National news outlets are declaring this to be the Year of the Woman. That’s because more than 255 women ran for major office on Nov. 6, and a heck of a lot of them won. I say: “Congratulations!”
Given the plethora of toxic men that we have endured in high office in recent years, it’s well past time to give women a shot. For Congress, Democratic women won half of their races for more than 95 seats, and Republican women have won 24 percent of their races for 14 seats.
On the local level, I have always been impressed by the number of women who become activists and assume leadership for worthy missions. As a reporter, I have come to know many of them – and they are usually motivated by a cause, rather than a desire for political power.
One of the first women I covered in Webster Groves was Wilhelmina “Billie” Roberts, who was sometimes dismissed as the “little old lady in tennis shoes,” but she was a force to reckon with. In the 1970s, Roberts fought for fair taxes and fair elections. Long before there was an Amendment 1 to address big money in state politics, she promoted campaign finance reform and nearly succeeded.
In the 1980s, women from all over the St. Louis area organized to stop rail shipments of nuclear waste from going by homes, schools and churches. The radioactive debris was from the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
Women from Webster-Kirkwood formed Citizens Against Radioactive Transport (CART). Christa Wissler became their spokesperson. They were able to get the shipments halted for months, so that transportation officials could find ways to make them safer.
In more recent times, women like Kay Drey, Karen Nickel and Dawn Chapman have taken up the battle to clean up an Atomic Age mess left behind in St. Louis County. They formed Just Moms St. Louis in an effort to get dangerous materials from nuclear weapons development removed from our midst.
After years of struggle, the Moms can claim some success. Federal officials have agreed on a clean-up program and the Environmental Protection Agency has announced its plan to remove much of the dangerous material.
Two more groups in our area that are determined to make our lives better – and safer – are Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. Women’s Voices has gone to the state capital to work on any number of social justice issues
Moms Demand Action, which began as one chapter in Webster Groves, has a presence now in the South County-Arnold area and a total of 18 chapters throughout the state of Missouri.
Moms Demand Action was disappointed that the “gun sense” candidates that they endorsed did not fare so well on Nov. 6 in Missouri. Don’t count them out. I have seen the determination of women with a purpose. That’s why every year is the “Year of the Woman.”