LONDON, United Kingdom — The 2004 winner of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Meryl Streep is renowned for playing a range of roles, from the demanding editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), to the accomplished cook Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” (2009). Perhaps less known, however, is that Streep has been an active humanitarian and donated millions to numerous charities and social causes throughout her successful acting career, which began in 1971. Here are some of the most notable.
The Coalition for the Homeless
First and foremost, Meryl Streep’s philanthropy has included support for the homeless. One of the many nonprofits that she has donated to is the Coalition for the Homeless, the oldest advocacy organization directly serving homeless people and families in the United States. Founded in 1981, the New York-based coalition takes a two-part approach to tackling homelessness. Behind the scenes, it engages in litigation to protect the rights of homeless people, including the right to vote and the right to shelter, and advocates for long-term solutions to ending homelessness. On the ground, it provides immediate support, including food and shelter, crisis relief services, job training and youth programs, for homeless men, women and children in need, directly helping upward of 3,500 individuals per day.
The National Women’s History Museum
One of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, Streep typically earns a base salary of $20 million per role. Yet, for the low-budget 2011 film “The Iron Lady,” Streep took a pay cut to play former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, earning just $1 million for her Oscar-winning performance. What’s more, she donated the entire sum to the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM), an online museum founded in 1996 to celebrate women’s history and contributions to society. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Streep explained that she believes “women’s history needs to be told,” emphasizing that there are many notable women whose stories remain unknown. For example, Streep referenced Deborah Sampson, “the first woman who took a bullet for her country.” In addition to her financial support for the NWHM, Streep is also the museum’s National Spokesperson and has hosted events and fundraisers to help promote its mission.
The Committee to Protect Journalists
In 2017, Streep won the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. In her acceptance speech, she focused on politics rather than her own career and expressed her support for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), inspiring more than $250,000 in individual donations to the organization. Then, in November of that year, Streep addressed attendees at the CPJ’s own International Press Freedom Awards in New York. Her speech drew attention to the vulnerability of journalists and commended their bravery. The actress concluded by presenting the International Press Freedom Award to Mexican journalist Patricia Mayorga.
The Beirut Blast
Indeed, Meryl Streep’s philanthropy has also extended beyond the United States. For instance, in 2020, she donated $25,000 to support victims of the Beirut blast that occurred in Lebanon on August 4 of that year. The devastating explosion killed 218 people, wounded 7,000 and left more than 300,000 displaced. In particular, Streep showed her support for women who had been injured, traumatized or rendered homeless in the explosion by donating to KAFA (enough) — a Lebanese nonprofit and non-governmental organization (NGO) working to eliminate gender-based violence and the exploitation women and children.
Beyond supporting these organizations, Meyrl Streep’s philanthropy has included support for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, Healthy Child Healthy World, Stand Up To Cancer and Equality Now. A model for us all, she is living proof of the difference that a single individual can make.
– Sheherazade Al Shahry