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Loud & Clear

February 2024

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Welcome New Members!

Jean Calandrino

Mimi Hirshberg

Keba Jones

Rachel Lydon

Linda Maser

Janice Niehaus

Beatrice Parwatikar

Become a Member!
Donate to WV here!

Up Next

WVR February Program-Origins of the Racial Wealth Gap: Follow the Money

Thurs., Feb. 8, 7 p.m.

Lunch & Learn: Arts at the Forefront of Social Justice

Tues., Feb. 13, noon

Criminal Legal System Reform Task Force

Weds., Feb 14, noon

Racial Justice Film Series: The Right to Read

Fri., Feb. 16, 7 p.m.

Racial Justice Committee

Fri., Feb. 16, , 1 p.m.

Lunch & Learn: Pretrial Detention and the Criminalization of Poverty

Thurs., Feb. 22, noon

Advocacy Committee

Mon., Feb. 26, 1 p.m.

Words from Our President

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Why Study Black History?

While considering how to honor Black History Month, I came across an interesting article by Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Bunch reminds us that although we can learn much about our country by recognizing what we choose to remember, we learn even more by examining what we as a society choose to forget. In this sense, the telling of history, the choices of “forgetting” and “remembering,” are both political acts and critical social justice issues. Events, policies and people omitted from the national story often provide the backdrop to our current political and societal conflicts. When they are included in the narrative, previously “forgotten” history can give us context, perspective, and hope. When we know what has come before, we can imagine what might be possible now and in the future. 

The African American experience continues to be a target for those whose aim is to suppress the truth about our society’s past. Book banning, curriculum control, and attacks on historical correctives like The 1619 Project all reflect the desire to maintain the existing unequal power structure. Challenging these attempts to deny history makes learning Black history especially important. 

Other equally significant reasons to know the history of African Americans include: 1) placing Black people and their experience in the central role they actually played within the American story, 2) dismantling the negative stereotypes that have often represented African American lives, 3) confronting racial discrimination by offering the true story of Black achievement and contribution that is “accessible and meaningful to the broader White community,” and 4) providing inspiration to those who continue to struggle for racial justice. 

There are many initiatives you can support in our community working to bring Black history to the forefront. These include The African American History Initiative at the Missouri Historical Society, the Griot Museum, the St. Louis Black Heritage Network, the Reparative Justice Coalition of St. Louis, and many others. As James Baldwin wrote, “The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” 

As we celebrate Black History Month, I invite you to include honoring and protecting Black history in your social and racial justice work.

~ Liz Sondhaus

Update on Fight for Reproductive Freedom in Missouri

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Missourians for Constitutional Freedom (MCF), a coalition of abortion rights advocates in Missouri, has formally launched a campaign to pass a constitutional amendment restoring a right to abortion in the state. The coalition will now move forward to begin collecting signatures for Missouri's Constitutional Amendment to Article I, Relating to Reproductive Health Care, version 10 2024-086 (Version 086). 

Learn how to take action with the campaign and be among the first to sign the petition to end Missouri’s abortion ban:

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom Launch Party: St. Louis

Tuesday, February 6, 6-7:30 p.m.

Read more and register here.

In accordance with the previously approved position paper on reproductive justice, the Women's Voices Board of Directors formally endorsed the Version 086 amendment at the January 25 board meeting.

Visit our website for more information and updates.

Caucus Confusion?

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In 2022, Republican Governor Mike Parson signed HB 1878, which eliminated Missouri’s state-run presidential preference primary elections and designated a party-run system for choosing presidential nominees. Each party will oversee their own nominating process.

For more detailed information on each party’s plans, visit:

Support and Serve

Women’s Voices is a member-driven organization and we rely on volunteers and donations to achieve our mission. We will be sharing opportunities to support and serve the organization each month in this column.

Serve: We are looking for volunteers with interest and or experience to join our Fundraising Committee. The committee will meet every other month to create and execute an annual work plan with objectives and strategies to maximize fundraising through annual campaign, grant writing, and major donor stewardship. Time commitment is 3-5 hours/month.

Support: Did you know that you can be a sustaining donor of Women’s Voices? These important contributors donate to Women’s Voices on a monthly schedule. Monthly donations of any size are a very important part of keeping our mission afloat as they allow us to have a steady stream of regular income. 

For more information about either one of these opportunities, please contact Bryna Williams, executive director, at

The Vision of Our Voices

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by Barbara L. Finch

“I don’t want to make sandwiches for the homeless. I want to cure homelessness.”

This statement was uttered almost 20 years ago by Ruth Ann Cioci, one of the founders of Women’s Voices. We (Ruth Ann, Ann Ruger, Joanne Kelly and I) were sitting on Joanne’s front porch in Maplewood having one of our long, deep conversations about what kind of organization we wanted to create.

I was reminded of this at our last meeting when Mark Rank, professor of social welfare at Washington University, talked about his latest book, “The Poverty Paradox.” This was the third time Rank has addressed Women’s Voices about poverty in America. Our challenge: what are we going to do about it?

There are many things that direct service organizations do to help individuals living in poverty. Food pantries, community gardens, back-to-school stores, help with home repair and yes, sandwiches for the homeless are examples of this valuable work. But they don’t solve the underlying problems that lead to poverty in the first place.

There is another kind of valuable work that is not direct service, and this is the kind of work that Women’s Voices is committed to. This is the kind of work that Rank believes is necessary to combat the plague of poverty in America.

The founders of Women’s Voices decided to create an EDUCATION and ADVOCACY organization. We would ask experts in the community to teach us about the causes and effects of so much insidious injustice in this country. Then, armed with facts, data and information, we could advocate for and demand change.

The second part of this equation, advocacy, is hard. Really hard. It’s not fun to call the governor’s office every day or slog to Jefferson City to try to talk to legislators. It’s exhausting to churn out letters to the editor and elected officials. It’s tiring to register people to vote. It’s time-consuming to forge partnerships with like-minded groups. And it’s real work to organize and participate in protests and marches.

This is the kind of work that Women’s Voices was organized to do. We know that we may work our tails off and never see the change we believe we need. And while we know that direct service work is essential, and homeless people need and deserve every sandwich they can get, we would prefer to try to get them shelter and an understanding of their needs in our society.

If this is the kind of work you are interested in, or if you believe it is valuable and necessary, we invite you to join us and support Women’s Voices.

On January 11, Mark Rank reminded us of the quote, often attributed to Margaret Mead, that was central to the founding of this organization: “Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

A lot of things need to be changed. We invite you to help us try.

Time to Shift the Paradigm on Poverty

Mark Rank, Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at Washington University in St. Louis joined us at the January Women’s Voices program to explore and explain a new way of understanding and addressing poverty in America. Based upon his latest book, The Poverty Paradox, Rank discussed the paradigm shift he sees as necessary to changing our thinking about poverty:

  1. Poverty is an issue that affects us all.
  2. Poverty is the result of structural failure at the economic and political levels.
  3. The moral ground to view poverty should be one of injustice, particularly given the resources we have in the US.
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Using examples from his research on the life course risk of poverty, Rank described how a majority of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their lives. He explored the reasons why the United States has some of the highest rates of poverty and inequality among the industrialized countries.

When asked what changes could be made to work toward a sustainable and humane future, where everyone is allowed to reach their full potential and no one is held back or stunted by poverty, Rank suggested individuals organize to advocate and work for:

  • Creation of adequately paying jobs
  • Access to affordable housing
  • Childcare that is accessible and affordable
  • Asset building, for both individuals and communities
  • A public safety net that is both effective and robust
  • Support for more union jobs
  • Controlling executive salaries, so they are not many times greater than the lowest paid employee

Women's Voices Works for Passage of a Clean Slate Act

Clean Slate. Two Words. Our Voices.

Those two words describe bipartisan Clean Slate Legislation that creates an automated process for expunging certain nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies. The automated process would follow the same requirements for eligibility that are contained in current state law on expungements. Crimes such as murder, sex crimes, serious or violent felonies, and hate crimes are NOT eligible. 

Those two words also describe an opportunity for Women’s Voices members to put our mission of working for social justice into action through advocacy. Two excellent and identical Clean Slate bills have been introduced in the MO State Senate by Senator Brian Williams (D) (SB 763) and Senator Curtis Trent (R) (SB 1161). Representatives Phil Christofanelli (R) (HB 2108) and Justin Hicks (R) (HB 2555) have introduced other versions in the MO House of Representatives.

Lawmakers will read and vote on hundreds of bills this session, so they need to hear from us on policy issues we care about. PLEASE, call your representative and senator and simply ask if she/he is aware of SB 763 or SB 1161 and tell them that you support it. An email is fine, a phone call or written letter is better, and of course, an in-person visit is ideal. Imagine the interest that will be created among St. Louis area legislators if 500+ constituents make those simple one-minute calls! Look up your legislators here.

The Criminal Legal System Reform (CLSR) Task Force of the Racial Justice Committee has been following this initiative for three years. We have noted in our previous Loud & Clear articles that a criminal record can mean a lifetime of blocked opportunity, and that it is a major driver of poverty and racial inequality. More than 500,000 Missourians are currently eligible for expungement of their criminal records, but due to Missouri’s expensive, drawn-out petition process, only about 1% successfully obtain one each year. 

We have set out the reasons we believe Clean Slate legislation is smart on crime, makes good business sense, and will boost local and state economies. Most of all, it is about fairness. We believe everyone who qualifies should get the “clean slate” they’ve earned. Call now! 

Read more about our work on Clean Slate here.

Why We Celebrate Black History Month

by Anne Litwin

Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice celebrates Black History Month 2024. We agree that the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans are rich and varied, and often unknown or unacknowledged. Black History Month is a time when there are increased opportunities to learn about Black history, life and culture which can enrich all of our lives.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. explains that, in 1926, Carter G. Woodson developed the idea of Black History Week for promoting the achievements of African Americans. Woodson, the son of former slaves who became the second African American to earn a PhD from Harvard University, recognized the importance of celebrating African American accomplishments and history on both an annual and on a national scale. Black History Week eventually became Black History Month in 1976. 

Here are some amazing, and previously forgotten, African American women you should know about:

Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831–1895) earned her medical degree from the New England Female Medical College in 1864. After graduation, she worked as a medical doctor for the Freedmen's Bureau, an agency created by Congress during Reconstruction to provide services for emancipated slaves. From her house in Boston she treated mostly women and children, regardless of their ability to pay. 

Lillian Harris Dean (1870–1929) drifted into New York City from Mississippi in 1901 after the end of slavery, penniless. She saved her first five dollars while working as a maid in New York and used it to purchase a used baby carriage, a fifty-nine-cent tin boiler, and a charcoal stove to create the forerunner of the food truck. Dean built a name and a fortune as a culinary and real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist. She died one of the wealthiest women in Harlem with a fortune of about $5.5 million in today’s dollars.

It’s inspiring and enriching to know these stories. Take the opportunity to learn about African American history and culture during the month of February – and beyond!


We have moved! Women's Voices is starting off 2024 in a new location in Webster Hills United Methodist Church. In addition to a new office we also have a variety of other meeting spaces that can be used for board and committee meetings and other programming. Our new address is 698 West Lockwood Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63119, our phone number and all emails remain the same.

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We welcome Jean Calandrino as the new Women’s Voices treasurer. She has a PhD in clinical psychology and a wealth of board experience. We are excited to welcome her to our leadership team.

Origins of the Racial Wealth Gap: Follow the Money

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Thursday February 8, 7 p.m.

In-person program at The Center of Clayton 

50 Gay Ave. 

St. Louis, MO 63105 

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; program begins at 7 p.m. 

Please let us know you're coming here.

The persistence of the Black/White wealth gap has been a major driver of continuing racial inequality. Academics and policy analysts alike point to this stark disparity as the root cause of ongoing social and economic ills plaguing communities of color. Wealth determines access to stable neighborhoods, high quality schools, adequate health care and is a major determinant of political influence and social standing. The most common means of building such wealth is through the acquisition and ownership of property amassed over generations, a means that has been historically denied to African Americans by practices and policies of both the government and private actors in the real estate industry. 

Gwen Moore, curator at the Missouri Historical Society, will examine the historic origins of the racial wealth gap looking more closely at how these policies and practices have played out locally, impeding the building of Black generational wealth.

Lunch & Learn: Arts in the Forefront of Social Justice

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Tuesday, February 13, noon-1 p.m. CST

Virtual event

Read more and register here.

Since the civil rights movements of the 1960s, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have become the touchstones against which to measure the full participation of racial and other minority and/or marginalized people in our political, economic, and cultural institutions.

Renée Brummell Franklin, chief diversity officer of the Saint Louis Art Museum, Nicole Ambos Freber, managing director of advancement at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Emily Kohring, executive director of Bread and Roses Missouri, will talk about their organizations’ efforts to incorporate DEI in all their undertakings, and how this purposeful course has fundamentally changed their organizations and impacted communities around them. They will provide examples of artists’ work, representative operatic selections, and selections of grassroots theatrical presentations that exhibit how DEI in the arts is transforming arts practice and audience participation.

Racial Justice Film Series: The Right to Read

Friday, February 16, 7 p.m.

Eliot Chapel

100 S. Taylor Ave

Kirkwood, MO, 63122

Read more here.

Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice and Eliot Unitarian Chapel present The Right to Read, directed by Jenny Mackenzie. This powerful film tackles this fundamental social justice issue and seeks to answer the question: Why are children not learning to read once they get to school and what can we do to address this profound social problem? This film shows how, by using proven science-based, data-driven approaches, we can solve the problem of low literacy rates together.

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Lunch & Learn: Pretrial Detention and the Criminalization of Poverty

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Thursday, February 22, noon-1 p.m.

Virtual program

Read more and register here.

Insha Raman, vice president for advocacy and partnerships at Vera Institute of Justice and vice president at Vera Action, will join us to share stories from her work on ending mass incarceration and the criminalization of poverty across the country, including in New York, Illinois, Texas, and elsewhere. She will provide some lessons for countering the “tough-on-crime" rhetoric and reactionary backlash that stands in the way of advancing policies that deliver safety and justice for all. 

Women's Voices Members Respond to Injustice!

Kay Park, in her letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says that Missouri legislators are attempting to thwart the will of the people by making it harder to pass ballot initiatives.

Mary Schuman, in her letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, writes that clean slate legislation makes sense. 

Have something to submit for Loud & Clear?

Loud & Clear is the official monthly e-newsletter of Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice and is usually distributed on the first Monday or Tuesday of the month. The general deadline for article submission is the Wednesday prior to publication. Click here to contact editor Laura Rose.

Membership Info

Even if you can’t come to meetings or become personally involved, your membership is important…and greatly appreciated.

Benefits of Membership

When you join Women’s Voices you:

  • Make our voice stronger when we advocate with elected officials.
  • Provide support to the organization by adding your name to our advocacy efforts.
  • Provide ideas and suggestions to help determine how to define our positions and choose our causes.
  • Participate in advocacy activities in any way that you want or is possible for you.
  • Take pride in your affiliation with a strong, progressive group of women working for social justice.
  • Help cover our administrative and outreach costs through your dues.

Annual Dues:

$60 (Regular Membership)

$100 (Silver Level)

$150 (Gold Level)

$20 (Student Membership)

New members join here

Renewing members renew here or

Send a check (payable to Women's Voices) to: 

Women's Voices

698 W. Lockwood Ave.

Saint Louis, MO 63119

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