Marianne Deborah Williamson (born July 8, 1952) is an American author, lecturer and activist. She has written 13 books, including four New York Times number one bestsellers in the "Advice, How To and Miscellaneous" category.
On November 15, 2018, Williamson announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee in a video in which she said that there was a "miracle in this country in 1776 and we need another one [that would require] a co-creative effort, an effort of love and a gift of love, to our country and hopefully to our world".
“Where I'm coming from is not that I have a 'Black agenda.' I have an 'American agenda"...The reason I want reparations, as opposed to simple race-based policies [is because] race-based policies leave open the question whose fault it is that this gap even exists. And race-based policies provide justice, but it doesn't provide the power that capital provides, and that is really what we're talking about here. We're talking about an economic gap that existed in 1865, that was actually increased with another 100 years. So after 200 years of slavery, you had another 100 years of institutionalized violence against black people in America. My point –– reparations carry more than the power of purely financial restitution. They carry moral force. We need to deal with these things on a deeper, more transformative level. This should not be considered "cuckoo." This should not be considered "wacky."
Williamson was born in Houston, Texas, in 1952. She is the youngest of three children of Samuel "Sam" Williamson, a World War II veteran and immigration lawyer, and Sophie Ann (Kaplan), a homemaker and community volunteer. Her older brother, Peter, is also an immigration lawyer. Her late sister, Elizabeth "Jane", was a teacher.
Schucman was said to have been "emotionally tortured" by the "inner voice" when, on October 21, 1965, it allegedly told her, "This is a course in miracles. Please take notes."
In 1973, during her junior year of college, Williamson, an active anti-war protester, dropped out of college and lived "a nomadic existence” during what she calls "her wasted decade." She moved to New Mexico, where she took classes at the University of New Mexico and lived in a geodesic dome with her boyfriend. She broke up with her boyfriend a year later and moved to Austin, Texas, where she took classes at the University of Texas. After leaving Texas, she went to New York City, intending to pursue a career as a cabaret singer, but got distracted by "bad boys and good dope.” She ended up becoming a secretary for rock biographer Albert Goldman, who described her as "a sweet, warmhearted girl."
In 1976 Helen Schucman's book A Course in Miracles, was published. Schucman was a clinical and research psychologist who was a medical psychology professor at Columbia University from 1958 to 1976. After being in a long-term "stressful professional environment," and seeking a way to address the contention, Schucman began to have a series of inner experiences that she understood as visions, dreams, heightened imagery, and an "inner voice" that reportedly revealed itself to her as Jesus.
In 1979 Williamson returned to Houston, where she ran a metaphysical bookstore coffeeshop, sang Gershwin standards in a nightclub, got married and divorced "almost immediately", and underwent a "spiritual surrender".
Williamson was briefly married in 1979 to a Houston businessman. She's called the marriage "a 15-minute mistake." She is said to have dated actor, Dwier Brown, and film producer, Hawk Koch.
In 1983 Williamson had what she has called a "flash" to close the coffeeshop and move to Los Angeles. She said she felt the city would be welcoming to her because of its willingness to "start new conversations." She made the move with $1,000 in her pocket. She got an apartment in Hollywood. Her roommate was a 17-year-old Laura Dern, who noted that Williamson "held prayer groups in our living room."
In 1987, during lunch with a close friend who was struggling with breast cancer, Williamson's friend expressed a need for help: “She said that for years she had been looking for someone to help her heal and now she needed someone to help her die." This request inspired Williamson to create the Center for Living.
On January 28, 2019, Williamson officially launched her presidential campaign, in front of 2,000 people in Los Angeles, and appointed Maurice Daniel –– who served alongside Donna Brazile in Dick Gephardt's campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1988 –– as her national campaign manager, with her campaign committee, "Marianne Williamson for President", officially filed on February 4.
In 1989 Williamson launched Project Angel Food to support HIV/AIDS patients. The program was operated by The Centers for Living, but became so successful that its name recognition outgrew its parent company. By 1992 it had raised over $1.5 million and was delivering nearly 400 hot meals a day to home-stricken AIDS patients in Los Angeles. Williamson deemed the demand for the organization's services to be a positive sign about HIV/AIDS:
In 1989, with another $50,000 from Geffen, Williamson opened another Center for Living in New York, but it was hampered by conflict between staff and the board over Williamson's management style, which an unnamed former associate described as "very controlling." There was also a rift because, while the Los Angeles Center welcomed Williamson's use of prayer in her teachings and the use of the word "God", the more secular New York Center rebuked it.
In 1990, she gave birth to a daughter, India ("Emma"). India pursued a doctorate in history at Goldsmiths College in London.
In October 1991, Williamson was the officiant of the wedding between Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky. She stated that the mocking publicity from the wedding harmed her credibility as she was labeled "Guru to the Glitterati."
Williamson resigned from the organization in March 1992 amid infighting, two months after the board fired executive director and gay activist Steve Schulte, with some speculating that Williamson—who had been open about her wanting him gone—was responsible for the firing. Schulte, who had been the Center's third executive director in five years, was well-liked among the employees because he lobbied for salary increases, but clashed with Williamson over the operational approach to running the organization. His firing led a majority of the remaining employees to call for Williamson's resignation, his reinstatement, the replacement of the entire board, and unionization if Williamson remained. Stephen Bennett, a consultant hired to assess the situation, determined that there were more paid staff on hand than needed, but with a union vote pending, Bennett refused to lay employees off. It was determined that the best option was for Williamson to resign.
At the height of her popularity, in 1998, Williamson sold her $2.7 million home. She decided to stop teaching and join the ministry. She said, “I had a lot going on in my life. I just felt I had to leave. I had a baby.”
In 1998 Williamson co-founded the non-profit Global Renaissance Alliance (GSA) with Conversations with God author Neale Donald Walsch. The organization established a network of "citizen salons" to pray for national growth, peace and liberal causes.
Williamson resigned in 2003 amid speculation that she otherwise would have been fired. Upon leaving the church, Williamson said of the experience:
In 2004 the GSA's name was changed to The Peace Alliance and given a new mandate focused on grassroots education and advocacy organization with the intent of increasing U.S. government support for peace-building approaches to domestic and international conflicts. The Peace Alliance taught peace activists how to lobby their congressional representatives. Williamson said of the need for this work:
The Peace Alliance seeks the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace. In 2005 Williamson traveled to Washington to help Congressman Dennis Kucinich's effort to establish the department.
Williamson has called for the establishment of a Department of Peace to expand global diplomacy, mediation, and educational and economic development. She supported the creation of such a department in 2005, backing efforts by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, to try to establish it.
In 2006, a Newsweek Magazine poll named her one of the 50 most influential baby boomers.
In 2008, during the financial crisis, Williamson lost two of her homes in the Detroit metro area, valued at nearly $3 million, to foreclosure.
Williamson remained a guest minister at the church. She moved back to L.A. in 2009.
In 2010 Williamson launched "Sister Giant", a series of conferences to "start a new conversation about transformational politics" and encourage more women to run for office: Williamson saw herself as a "cheerleader," supporting women who had never been politically involved, on the campaign level, but who might be considering, 'Why not me?'" }}
In 2012 Yale University's Women’s Campaign School—an independent, nonpartisan, issue-neutral political campaign training and leadership program hosted at Yale Law School—partnered with the series, which focused on how to better address many social issues, including child poverty, campaign finance reform, and high incarceration rates
In January 2012, Williamson had Gwen Olsen, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 15 years, on her radio show, "Living Miraculously." Olsen implied that she personally believed antidepressants could be dangerous and linked to autism. During her 2020 Presidential Campaign, excerpts of her past comments have often conflated her skepticism on the trustworthiness of the pharmaceutical industry with embracing anti-vaccination dogma. Critics point to Williamson who, during a podcast and speaking about vaccine exemptions, having "glibly" described the process by which vaccines are mandated as sounding "Orwellian" and likening the mandate to the abortion debate. She later apologized, saying she "misspoke," and that the comments erroneously made her "sound as though I question the validity of life-saving vaccines."
In 2013, Williamson reported having assets roughly estimated to be valued between $1 million and $5 million (not including personal residences).
In 2014 Williamson ran as an Independent for California's 33rd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. She was praised as a "tireless" campaigner but criticized for not articulating specifics in her plans. Her supporters deemed her lack of plans a strength and said she was not a "made-to-order candidate" who gave "lip service."
Initially only a few people showed up at her lectures. But as word spread about "the young woman talking about a God who loves you, no matter what", she had to rent church space to accommodate the demand to see her. Four years later she began lecturing monthly in New York as well. Eventually she was invited to speak throughout the U.S. and Europe. Williamson did not charge for her lectures, but had a "suggested donation" of $7 ($15 in 2014) and a policy of not turning people away for lack of money.
Williamson supports gun control, and has described the issue as one personal to her. On November 4, 2018, she gave a passionate keynote address to several hundred Muslim and Jewish women at the Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom conference in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, eight days after 11 Jews were murdered at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue:
On January 19, 2019, while visiting New Hampshire, Williamson said that she "received enough positive energy to make me feel I should take the next step" and subsequently hired Brent Roske to lead her operation in Iowa.
As of August 15, 2019, Williamson is one of 12 Democratic presidential candidates who have submitted answers to the Council on Foreign Relations' "Election 2020 Questions."