Our vision: To alleviate human suffering in the face of disaster through the collective power of women leaders. Our vision: To alleviate human suffering in the face of disaster through the collective power of women leaders.
Since Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881, the organization has harnessed the compassion and determination of women to deliver its lifesaving mission. For more than a decade, the organization's Tiffany Circle has continued this legacy by advancing the Red Cross mission through investments of time, talent and treasure.
History of the Tiffany Circle
In January 2006, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the Chairman of the American Red Cross, and Melanie Sabelhaus, the Vice Chairman of Philanthropy of the Board of Governors, introduced the Tiffany Circle to engage female philanthropists in the Red Cross Mission. Starting in 2006, several promising chapters were chosen to create Tiffany Circle pilot programs to create a community of women leader donors. All founding chapters survive today. The American Red Cross’s Tiffany Circle has grown to over 1,000 members and is the most successful individual annual fundraising initiative in Red Cross history.
What is the significance of the name “Tiffany Circle”?
The Tiffany Circle program was named for the Tiffany windows in the Board of Governors Hall at Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C. These windows, produced by the Tiffany Studios, were commissioned by Red Cross President Mabel Boardman in 1917 from two leading women’s philanthropic organizations of the day.
How was the amount of $10,000 chosen as the gift commitment level?
The program’s namesake Tiffany windows at American Red Cross National Headquarters cost a grand total of $10,000 when commissioned in 1917. The Women’s Relief Corps of the North and the United Daughters of the Confederacy of the South both contributed equally to their purchase. This was done as an act of reconciliation and hope for the healing the country was experiencing after the Civil War and also in honor of Red Cross founder Clara Barton’s heroic work for the injured of both sides during that conflict.
What is the historical legacy for women at the Red Cross?
American Red Cross founder Clara Barton was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her work helping the wounded during the American Civil War. She then founded the American Red Cross is 1881 and served as its leader for the next 23 years until she retired as President in 1904. Mabel Boardman followed as the de facto head of the Red Cross. Her leadership saw significant organization and growth of chapters. In 1909, Red Cross nurse Jane Delano founded the organization’s nursing program that would train over 370,000 nurses throughout its existence. During this period (1915) the Red Cross national headquarters building in Washington, DC, situated across from the White House, was constructed.
Today, the American Red Cross is still led by women who highly value philanthropy and service. Red Cross Chairman of the Board Bonnie McElveen-Hunter has served in that role since 2004 and was one of the founding members of the Tiffany Circle program in 2006. Red Cross CEO and President Gail J. McGovern took the organization’s helm in 2008 and joined the Tiffany Circle in 2008 as a Bonnie McElveen-Hunter Member. In 2013 Gail became a Bonnie McElveen-Hunter Silver member.
What distinguishes the impact of the American Red Cross Tiffany Circle from other women’s philanthropic organizations?
The Tiffany Circle’s impact upon the American Red Cross and indeed, the women’s philanthropic movement, finds its roots in the ownership and initiative of the Tiffany Circle members and leaders. Bonnie McElveen Hunter and Melanie Sabelhaus conceived of this network of women philanthropists around America committed to the service of their communities. Since inception, Tiffany Circle members have cumulatively donated more than $120 million dollars to address the needs of our communities.
Upon close examination today, scores of women in each chapter are personally engaged in the program through mission delivery and outreach to draw in new members. With the advent of the Tiffany Circle Summit in 2007, these members began their own network of philanthropy and friendship. The spirit of Tiffany Circle has taken flight and Tiffany Circle Societies have taken root in order in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Switzerland.
Why does the Red Cross specifically target women for this major gift donor program?
In recent years, sources have documented increased trends in giving programs for women. This trend has been corroborated by survey findings about the propensity women feel to give back to their communities and world.
Women control nearly 60% of wealth in the United States (Virginia Tech, 2012)
Women give differently than men (Indiana University, 2010)
Give a higher average of their wealth to charity than men (Indiana University, 2010)
Make 80% or more of all purchases (Wall Street Journal, 2011)
According to research by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University published in October 2010, in each of five different income groups analyzed, female-headed households are more likely to give to charity than male-headed households.
History of the Tiffany Windows
The three Favrile T windows in the Board of Governors’ Hall of the American Red Cross National Headquarters building were commissioned by the Tiffany Studios in 1917 as the organization moved into its new building. They depict the theme of ministry to the sick and wounded through sacrifice. Dedicated in 1923, they are reputed to be the largest suite of Tiffany windows created for a secular environment and have remained in site where they can be appreciated in the environment for which they were created. Except for those in churches, most Tiffany windows have been removed from their original location. The detailed molding within the room was designed to complement the windows and enhance their beauty.
Prominent early 20th century leader and secretary of the American Red Cross for many years, Miss Mable T. Boardman, suggested the idea for the windows to the Woman's Relief Corps of the North and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, two organizations of Civil War women. Each organization contributed $5,000 and the three windows were created for a total of $10,000. The contributions of these two organizations confirmed the dedication of the building "In Memory of the Heroic Women of the Civil War."
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The left panel was donated by the Woman’s Relief Corps of the North. Mabel Boardman stated that it was inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Santa Filomena, that glorified the work of Florence Nightingale: "A lady with a lamp shall stand in the great history of the land, a noble type of good, heroic womanhood." Noted for her healing powers, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s St. Filomena is surrounded by attendant maidens who provide love and compassion. One maiden carries a shield emblazoned with the Red Cross emblem. She is followed by Hope, carrying a banner with an anchor on painted on it. By her side is Mercy, bearing gifts. Next is Faith, who carries a torch and palm fronds and then Charity, who offers a healing drink. In the foreground, a mother holds her child, who has gathered flowers, while in the background, a maiden carries the Red Cross banner.
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The central panel was a gift from both organizations. It illustrates that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was conceived on a battlefield near Solferino, Italy, in the middle of the 19th century. The panel portrays an army of gallant knights in armor carrying spears and mounted on horses as they head into battle. The central figure carries a large flag with the Red Cross emblem in the center while riding a white steed bedecked with a jeweled saddle and bridle. These "Tiffany Jewels" are colored glass stones that are embedded in the windows. Near the feet of the trotting horse lies a fallen warrior receiving food and aid from a faithful comrade. The window expresses that even in the middle of battle there is still a time and a place for humanitarian behavior.
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The right panel was donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. According to Mabel Boardman, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elihu Root suggested the theme for this window. It depicts Una, wife of the Red Cross knight in Edmund Spenser's highly allegorical epic, The Faerie Queen. The story depicts proper human behavior. Una represents Truth. She is the graceful central figure in the panel with an abundance of good deeds (flowers) overflowing her apron. Maidens accompany her. To her sides, one maiden carries a cross and another a lamp of wisdom. Behind her is a maiden carrying a banner with a heart, symbolizing love. The two others carry Red Cross banners. A young woman kneels in front of Una holding a shield with the Red Cross emblem on it. This shield inspired the design of the Tiffany award, the highest recognition that an American Red Cross staff member can receive.
Since the American Red Cross Tiffany Circle formed in 2006, its members have dedicated time, talent and treasure to advance the organization's humanitarian mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. Celebrating 13 years, this philanthropic powerhouse has raised more than $120 million to support vital services, such as:
Feeding and sheltering more than 45,000 disaster-affected families for five days.
Providing financial assistance to more than 48,000 families affected by a home fire.
Purchasing four bloodmobiles, ultimately helping as many as 348,000 patients in need of lifesaving blood.
Delivering 500,000 comfort kits for military members.
Providing 20 million children around the world with lifesaving measles vaccinations.