Past Programs 2005-2006
May 11, 2006
First Anniversary Celebration a Resounding Success….
We had ninety-two very enthusiastic people at the party May 11. The food was good. The program and tour of the Alberici Building were spectacular. Thank you, Grant Lanham! And the very best thing was the gushing enthusiasm from everyone about Women’s Voices and what we are doing. We have at least 13 new members as a result of the anniversary celebration. Thank you, thank you to the hard-working party committee: Sarajane Campbell, Karel Hippert, Joanne Kelly, Nancy Reeves, and Maxine Stone.
April 20, 2006
How worried should we be, as Missourians, about intrusions into our public schools from the religious right? Very worried, according to Rudy Pulido and Cynthia Holmes
, two board members of the St. Louis chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
who spoke to our group in April. In recent years, the “closet fundies,” as Holmes called them, have been working diligently in Missouri to blur the distinction between church and state, and the public schools are one of their chosen targets.There have been repeated attempts by the conservative-controlled legislature in Jefferson City to sanction school prayer and the teaching of creationism. Pulido and Holmes suggested that we pay particular attention this year to HB 1266, the proposed “Missouri Science Education Act,” which would force teachers to introduce “intelligent design” as a legitimate alternative to the theory of evolution. The wording of the act is deceptively vague â€“ even dishonest â€“ and is being supported by national organizations that have learned how to use this language to get conservative legislation passed.Another grave concern is the attempt to push through various voucher programs that would funnel money out of public schools into private and parochial ones and, ultimately, even to home schoolers. Again, Pulido and Holmes warned, these proposals are cleverly worded to hide the real damage they would do to our cherished system of public education.What can we, the members of Women’s Voices, do to help keep our schools free from control by the religious right? First, we can become better informed about the issues. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the national organization that has been working for almost 60 years to protect our First Amendment rights, has an excellent website (www.au.org
) that’s a good place to start. Then, we can support Americans United, both nationally and locally, as they work to promote religious liberty. And finally, we can be vigilant about what’s happening in Jefferson City and make our views known.
March 9, 2006
Most of us know that St. Louis has one of the country’s finest symphonies and one of the best botanical gardens in the world. But until Lynne Cooper
‘s presentation on March 9, few of us had known that our town is also home to DOORWAYS
, recognized as the best provider of affordable, secure housing for people with HIV/AIDS in the nation.Founded in 1988 by community leaders and representatives from the area’s major religious organizations, Doorways assists approximately 500 adults and 90 children in the St. Louis region every month. In some cases, it does so by offering rent assistance so that people can continue to live in their own homes. In other cases, it provides subsidized apartments for clients, many of whom are women with children. And in the most severe cases, it provides beds for clients who require 24-hour nursing, medication, and nutrition care. Of all the people Doorways serves, 70% of them are able to transition out of the program when their health improves.Doorways’ mission is based on the conviction that stable housing is the primary requisite for effective and compassionate treatment of this disease. If people have no way to refrigerate their medications, if they cannot keep themselves clean, if they cannot get the rest they need, they will not get better.Cooper, who has been president of Doorways since its inception, reported that black women are the fastest growing HIV/AIDS population in this country. It is not hard to trace the cause. The United States imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world. Black men are incarcerated at much higher rates than their white counterparts. Many of them get HIV/AIDS in prison. When they’re released, they infect their partners. Many of these partners are black women, many of them poor, many with children.
Fortunately for these women and their children, Doorways provides a safe, comfortable place to live while they try to pull their lives back together. They face almost insurmountable challenges, but finding warm beds for their kids and a refrigerator for milk and medications is not one of them.
February 9, 2006
On a cold, snowy evening, members and friends gathered to watch Paul Haggis’ 2005 movie “Crash.” Set in contemporary Los Angeles, the film takes a “provocative, unflinching look at the complexities of racial conflict in America.” Over the course of two days, its complicated cast of characters – two young black car thieves, a wealthy prosecuting attorney and his spoiled wife, first-generation Persian shopkeepers, an affluent light-skinned black couple, an anguished black detective, and a pair of white cops — find their lives intersecting in a series of crashes, both real and metaphorical. Most of the interactions involve misunderstandings based on racial and ethnic stereotyping; many of them escalate into violence.In our discussion afterwards, we talked about the complexities of human nature, as depicted in the film. Very few of the characters were “all good” or “all bad.” The racist white cop, for instance, who humiliated a black couple during a routine interrogation, later risks his life to pull the woman from a burning car. Another theme was the miscommunication that is typical among people from different backgrounds. The film graphically demonstrates the difficulty of listening well when ingrained stereotypes get in the way.But what can we
do, members and friends of a mostly white women’s organization, to help reduce racial divisions? For starters, we agreed, we can continue to examine our own hidden prejudices and work to eliminate them. And we can continue to look for opportunities to be proactively involved in efforts to dismantle racism. To that end, we are planning to participate in the Annie Malone Parade
in St. Louis this spring, both as volunteers and marchers. More immediately, some of us will attend an interfaith program on February 18, “Breaking the Cycles of Prejudice and Racism,”
co-sponsored by St. Alphonsus “Rock” Church and Congregation Shaare Emeth.
January 12, 2006
, our January speaker, had spent two years working as the women’s vote director for the Missouri Democratic Party before the last election. She said that after the election, there was a general sense of angst among many of the progressive folks she’d worked with for so long.”What do we do now?” they asked.The answer was obvious, at least to someone as committed and energetic as Newman: “Well, you know what you do,” she said. “You get up in the morning, and you work on the next election.”And that’s exactly what she’s done. Newman is now executive director of a new organization, Missouri Women’s Coalition, which is committed to getting out the women’s vote in upcoming elections. The coalition already has 2,500 members statewide who are ready to make calls, write letters, and do whatever it takes to make sure that the women’s voice (sound familiar?) is heard in Missouri politics.
The Coalition is an independent political action committee (PAC), which means that the money it raises is used not to support individual candidates’ campaigns, but instead to fund the work done by coalition members to get out the women’s vote.
And why is it important to get out the women’s vote? Research shows that the biggest segment of nonvoters in the last national election were unmarried women. There were 22 million of them! And polls show that these women tend to describe themselves as liberal and pro-choice. Looks like we know where the target should be in upcoming elections.
Newman also reported on recent programs of the Coalition Against the War on Women, which is working to defeat legislation proposed by the governor to limit a woman’s access to emergency contraception. Women’s Voices is one of 22 members of this coalition.
For more good information on women’s voting trends at the national level, go to Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
December 8, 2005
spoke passionately about her quest to advocate for a new stem call technology called somatic cell nuclear transfer
(SCNT.) A small band of ardent, progressive members of Women’s Voices braved snow and cold to hear Cynthia’s inspiring and informative talk. Even though the technology does NOT use a fertilized egg in the procedure, because the nuclei of the recipient’s egg and a donor’s egg are exchanged, and the new cell contains 46 chromosomes, opponents counter that, by their definition, this equals “life” even though the new eggs never leave the Petri dish.The term “embryonic” cell is used because it comes from an egg which has not yet been “programmed” for a certain function in the body, and thus can become anything. They are NOT fertilized eggs.Last session, Missouri Senator Bartle introduced a bill which could issue a 15 year penalty on any researcher, doctor, or patient utilizing SCNT. The bill did not make it to the floor, but it could be reintroduced in the new session beginning in January.Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice has joined the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures
In other business, The Education Focus Group is seeking those interested in volunteering time in a Wyman School classroom. They also ask that we each bring some kind of school supplies to each meeting which will then be utilized by the students and teachers at Wyman School.
Ruth Ann Cioci reported that she and Joanne Kelly attended a summit meeting of environmental groups around the state in Columbia. The assembled group decided on priorities to be pursued in the upcoming session of the legislature.
Joanne Kelly reported that The Missouri Budget Project is continuing to develop facts and an approach to work toward reinstituting some of the Medicaid cuts. They are also on top of an initiative called TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) which has decimated social services in Colorado. The approach gives the false impression that it will hold state spending in check. Amy Blouin says that it is actually “the Hancock bill on steroids.”
November 10, 2005
Our speaker was Diane Sheehan
. She is a founder of progessiveTalk.org
— a grassroots effort to bring progressive talk radio to St. Louis. Sheehan’s compelling story of her search for balanced media coverage in the months following last year’s presidential election was an eye-opener to those in the audience. She told of her despair at the one-sided accounts she found on all major media sources and then her growing appreciation for the in-depth, intelligent discussions she found on Air America radio
, which features such hosts as her idol, Thom Hartman. Hear him at thomhartmann.com
.Although Air America’s programs are now available on over 70 stations across the country, they can only be accessed in St. Louis over the internet. Sheehan and her colleagues are attempting to find a local station willing to air at least some of these progressive programs, to balance the 55 hours a week of right wing radio now available in our area. They have also recently launched a 30-minute program on KDHX, 88.1 FM, called Reality Now. Hosted by Ed Bishop, the show invites prominent journalists and commentators to share their perspectives on the state of today’s media. The show airs on Wednesday nights at 7:00.
October 13, 2005
Speaker Ruth Ehresman
, health policy analyst with the Missouri Budget Project
, discussed the implications of the state’s recent Medicaid cuts. More than 90,000 Missourians, many of them children, elderly, or disabled, lost their coverage as a result of these cuts.
September 20, 2005
Speaker Sylvester Brown
, a metro columnist for the Post Dispatch, applauded our efforts to become involved, as a group of progressive women, in issues of social justice. He encouraged us to reach out to African American women who share our commitment to these issues and reminded us of how powerful we can be when we speak as a group. Two days after this meeting, Brown wrote a
about Women’s Voices.
July 13, 2005
Speaker M’Evie Mead
, statewide director of organizing for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region
, gave us an update on recent threats to women’s reproductive rights in Missouri; offered tips on effective lobbying that would apply to any issue; and led us through some role playing to hone these newly-learned skills.