This collection illustrates the life and career of Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage (Mrs. Russell Sage), a ruling-class woman who created a new identity for herself in Gilded Age and Progressive Era America. A wife who derived her social standing from her robber-baron husband, Olivia Sage managed to fashion an image of benevolence that made possible her public career. In her husband's shadow for thirty-seven years, she took on the Victorian mantle of active, reforming womanhood.
When Russell Sage died in 1906, he left Olivia a vast fortune. An advocate for the rights of women and the responsibilities of wealth, for moral reform and material betterment, she took the money and put it to her own uses. Spending replaced volunteer work; suffrage bazaars and fundraising fetes gave way to large donations to favorite causes.
As a widow, Olivia Sage moved in public with authority. She used her wealth to fund a wide spectrum of progressive reforms that had a lasting impact on American life, including her most significant philanthropy, the Russell Sage Foundation.
The digital images in this collection were selected by Prof. Ruth Crocker, author of Mrs. Russell Sage: Women's Activism and Philanthropy in Gilded Age and Progressive Era America. The original materials are located in repositories and private collections around the United States. To obtain a high resolution copy of a particular image, please contact directly the repository which houses the original.