Past Programs 2008-2009

May 14, 2009

Annual Meeting – At Left Bank Books

Left Bank Books was closed to the public, but open for WV attendees to browse, buy books and enjoy each other’s company and some light refreshments. Our annual meeting was held, including election of officers and budget approval. Then we enjoyed a short program on independent book stores, and how they’re faring these days.

April 9, 2009

Children’s Eternal Rainforest

Speaker: Rachel Crandell, Monteverde Conservation League

Rachel Crandell, (aka Rainforest Rachel) is a Rainforest Advocate. As president of the Monteverde Conservation League, U.S., Inc. Rachel works to support the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. This project began in 1987 when Swedish school children started a worldwide effort by sending money to Monteverde, Costa Rica, to purchase rainforest and protect its priceless natural treasures forever. To date, children from 44 nations have helped The Children’s Eternal Rainforest become the largest private reserve in Costa Rica – 54,000 + acres. Rachel’s group is committed to protecting this biodiversity, and in preserving more rainforest.

In our April program, Rachel described efforts to save rain forests in Costa Rica and Panama. A beautiful slide show and fascinating discussion of the native peoples, as well as a spectacular display of native art, made us all want to take her eco-tour. For more information on Rachel Crandell, her eco-tours, or purchasing her books or native art, see the Monteverde Conservation League website at Or contact Rachel Crandell: 1128 Weidman Rd, Town & Country, MO 63017; 314-878-8427.

March 12, 2009

Midwestern Innocence Project

Speakers: Jay Swearingen, Tamara Morris, and Darryl Burton

The Midwestern Innocence Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to inmates with a substantial claim of innocence but who cannot afford an attorney to navigate for them the post-conviction landscape. The MIP represents a six-state region: Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa.

Darryl Burton was convicted in St. Louis in March 1985 for murdering a well-known drug dealer – a crime he didn’t commit. Those of you who were unable to attend this program missed a shocking and moving look into Darryl’s experience — how he came to be imprisoned for 24 years for a murder he did not commit and how he was exonerated through his own amazing persistence.

We’ve all heard about such cases, but meeting a real person who has experienced the flawed American criminal justice system was incredible, as was the audience. Joining us were many people who had heard about our meeting through KWMU Radio’s St. Louis on the Air or a KSDK TV interview with Jennifer Blome. One woman came because, in the Blome interview, she heard Burton name her brother as one of the men he knew in prison whom he believes are innocent. Another woman urged us to advocate for financial compensation for those who have been wrongly incarcerated. Missouri provides none. Jay Swearingen, executive director of the Midwestern Innocence Project, explained the work of the organization and revealed how easy it is for innocent people to be wrongly convicted. We should all be very angry that this can happen to any American. For more information on what we can do, visit their website at

February 12, 2009

City Faces

Speaker: Bob Hansman – Artist-in-Residence and Associate Professor, School of Architecture, Washington University

Bob Hansman’s moving and fascinating presentation woke us up to the challenges children in the inner city face every day, including getting enough to eat. Hansman has dedicated his life to helping children in public housing in St. Louis through his City Faces project. The project uses art to help young people learn about problem solving, cooperation, self-evaluation, and long-term planning, while discovering talents they did not know they had.

He gave an eye-witness account of the obstacles that work against disadvantaged youth attending college and achieving success in life: broken families, gangs, police brutality, and poverty. The emotional toll of Hansman’s work was apparent as he showed photos he’s taken of his students over many years and then juxtaposed them with newspaper articles and funeral notices that documented the loss of many promising children to the violence and crime in their environment. What motivates him to continue? “You think you’re going to change these kids’ lives and they change yours,” he said.

Hansman adopted Jovan Hansman, now 27, when Jovan was a one of his students. Jovan now operates Faces in the Loop, on Delmar. This shop is the students’ first venture into managing their own business. At the store, the students sell City Faces portraits and learn important business skills. Most important, they develop a supportive professional alternative to the negative forces that have claimed the lives and futures of many of their friends.

Their pastel works are for sale as originals or posters. You can also commission a customized portrait of yourself or someone special. You can watch a YouTube video about City Faces here:

Hansman’s program is funded out of his own pocket and by a fundraiser hosted by his Washington University students. When asked how Women’s Voices could help him, he indicated that financing the program is a continuing challenge. Women’s Voices made a $150 donation to City Faces. If you would like to make a contribution, send a check payable to “Better Family Life” and enclose a note indicating that your contribution is for City Faces.

Better Family Life
Attention: Darryl Cummings
724 Union Blvd., Suite 301
St. Louis, MO 63108

For his work with City Faces, Bob has received a World of Difference Award from President Clinton’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1996, a Missouri Arts Award, and an award from Colin Powell’s America’s Promise campaign in 1999. He and Jovan were featured in a CBS Evening News with Katie Couric segment in 2007. You can watch the segment here:

January 8, 2009

Health Care: The System We Have And The Change We Want

Speakers: Dr. Abbe Sudvarg and Dr. Sidney Watson

At the monthly Women’s Voices meeting on January 8, Barbara Finch reminded Women’s Voices members of the reason this organization exists: to speak for those who are unable to speak for themselves. Her statement (at the opening of this newsletter) was made in the context of a vibrant discussion on health care reform, which featured two excellent speakers: Abbe Sudvarg, MD, and Sidney Watson, JD. Abbe described the needs at Family Health Center in Holly Hills, where she is associate medical director and family physician. Half of the center’s patients are uninsured, and as the economy worsens the number of uninsured is growing. Sidney, a professor at the St. Louis University School of Law Center for Health Law Studies, described current possibilities for reforming the nation’s unfair and inefficient health system. We were also fortunate to have Amanda Stiebel join the meeting. She spoke about her new book Are We Feeling Better Yet? Women Speak about Health Care in America, a collection of essays by professional writers, which she coedited with Colleen McKee. The book is available at Penultimate Press in St. Louis and should soon be on the shelves of Left Bank Book Store. The book was one of four given to lucky winners of a drawing. The question-answer period was lively.

December 11, 2008

Peace and Awareness

Speaker: Kate Lovelady, Leader – Ethical Society of St. Louis

Women’s Voices members and supporters are active, indeed, and are always interested in learning and engaging in social justice ventures. Our December program we focused on the need for inner peace in order to be more mindful individuals. Kate Lovelady, the leader of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, was our featured speaker. She introduced the concept of mindfulness and talked about how thoughtful reflections and focused awareness can strengthen us as individuals and as activists from the inside out.

November 13, 2008

Shopping for Justice

Once again we got a start on our holiday shopping at Plowsharing Crafts in University City – 6271 Delmar Blvd. in the U-City Loop. The store was open for WV members and guests from 6 – 9pm with light refreshments and the opportunity to support Plowingsharing Crafts in their mission of providing meaningful income to Third World Crafts People by marketing their products in St. Louis. Plowsharing Crafts works with the Ten Thousand Villages and other craft organizations that give jobs and fair pay to people that would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed.

October 9, 2008

Election 2008

Speaker: Repps Hudson

Repps Hudson, well-known St. Louis journalist who is currently teaching a class about elections at Washington University, engaged members of Women’s Voices in a lively dialogue about the upcoming 2008 election at the general membership meeting in October.

This year’s election is difficult to predict because of a number of unusual factors that may influence it, Hudson said. These factors include race, gender and age. In addition, the recent economic turmoil in the world financial markets has somewhat diverted attention away from other critical issues, including health care and the environment. Social issues so prized by conservatives, such as the emphasis on “guns and gays,” abortion and stem cell research, may well take a back seat in this year’s election, Hudson said.

He predicted an unusually large turnout, based upon the number of newly registered voters, and questioned whether polling is completely accurate this year because pollsters do not contact people with cell phones. The majority of younger voters are cell phone users and polls may be skewed because they have not been contacted.

Members posed a number of questions, many dealing with absentee voting, the reliability of voting machines, and the possibility of a vote-by-mail system such as the one in place in the state of Oregon.

September 11, 2008

Focus on East St. Louis

Speakers: Harper Barnes, Ann Collins, and Martha Patterson

East St. Louis, Illinois, is just a few miles from where most of us live. But how much do we really know about our sister city across the River? Do we understand its rich history, its compelling problems, and its promise for its citizens?

Former Post Dispatch editor/reporter Harper Barnes joined us to discuss his critically acclaimed book on the 1917 East St. Louis race riot Never Been A Time, an account of the most deadly of the racial battles that occurred in cities across the country in the World War I era.

Then McKendree University professors Ann Collins and Martha Patterson described an exciting project that pairs McKendree freshmen with East St. Louis Senior High School students. The project connects freshman-level honors students at McKendree with students in a junior-level social studies class at East St. Louis Senior High School in order to engage in discussion of the cultural history–literature, music, history, politics–of East St. Louis.

Professors Collins and Patterson are also setting up a website featuring topics that the classes discuss and oral history interviews conducted by the students.