Marianne Williamson* was born in Houston, Texas, on July 8, 1952. She is the youngest of three children of Samuel “Sam” Williamson and Sophie Ann (Kaplan). Her family is Jewish, and Williamson says she grew up in a liberal household where she was made aware of issues of social justice.
After graduating from Houston’s Bellaire High School, Williamson spent two years studying theater and philosophy at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Williamson dropped out of college in her junior year and moved to New York City.
During her early 20s, she was searching for spiritual understanding and began reading a set of books called A Course in Miracles, what she describes as “a self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy based on universal spiritual themes.” She said she wasn’t interested in conventional religion and saw an opportunity for someone to promote “non-denominational spirituality.”
In 1979, she returned to Houston, where she ran a combination metaphysical bookstore and coffeeshop. Four years later, she began teaching, counseling, and writing based on the teachings of the Course in Los Angeles.
At that time, the AIDS epidemic became an issue, and Williamson became involved in providing non-medical support to people living with life-challenging illnesses. She founded the Los Angeles and Manhattan Centers for Living, which served as a refuge and non-medical support for people with HIV/AIDS. In 1989, she created Project Angel Food to provide meals to homebound people with AIDS.
Her interests turned more political in 1997 when she published Healing the Soul of America. The book laid out her vision of how to “transform the American political consciousness and encourage powerful citizen involvement to heal our society.” She wrote:
It is a task of our generation to recreate the American politeia, to awaken from our culture of distraction and re-engage the process of democracy with soulfulness and hope. Yes, we see there are problems in the world. But we believe in a universal force that, when activated by the human heart, has the power to make all things right. Such is the divine authority of love: to renew the heart, renew the nations, and ultimately, renew the world.
In 2010, she launched a series of Sister Giant conferences, trainings, and events to support individuals – particularly women – who want to increase their efficacy as activists and/or run for office. The events focused on how to better address social issues such as child poverty, low levels of female representation in office, campaign finance reform, and high levels of mass incarceration.
In 2014, Williamson ran as an Independent for the seat of California’s 33rd congressional district in the House of Representatives. Her core message was that “humanitarian values should replace economic values as the ordering principle of our civilization.”
She finished fourth out of 16 candidates.
On January 28, 2019, she declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. She has said, “ the future of our country is far too serious to be left in the hands of traditional politicians.”
Williamson is a lifelong anti-war activist and critic of military spending, which she said, “dwarfs the amount of money we spend on genuine peacebuilding efforts.” She believes “investing early to prevent conflicts from escalating into violent crises is, on average, 60 times more cost effective than intervening after violence erupts” and advocates a “10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace-time economy” that would “leave us strong enough to deal with America’s legitimate needs for military preparedness, yet moving on to the urgent task of building a sustainable society and sustainable world.”
Williamson dropped out of the presidential race on January 10, 2019, and supported Andrew Yang.
In March 2024, she became the first primary challenger to President Joe Biden.
Williamson was briefly married. In 1990, she gave birth to a daughter, India Emma.
- “I don’t think the ultimate answer will be about settlements or checkpoints,” Williamson told a Jewish news site. “The work of the genuine peace builders must be on the level of the heart.” She added that the U.S. must return to “where it can be considered an honest broker” to play a useful role. (Axios, May 9, 2019)
- Speaking to the National Press Club, “Williamson also outlined her foreign policy vision and reiterated her longstanding support for reentering the nuclear deal with Iran.” (JewishInsider, October 24, 2019)
- Williamson has said she would return to the Iran nuclear deal. (Al-Monitor, March 19, 2019)
Sources: Marianne Williamson;
“Marianne Williamson,” Wikipedia;
Bryant Harris, “2020 Democrats vow to re-enter Iran nuclear deal,” Al-Monitor, (March 19, 2019).
Noa Yadidi, “Marianne Williamson on the issues, in under 500 words,” Axios, (May 9, 2019);
Ben Jacobs, “Democratic hopeful pushes back against ‘smears’ from ‘political elites,’” JewishInsider, (October 24, 2019).