But as Ms Scott’s fame for giving money grew, so too did the deluge of calls for gifts from strangers and old friends. That clamor may have driven Ms Scott’s already low-key operation further underground, with recent philanthropic announcements like sudden lightning bolts for unsuspecting recipients.
Attempts to reach Ms. Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett, a chemistry professor, for this article by phone, email and letter, directly and through intermediaries, were met with silence.
Instead, The New York Times relied on interviews with more than two dozen friends, teachers, former colleagues and acquaintances from every chapter of his life, as well as public records and the few interviews Ms. Scott has given, usually in conjunction with the publication. from one of his novels. This article is also based on previously unpublished letters between Ms Scott and Ms Morrison, housed in the Nobel Laureate Archive at Princeton University Library.
“I guess the only way to know what do not working for me in life is trying,’ she wrote to Ms Morrison in September 1992, months after graduating and at a pivotal time for her future. Being a waitress in New York had proven more grueling than serving tables at Princeton in college, leaving her too tired to write.
“I found myself with small, unpredictable slices of time during which I collapsed in exhaustion and frustration, or ruminated on the excruciating monotony of making and selling sandwiches,” she said. wrote, “and worried about how I could pay my rent with the nickels they gave me in exchange for my boredom.
The previous week, she had started working in an investment company, with her future husband, Mr. Bezos.
Three decades after worrying about making rent, and even following her recent freebies, Ms Scott, 52, is hovering around $50 billion, according to Forbes magazine. She set out to disperse her enormous fortune with unprecedented speed and candor to frontline charities and nonprofits, with a focus on promoting social justice and fighting against unevenness, while trying to stay out of the spotlight.
“Putting big donors at the center of social progress stories is a distortion of their role,” she wrote in an essay last year, one of a series of deliberate public statements about her giving.