Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet and playwright, set the stage for today’s image of philanthropy: ‘the refuge of people who wish to annoy their fellow creatures’.

In his comedic stage play ‘An Ideal Husband’, one of the characters, Mrs Cheveley declares:
‘You see nowadays it is not fashionable to flirt till one is forty, or to be romantic till one is forty-five, so we poor women who are under thirty – or say we are – have nothing open to us but politics or philanthropy. And philanthropy seems to me to have become simply the refuge of people who wish to annoy their fellow-creatures.’

Not only does the latter resonate with more recent debates about philanthropy’s potential as an ‘angry gift’ (Silber, 2012) and questions about donor vs. societal interests, but also points to some of the historic issues around gender and philanthropy.


Silber, I. F. (2012). The angry gift: a neglected facet of philanthropy. Critical Sociology, 60(3), 320-337.

Wilde, O. (1910), An Ideal Husband. A Play. 4th Edition Methuen & Co: London


Drawing on some of the findings from our ‘Images of Philanthropy’ Initiative, each entry in this accompanying blog series introduces one image that has been put forward in an academic or non-academic context to depict or characterise an aspect of philanthropy in its different forms and expressions.

For further information about the ‘Images of Philanthropy’ Initiative, please contact Dr Tobias Jung.