Margaret Olivia Slocum was the only daughter of Joseph Slocum and Margaret Pierson Jermain. Her paternal roots could be traced back to the Mayflower, and they were direct descendents of Miles Standish. Olivia--as she was known throughout her life--was born into a world of wealth and
After completing her education at the Troy Female Seminary (later called the Emma Willard School), she waited in vain for the hand of a proper suitor. With no marital prospects on the horizon, she began her career as a schoolteacher. Educator Emma Willard had been a significant influence in
her life, so it was only natural that she pursued a teaching career.
It was through her father's business contacts that she first crossed paths with the man with whom she'd spend the latter half of her life. Russell Sage
was a married businessman who would later reach
the pinnacle of the business and financial world. She and Mr. Sage were nothing more than friends as she continued to teach for more than two decades.
In 1869, two years after the death of his first wife, they entered into a loveless marriage. Sage hoped the marriage would rehabilitate his public image
following a messy public trial and return him to favor with New York's upper crust. The couple occupied separate bedrooms, and some historians claim their marriage was never consummated. It was truly a marriage of convenience. Her husband gained the return to respectability he wanted, while Olivia, who had long since resigned herself to the fact she would live out her life as an old maid, found
financial security, and a proper, if somewhat incompatible life companion.
Following the death of her husband in 1906, she was dubbed "the richest woman in the world." He was said to be worth between $70 and $100 million. Understandably, she was besieged by literally thousands of requests for financial
Mrs. Sage founded the Russell Sage Foundation April 11, 1907, as a memorial to her late husband. Initially endowed with $10 million, Olivia later added millions more. She dispensed a total of $35 million between 1907 and her death in 1918. In addition to giving millions to more traditional
charities, the Russell Sage Foundation studied the root causes of social problems, so their organization could offer practical solutions to poverty, hunger and disease, rather than just a temporary "Band-aid."
In the first year alone, she gave away millions of dollars. Medical charities, Christian
organizations, and charities focused on women's issues, were among her favorites. Over the years, The Emma Willard School, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and New York University each received sizable donations, with worthy organizations such as the American Red Cross, Camp Fire Girls, Salvation Army, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Tuskegee Institute, YMCA, and
countless others, also receiving substantial financial assistance from the Russell Sage Foundation.
In 1916, Mrs. Sage founded the Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. Named in honor of her late husband, The Sage Colleges later grew to include not only Russell Sage College (a four-year college for
women), but also the Sage College of Albany, a coeducational college, and the Sage Graduate School.
Olivia Sage suffered from a serious thyroid condition from an early age, yet lived to the age of 90.
decades after the foundation was formed, its influence was waning, returns on financial investments were declining, and the gradual attrition of its staff prompted reorganization within the Russell Sage Foundation. In 1948, they shifted their focus to basic research in the social and behavioral sciences and the strengthening of social welfare
Millions have benefited from her generosity, yet the pioneering female philanthropist is not widely remembered today. Her humanitarian efforts went far beyond simple philanthropy. By seeking the root causes of social problems and sponsoring practical solutions based on those scientific
studies, she proved to be a true philanthropic visionary. Residences of Olivia Sage:
Note that these residences may no longer exist, and it's possible the addresses have changed over the years. This is not to suggest that Ms. Sage
owned each and every one of these structures. We're only reporting the fact that she resided in them at one point or another in her life.
506 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
632 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
604 Fifth Avenue,
New York City, New York, U.S.A.