Mabel Louise Riley, the Foundation’s donor, was born in 1883 in Boston. She was the only child of Agnes Winslow and Charles E. Riley, president of H&B American Machine Company in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Miss Riley was an active patron of the arts and especially enjoyed the beautiful gardens at her homes in Newton and Cotuit on Cape Cod. Generous and concerned for the needs of others throughout her lifetime, she gave regularly to numerous charities in the Boston area.

Miss Riley died at the age of 88 in 1971 and in her will she remembered many relatives, friends and employees, and over one hundred charities. The remainder of her estate was left in trust “all for and only for public charitable uses and purposes.”

In establishing a general purpose foundation, Miss Riley’s only suggestion to her trustees was that particular consideration be given to the needs of children and youth. The Mabel Louise Riley Foundation began operation as an active member of Boston’s philanthropic community in May 1972.