Who was Geneviève McMillan?
Geneviève McMillan’s life began when she was born in the Pyrenees region in France in 1922. At the age of 24, she became one of the first women to graduate from the Sciences-Po in Paris. After World War II, she moved to Boston with her American husband who was an officer in the US army. After their divorce, McMillan decided to stay in Boston, where she opened her first restaurant, Henry IV. During the summer, she traveled the world. “She was an inspiring woman, open-minded and compassionate,” remarks Catherine Gobet-Lalanne, Board Member of the Geneviève McMillan-Reba Stewart Foundation.
McMillan’s interest in African and Oceanic Art was sparked when she met Madeleine Roussau, a renowned collector, in 1944. Later, during her time at Henry IV, she met painter, Reba Stewart. Inspired by Roussau and Stewart, she soon became an expert and collector of African art. She also became friends with many African artists and film directors. Between 1950 and 1990, she made numerous trips to Africa. She was passionate about Africa so naturally, she became a support for nonprofits acting in Africa. According to Gobet, “McMillan was sensitive to the cause of women, whose rights she defended with great conviction throughout her life.”
Working with Friends of Fondation de France
Gobet personally met Dr. Dewavrin, the founder of Fondation pour une Maternité Sans Risque, in 2008 and was immediately impressed by what his organization and the mobile medical team in Senegal achieved. It was through Dr. Dewavrin that Gobet found out about Fondation de France and Friends of Fondation de France. Soon, the Geneviève McMillan-Reba Stewart Foundation started partnering with Friends of Fondation de France to support the projects of Fondation pour une Maternité Sans Risque; especially as Friends of Fondation de France provided a safe and secure way to grant money to registered charities abroad. For American foundations, like the Geneviève McMillan-Reba Stewart Foundation, Friends of Fondation de France allows them to give to a 501(c)(3) to support a charity’s project abroad, without having to run any further due diligence. Fondation de France in Paris does the administrative part, allocating the funds as directed by the donor and providing yearly reports.
Most of the organizations that the Geneviève McMillan-Reba Stewart Foundation supports are in the United States. These are mostly scholarships and endowments for education. The other two geographical areas are Sub-Saharan Africa, in which Gobet is involved, and Palestine, for peace in the Middle East, which was an important issue for McMillan. The Geneviève McMillan-Reba Stewart Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals. Gobet, as one of the Board members of the foundation, selects nonprofits that align with the foundation’s values, but the final decision for which nonprofits will be supported belongs to the whole Board. The final choice of the fiscal sponsor depends on the organization that requests a grant. As of today, the foundation continues to support Fondation pour une Maternité Sans Risques, as well as La Liane, Afrique sur Bièvre, and LOBA, through Friends of Fondation de France.
Leaving a Longlasting Legacy
It is without a doubt that Geneviève McMillan continues to leave an impact on the world today. Besides desiring to further the appreciation of African and Oceanic art, McMillan wished to help people fulfill their dreams. Her wish is being achieved. Her passion for women’s rights, education, and causes in Africa, has led the foundation to be a strong support for organizations like La Liane, Afrique sur Bièvre, LOBA, and Fondation pour une Maternité Sans Risques. Although McMillan may no longer be with us today, her generous spirit continues to touch the lives of many. May her life story be an inspiration and testament to the power of living with curiosity, optimism, and generosity.