To honor the 41st anniversary of her passing, we celebrate the philanthropic contributions of Grace Kelly-Hollywood icon, princess, and humanitarian.
You probably remember Grace Kelly, who died 41 years ago this month, as a Hollywood actress and a paragon of beauty and elegance. Ending her acting career when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, she embarked on life as a royal, which she would carry to the day of her untimely death.
On September 13, 1982, when Princess Grace was 52, she was driving on a twisty mountain road with her then-17-year-old daughter Princess Stephanie. On the trip, she was stricken by a “cerebral vascular incident,” according to the New York Times, a condition similar to a stroke.
Because her mother was suddenly incapable of using the brakes, Princess Stephanie tried to pull on them—to no avail. The car kept running and went off the mountain, plunging around 30 meters into a gorge. Princesses Grace and Stephanie were rushed to the hospital, but the former suffered a brain hemorrhage and died the day after. Princess Stephanie, fortunately, survived, albeit with a fracture and a concussion.
Less in the public consciousness right now, though, is her participation in much charity work. Among them are championing the rights of children, backing local artists, and turning her home principality into a hub for dance. Here, we rediscover the philanthropy Princess Grace devoted herself to—the other legacy, we could say, that she left behind.
President of the Red Cross of Monaco
Established by Prince Louis II in 1948 and formerly headed by Princess Grace, the Red Cross of Monaco is currently led by Prince Albert II, her son. Part of her duties in her time as president involved raising money for charitable causes.
The Red Cross supplies medical and humanitarian assistance around the world, helping the refugees and victims of disasters both natural and man-made. In line with this, Monaco’s Red Cross takes part in international aid. For example, it gave 100,000 euros for the relief efforts in Morocco’s devastating earthquake.
And it does more than that. Domestically, its Social Service branch distributes food and clothing to citizens who are economically struggling and offers general financial help. Its daycare centers look after young children in more ways than one, furnishing them with games and educational exercises such as trips to tend to their learning needs.
In addition, it caters to nursing home residents and patients at rehabilitation facilities, the Princess Grace Hospital, and the Rainier III Gerontology Centre. Included in its range of services are projects to uplift the spirits of its senior patients, like excursions and competitions, as well as observance of birthdays and various holidays.
In the 1960s, Princess Grace witnessed the suffering of children in Vietnam and was affected—and took action. In 1963, she cofounded AMADE Mondiale (Association Mondiale des Amis de l’Enfance), or, in English, the Worldwide Association of Children’s Friends. Its current director is her daughter, Princess Caroline, the Princess of Hanover.
AMADE advocates for every child’s basic rights and well-being. In collaboration with nonprofits and other entities, it shelters children from all forms of abuse and helps them obtain better healthcare and education in order to maximize their capabilities—all regardless of race, nationality, or religion.
Among its many projects is Dignity for Women, which, besides keeping girls safe from sexual exploitation, also improves their education levels.
It works with UNICEF and the UNHCR, which takes care of refugees around the world.
The Princess Grace Foundation
After AMADE, anyone would take a seat, drink in hand, and pat themselves on the back. Princess Grace, however, chose not to do that. Instead, in 1964, she founded La Fondation Princesse Grace de la Principauté de Monaco, or the Princess Grace Foundation, to aid Monegasque artisans and young artists.
Together with the Fondation Prince Pierre, it gives prizes to music and dance performers. Aside from that, it awards grants and funds cultural projects.
The Princess Grace Foundation has branched out into medicine as well. It offers support to sick children and their families by, for instance, obtaining medical equipment, putting up residential buildings for parents to stay in during their children’s hospitalization, and sponsoring laboratories researching pediatric medicine.
Honorary Member of La Leche League
Around the 1960s, the breastfeeding advocacy nonprofit La Leche League invited her to become an honorary member. Says Newsweek, she accepted it despite it being seen as inappropriate for her station. She even gave a speech at the 1971 La Leche League World Conference that was held in Chicago.
La Leche League aims to promote breastfeeding to ensure that babies grow holistically and healthily, in response to the misinformation and stigma swirling around it. Besides teaching the value of breastfeeding, it also gets mothers to help each other.
The Princess Grace Academy
Princess Grace also aspired for Monaco to turn into a center of ballet. In 1973, she did just that when she cofounded the Princess Grace Academy of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, a world-class dance school that equips students to enter the top dance companies in the world. It also cooperates with other bodies in the field, such as the Prix de Lausanne.
But, as it seeks to be more than a dance school, it also educates its students on values such as reliability and self-control that are to aid them throughout their lives and careers. Describing the education it provides as “multi-disciplinary,” it—rather than simply sticking to ballet—takes inspiration from modern dance forms.
Throughout her time as Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly has made an impact that can still be felt to this day. She has shown us all just what one woman can do. And, through that, she has shown us all just what she is—a woman not just of beauty, but also of heart and soul.
Banner photo by Pierre Tourigny via Wikimedia Commons.