Yesterday novelist and memoirist Isabel Allende celebrated her 70th birthday. Ms. Allende, one of our favorite authors, is best known for her passionate stories including The House of the Spirits, Paula, Daughter of Fortune and Ines of My Soul, among many others. Ms. Allende’s own story is also one filled incredible drama, which she has chronicled in her memoirs over the years. Born into a politically involved Chilean family, she and her family went into exile in the United States in the 1970’s after her uncle, Chilean President Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a CIA-led coup. She credits this experience as making her the prolific writer she has become. Ms. Allende isn’t only known for her books, she is also a philanthropist having founded The Isabel Allende Foundation in 1996, in tribute to her daughter Paula Frias.

The Isabel Allende Foundation was established in honor of Ms. Allende’s daughter, Paula Frias, who passed away in 1992 at the young age of twenty-eight. Paula was known to be a spirited woman, committed to “service with compassion” and worked as a volunteer in poor communities in Venezuela and Spain, as both an educator and psychologist. Today, the Foundation continues the work that Paula started.

The mission of the foundation is based on Ms. Allende’s vision of a world in which women are able to achieve social and economic justice. This includes the empowerment of women and girls, and the protection of women and children.

Ms. Allende explains on her website “Women my age, as elders of the village, have a duty to care for the young, especially girls. If the world is ever going to heal, it will be women who will make it so. Today’s girls are tomorrow’s women. We cannot leave them to fend for themselves.”

The Foundation concentrates on specific issues in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in Chile supporting nonprofits whose missions are to provide women and girls with:

– Reproductive self-determination

– Healthcare

– Education

– Protection from violence, exploitation and/or discrimination

Ms. Allende has written many books, which have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. But, it is this simple phrase “We only have what we give,” on her foundation’s homepage that best exemplifies her generous spirit and the incredible impact she has and continues to make in her communities.

Happy Birthday Ms. Allende!

Isabel Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004 and resides in Northern California.