Inspired by the death of Supreme Court Justice and trailblazer Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and with the support of their dad Peter, last year Stephanie and Alexis Lawrence built a States Project Giving Circle that raised more than $50,000 to help elect a state legislative majority that would improve lives.
Stephanie, an entrepreneur, found out about The States Project’s Giving Circles when she donated to a friend’s circle earlier in the year. “I felt like contributing to state-level fundraising was a really powerful idea, and the strategy made a lot of sense to me,” she says. “I was excited about the potential to impact policy because I was so frustrated at the national level.”
On September 18, the day Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, she decided that it was time to get off the sidelines, stop being overwhelmed by headlines, and start her own circle. She called her sister Alexis, an ER doctor, with the idea.
“We’re fixers,” Alexa says of her family. “When we are feeling anxious and adrift, we like to do something.” Though she was already working in a hospital ER at the height of the pandemic, she wanted to do more — so she said yes to her sister, and the May Her Memory Be a Revolution Giving Circle was born.
One of their first invitations to an organizing call went to their dad, Peter. “He got really excited,” says Stephanie, noting that many of their high school friends and their parents also participated in the Giving Circle. “One of the things that was so compelling about this sort of work was the ability to reach out cross-generationally to get people involved.”
Peter, whose involvement in politics stems back to the 1970s with the George McGovern presidential campaign, had been increasingly depressed over the last presidency. “I stopped reading The New York Times, and I was incredibly frustrated with the political situation,” he says. As an architect who is inspired by how nature can drive innovation, Peter is well aware of the importance of state lawmakers. “State legislatures control building codes, and that covers energy,” he says, going on to note how rightwing majorities in states like Arizona were stalling the fight for Clean Air, Water, and Energy.
“I didn’t know your organization existed, so when the girls introduced this to me, I thought it was fantastic! I was already supporting Senate candidates and the presidential campaign, but that’s so much removed. One of the great things about The States Project is that it takes less money to make a real difference. After I made my first contribution, I felt better than I had in years. That one action really energized me because I felt like I was really doing something positive.”
Alexis agrees. “I was amazed at how empowering the calls were,” she says, referring to the Zoom rooms their circle hosted. “The thing that was so exciting to me was seeing people light up on calls and be willing to re-engage. From very early on, reaching out to co-leaders and then seeing how excited and energized they got — and then the willingness of people to reach out to their own networks — was just the most rewarding thing. That, for me, was just such a gift that I now see is clearly part of the work of The States Project. I did not realize how it would make me feel to see people getting excited.”
Stephanie felt the energy too. “Our work together took those really dark moments of being scared about the future of our country — and the past of our country — and turned them into concrete action,” she says.
“I’d never done anything like this before, and I thought of myself as not being political or not being qualified enough. I just realized that if I’m not doing it and I care, who will do it? So I just dove in, and you know that’s really all it takes… just putting one foot in front of the other.”
“I’m reading Kamala Harris’s book right now, and she says that when you’re the most disillusioned is the time to fight,” Stephanie adds. “I’m thrilled by the presidential results, but we see how much more work there is to be done, especially at the state level. We’re excited to stay involved!”