Meet Eva & Karen Grove: CDT Members and Mother/Daughter Dream Team

Written By Sylvie Lerner

It’s the last day of Women’s history month, and The California Donor Table has, for over the last decade and a half, focused on spotlighting, electing, and resourcing progressives, especially progressive women of color. We used this year’s Women’s History month to get to know some of the powerful women that make this work possible.

Meet our board members, Eva and Karen Grove: the fierce mother-daughter duo who exemplify alignment, both in principles and in giving.

It was a pleasure to interview both Eva and Karen. As a daughter of a mother who is very politically active and passionate about doing her part in this world, I connected with the Groves deeply, and I hope you do too, no matter who you are. They truly taught me the power of being a team, of sharing knowledge, both from seeking it out, and from lived experience, and what a beautiful thing it is to challenge one’s perspective and grow

-Sylvie Lerner

Eva immigrated to the United States at 18, having left Austria at age 3 to escape the holocaust. She and her late husband, Andy, founded the Grove Foundation in 1986, which she now runs with her daughter, Karen. The Grove Foundation focuses on reproductive justice, immigrant rights, the environment, and civic participation. Eva lives in Los Altos Hills and is passionate about women’s rights, immigrant rights and social justice.

Karen “is Eva’s daughter.” Her words here say a lot. She is of her mother and takes after her in passion and interest. Karen chairs the Grove Foundation and is the president of the Grove Action Fund. Karen Lives in Menlo Park and is actively involved in supporting women’s rights and racial justice.

Sylvie Lerner: What moment got you into social justice and what is one moment that has kept you going?

Eva Grove: I’m a Social Worker by training and as you’re going through school of social work, you talk a lot about social responsibility. So, there’s a seed there. Another seed was planted when, as I was growing up, a man from the Jewish community solicited my family for donations. We didn’t have a lot of money as a family but we gave. My father told me afterwards how “it’s really important to give to people that have less than you. We should thank this person for asking, because he’s making it possible for us to do that.” Later, I became concerned about women’s reproductive rights. For background, as an adolescent I thought that a woman would be irretrievably damaged if she had an abortion! Then in 1962–3, I worked in adoptions with young pregnant women. It was before Roe v. Wade and before CA had an abortion protection. I came to see what the problems were on that side. So I got involved and started to support Planned Parenthood, but I was not truly active. When we started our foundation, we kept giving money to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. And, since both my husband and I are immigrants, we also had an interest in immigration, but later I also became more aware of the horrible things that were happening to undocumented immigrants and became interested in helping there. I’m into both right now, women’s rights and helping immigrants know their rights. I am also helping folks prepare for their citizenship exam.

Karen Grove: “I had a moment where I watched a half hour film about abortion rights and I felt as though, “oh, I have to fight for this.” I had been complacently pro-choice before and then a switch flipped and I became an activist for abortion rights. I volunteered to fight the parental notification laws in CA, all three times they were on the ballot (2005, 2006 & 2008). My mom and I became active together around that issue. My journey from abortion rights activist to social justice was inspired by hearing women of color in reproductive rights spaces discussing reproductive justice and intersectionality. That really switched me from the white upper middle class perspective of, “how do we get women of color and young women to join the movement for reproductive rights,” to “how do we better resource women of color and young women in the movement for reproductive freedom, and reproductive justice, and bodily autonomy, and safety, and a life of joy, more broadly?” That keeps me going.

Sylvie: How did you get involved in CDT, and what keeps you involved?

Karen: I was invited by Quinn Delaney to attend the kick off of what would become CDT in Santa Monica in 2016. I was really glad to go, because through my volunteerism and board service with Planned Parenthood, I had been very involved in CA state politics, but through a Planned Parenthood lens, which was focused on Planned Parenthood’s ability to deliver services, which is really important! But at the CDT meeting, I learned about the “mod dems” and all the progressive bills they kill, and I learned that some of the Planned Parenthood champions were in the mod squad. I was like, “Oh, this complicates things!” But it complicated things in a way that helped me to align my work with my values, because my values had become more broadly progressive. That’s how I got involved. I stay involved because it’s awesome to be in collaboration with strategic, savvy people who share my values!

Eva: I got involved with CDT through Karen. Karen used to be pretty disengaged in any causes. Then she got into the parental notification fight, and she just flipped completely, and became more and more active. So, it’s gotten to where now I’m following Karen. So I got involved with CDT because Karen told me about it and it sounded like a really good idea.

Karen: The interesting question for you is really, what keeps you involved? Because, I remember saying to you, “I want to get involved with this organization, and I can put in the time, and you can put in part of the money. And you said, ok that sounds like a good idea.” But you are SO involved! Why?

Eva: Well, I think what was really good about it was, once I became exposed, I realized how CDT helps me understand the political system and power dynamics. That was really helpful because, to just give money to candidates because they are Democrats, was not very helpful, and I wasn’t up to doing a ton of research. So, I feel very empowered by CDT’s input, by all of the resources that CDT brings. It’s a place where I can really figure out what is truly progressive, and what I can support. It’s one thing to have the money, but it’s important to know where to put that money.

Sylvie: That is so great to hear. Moving to our third question, what did 2020 teach us about women’s leadership, and what are you looking forward to in 2022?

Eva: From my standpoint, I would go back to 2018, because 2018 showed us what women can do. 2020 was good because we had a lot of important women candidates who were very competent. But what 2020 also showed us was that the victories of 2018 are ephemeral. If we don’t keep working at it, they won’t last. So that’s the main lesson I took from 2020. Because, the victories of 2018 were really amazing and gave us a lot of hope. I hope that we’ve learned that we need to keep at this, we need to deliver, we still need to be out there because we haven’t won. That is not to take away from the wins of 2020. I just feel that we lost some momentum and we need to adjust tactics.

Karen: Since 2018, we’ve learned so much about women’s leadership. When someone “accused” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of being a “radical” and she shot back, “there is nothing radical about moral clarity” So, the moral clarity, and the groundedness in the purpose of power, (to quote the title of Alicia Garza’s book title, unintentionally!), is what we’re learning about women of color and their leadership. Particularly black women. Look at Stacey Abrams, oh my goodness! Look at Alex of ACE in Arizona, Holly Michell in LA, Eva Paterson who led the initiative to undo the ban on affirmative action (even though it didn’t win). The clarity, the collaboration, the community, the joy that women of color in particular bring. I don’t think white women in leadership always bring the joy to organizing and building power. As a white woman with a first career in engineering, I think we are told to compete and be “tough” on white men’s terms.. But women of color come at it a different way, and it’s a lot more joyful, their leadership and organizing, or at least it seems that way to me, from what I see at CDT, Way to Win, Groundswell Fund and other women-of-color centered spaces. And what am I looking forward to? I’d like to see some Stacey Abrams-level celebration in California!

Sylvie: Yes, that would be beautiful! You already lead us into this next question, but how is California leading in building women’s power? And, what more needs to happen?

Eva: One thing I want to say is that I’m so impressed and excited by the competence and the enthusiasm that comes from so many women of color leading organizations. It makes me see one way in which racism has hurt us a lot, because this potential was always there, and it is only beginning to be realized. And, as we realize this, we’re just going to go places! I do think what Karen mentioned about moral clarity and joy that so many women org leaders have, is something that gives me hope, because it’s different from other movements we’ve seen. Communism in Russia for example, was a good idea that got totally derailed because of the people in power. I don’t see that happening with the women leaders in our state, and I hope it will not happen with this movement.

Karen: California, we’re awesome; but we’re also not awesome. Right? I mean just a few years ago in our prisons we were sterilizing women without their consent. Then again, just last year, we had a leading birth justice bill passed. So there is a lot of good work happening, in areas that haven’t really risen to the surface yet, in terms of birth justice and maternal mortality and addressing the horrible disparity there. Criminal justice as well is a huge issue facing women. We always hear about black men who are killed, but black women care about their sons etc. and are also killed by law enforcement, but we don’t hear about it as much. It’s a hugely feminist issue, and we’re making progress. But as my mom said, it’s gradual. We really have to protect our gains, and build upon them.

Sylvie: Thank you both for highlighting such important pieces. Especially women’s leadership of progressive organizations around the state, many of which CDT, and you as members help to fund and support. What advice would you give a woman who is looking to be active and engaged in philanthropy and political giving?

Eva: I’d say, find a group like CDT that’s involved and has resources to give you a pathway to put your energies into. As Faye mentioned in her interview, when she found CDT, you all were able to provide her with the information that she had previously spent so much time researching. So, I think finding like-minded people and a like- minded group would be a first step. Karen probably has more thoughts on that.

Karen: For me it depends on what woman I’m talking to. Just recently, I was on a call where a white woman philanthropic advisor said, “I want to support communities of color, but our world is so segregated and I don’t know any people of color. So, how can I get to know people of color, so that I can build relationships, so that I can support them philanthropically?” My advice to her was, do it in the opposite direction. When you’re the holder of the money, you’re never going to have an authentic relationship, until you give the money.

Eva: And even then…

Karen: So as my mom said, do a little research, find a group. Give the money, then build the relationship. I also think it’s important to not only seek out people of color, but people of color groups who have an idea of how to make systemic changes that help all people of color. And, if we do that, we’re going to help all people of all colors.

Sylvie: What’s it like doing this as a mother/daughter team?

Eva: Well, it works very well for me. I like the idea of being in tune and kicking ideas back and forth, and supporting each other. It’s been very rewarding.

Karen: I love it. Love it, love it, love it! Most of my friends share my values and visions of how the world should be and are doing something about it. So, how great is it that I get to be friends with my mom?

Eva: That’s pretty great!

*Interview minimally edited for readability

CDT is a statewide community of donors who make aligned investments, at a minimum of $5,000 annually, across tax statuses, in progressive organizations of color and candidates, often of color. CDT has moved more than $35 million since its founding, and more than $5million in 2020. Our goal is that communities of color have the power and resources to (1) elect candidates who champion their values and needs and (2) co-govern with those decision-makers. We believe that California can and must lead the nation in becoming a healthy, just place to live with shared economic success and a democracy that works for all our people. If you’re interested in joining please contact us!

The California Donor Table is a statewide community of donors who pool their funds to make investments in communities of color so they have the power they need.

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