Volume 9, No. 3 – March 2022
In this issue
• WWHP Board Member Alma Washington Honored by Chicago Federation of Labor

• Tribute to Activist Lillie May Petty

• Eisenstadt v. Baird 50 years later
We mourn the passing of WWHP's vice-president for programming, Helen Ramirez-Odell. She was involved in many aspects of WWHP and other activities. WWHP will honor her in another issue of the newsletter.
Alma Washington named Chicago Federation of Labor
2022 Woman of the Year

by Sue Straus
Photo by Amy Laiken
On Tuesday, March 1, 2022, WWHP’s board member, Alma Washington, accepted the Chicago Federation of Labor 2022 Woman of the Year Award. At the meeting and program held during Women’s History Month, women in labor rights were honored. The program began with opening remarks by Robert G. Reiter, Jr., President of the Chicago Federation of Labor; Salute to Trade Union Women, by Katie Jordan, member of the WWHP board and President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Chicago Chapter; and Introduction of the Woman of the Year by Nora Cay Ryan, from the Chicago Federation of Labor.

“Stand up, speak out, fight back!” —Alma Washington  

Alma made her way to the podium to a standing ovation, and graciously accepted the award. 

She addressed the audience and spoke with pride about being part of the union family and her involvement as a teacher, actor and playwright. She was very proud to have the opportunity of writing of a play honoring Rev. Addie Wyatt for WWHP, and being able to have Rev. Wyatt and her family be in the audience at a performance of the play.

Alma also spoke of her life-long admiration of Lucy Parsons, who Alma also wrote a play about, and the honor she felt of portraying Parsons, who was much more than her husband, Albert’s, widow. Alma said one of her missions was to flesh out Lucy and other women, and have the stories of these inspirational women come alive to the audience.

Alma is an active member of Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and works to bring livable working conditions for actors into reality. WWHP congratulates one of our own—Alma Washington!
Remembering Lillie Petty (1945-2022)

by Amy Laiken
Photo courtesy of SEIU Local 880.
Lillie Petty, a longtime Chicago labor and community activist, passed away on February 22, 2022. 

In 1984, Lillie Petty was a personal care attendant with the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services, when she was approached by a union organizer. She quickly became a member of Local 880, (now SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana), and became involved in an ultimately successful decades-long fight to gain collective bargaining rights for home care workers. 

As a board member of the now-defunct ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), Ms. Petty fought against discriminatory policies of some insurance companies, citing in her congressional testimony in 1993 an ACORN study that revealed such discrimination against Black neighborhoods. The previous year she campaigned to push Avondale Bank to adopt more favorable lending practices in the Black community, and negotiated a lending agreement with the Bank.

According to the Chicago Defender Digital Daily, homecare workers today have increased wages, health insurance, and other benefits, at least in part, because of Lillie Petty’s activism. 

Lillie Petty will long be remembered by her union, as well as her surviving family members, as having lived her life advocating for social justice for communities and workers who too often were underserved and underrepresented.  

For more information about Ms. Petty, click on:

The 50th Anniversary of Eisenstadt v. Baird 
by Amy Laiken
March 22, 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Eisenstadt v. Baird. This Supreme Court ruling held that single people had the same right to contraceptives that married couples gained in a 1965 decision by the high court. In recent years, however, there have been some efforts to limit, rather than expand, access to birth control in addition to measures to do the same with abortion.

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, individual states, and sometimes the federal government, have either curtailed reproductive rights or attempted to do so. According to press releases from Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, in February of this year Gov. Mike Parson signed a supplemental budget bill that attempts to “defund” Planned Parenthood by preventing Medicaid patients from accessing care at its health centers. A previous attempt was ruled unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court, as federal Medicaid Law permits recipients to receive care from any provider they choose. Planned Parenthood fought back by suing Gov. Parson over his recent decision. 

During the administration of former President Trump, there were directives to hamper family planning programs by issuing regulations that forced some health centers to choose between receiving funds from the Title X Program (which provides federal money for family planning), or continuing to provide referrals for abortions in addition to family planning services. According to an October 21,2021 article in the Washington Post by Amy Goldstein, about one in four health centers decided to forgo Title X funds rather than comply with the regulations. 

Recently, the Biden administration rolled back those rules in the fall of 2021, enabling family planning clinics to continue receiving Title X money even if they make abortion referrals. These recent examples show us that we need to be vigilant to ensure that equal access to contraception and other types of health care become and remain a reality.

On the 45th anniversary of the Eisenstadt decision, WWHP featured a newsletter article describing the events leading up to it.

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Working Women's History Project

Please contact us through Amy Laiken