work to advance his progressive values with the establishment of the Wallace Genetic Foundation in October 1959, which he ran with his three children, Robert B. Wallace (Bob), Jean Wallace Douglas, and Henry B. Wallace (HB).

  • 1980

    While Jean and HB continued to focus their grantmaking largely on agriculture, Bob followed his passion for finding ways to leverage systemic change that addressed the root causes of environmental and social ills. He was deeply committed to the issue of sustainable development, which became a prominent strategic theme shaping the foundation’s early years. He was an early supporter of promoting access to reproductive health services for women and adolescent girls. The Foundation was initially housed at Population Action International, where Bob served as National Co-Chair. Bob understood the value of analytical research to provide sound evidence to support improved policies. Gordon G. Wallace (Gordie), wife of Bob Wallace, was an early pioneer in efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) wherever practiced. She supported African women’s efforts to document the negative health impacts of FGM on women and girls and build community support for FGM abandonment. Her efforts catalyzed broader recognition of the far-reaching health consequences of this harmful practice. Two early examples of the strategic nature of her work were support for Mandeleo, a major Kenyan women’s association, which embraced alternative rituals, and for the National Association of Nigerian Nurses & Midwives, an organization that recognized the impact of FGM on women’s ability to safely deliver children. Wallace Global Fund’s support of pioneering FGM activists continues to this day.