January- Inspiring Women - Mary's Pence

News & Events  |  Inspiring Women 2020

January- Inspiring Women

Habon of NOW speaks to group at meeting.

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Women Organizing Women Network (WOW Network)

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Empowering East African women to assert their political voice.

East African women immigrants commonly face challenges as a result of societal bias and stereotypes within their own communities. WOW Network responds to these challenges by inspiring East African women to become engaged citizens and community leaders.

One example is WOW Network’s Voter Education Program, which educates women about how their vote can bring change to issues that matter to them most. WOW Network also offers training in financial literacy, voting rights and political engagement. WOW Network’s quarterly Bashaal social events gather women of diverse backgrounds to share ideas and build community.

Calendar of Women – January 2020

1 | Day of Prayer for Peace

Pray for peace in our hearts, our homes, our communities, our country and our world.

Mary of Nazareth: God Bearer. Each of us is asked to bear the peace and love of Christ to the world.

2 | Sadie Alexander

(b.1/2/1898 d.11/1/1989)

Sadie Alexander was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. in economics in the United States (1921). She was also the first woman to earn a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the first black woman to practice law in Pennsylvania. Alexander focused her career on racial and economic justice for the working class.

3 |Bella Abzug

(b.7/24/1920 d.3/31/1998)

Bella Abzug was a leading liberal activist and politician, especially known for her advocacy for women’s rights. She graduated from Columbia University’s law school in 1944 and became involved the antinuclear peace movement. In the 1960s, she helped organize the Women’s Strike for Peace and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Seeking a greater impact, Abzurg ran for and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York. As a member of Congress, she continued to advocate for women’s rights and the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. Abzug left Congress in 1977, but continued to lend her efforts toward many causes, including the establishment the Women’s Environmental Development Organization.

4 |St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton

(b.8/2/1774 d.1/4/1821)

Elizabeth Ann Seton, S.C. was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church (September 14, 1975). She established the first Catholic girls’ school in the nation in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she also founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity.

At age 19, Elizabeth Ann Bayley married William Seton. The couple experienced financial hardship, the stress of which exacerbated William’s tuberculosis. A doctor suggested that William spend time in Italy because of its favorable climate, where the latter died. While in Italy, Elizabeth became acquainted with Roman Catholicism through her hosts, and converted to the faith. Upon returning to the United States, in order to support herself and her children, Seton began an academy for young ladies, as was common for widows of social standing in that period. After news of her conversion to Catholicism spread, however, many parents withdrew their daughters from her tutelage. Elizabeth contemplated moving to Canada, which had a larger Catholic community. However, an order of priests, the Sulpicians, recruited her to begin a school for Catholic immigrants. This was the beginning of the parochial school system in the US. The group of women who began the school in Emmitsburg, Maryland took vows and became the Sisters of Charity.

5 | Sonia Sotomayor


Sonia Sotomayor has served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since August 2009. She has the distinction of being its first Latina justice, as well as being the third female justice. Justice Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican descent, raised by her mother following the untimely death of her father. Sotomayor aspired to the bar from an early age. She attended Princeton on full scholarship, graduating summa cum laude. She then attended Yale Law School on full scholarship as well and received her JD. Sotomayor began her legal career as an assistant district attorney in New York. She has held several federal appointments culminating in her appointment to the Supreme Court in 2009. She is the author of a memoir titled My Beloved World.

6 | Charlotte Ray

(b.1/13/1850 d.1/4/1911)

Charlotte Ray was the first Black woman attorney in the United States. She graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1872, and was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar. Later, she became the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. The racial and gender biases of the time made a career in law financially unsustainable for her, so Ray became a teacher. She also became involved in the National Association of Colored Women.

7 | St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes

(b.1/7/1844 d.4/16/1879)

Bernadette Soubirous was the daughter of a poor miller from Lourdes, France and a witness to Marian apparitions. The apparition asked that a chapel be built at a nearby garbage dump. This site would become the grotto of Lourdes, said to be a place of healing. Each year several million pilgrims visit Lourdes seeking healing.

8 | Emily Greene Balch

(b.1/8/1867 d.1/9/1967)

Emily Greene Balch was an American economist, sociologist and pacifist. Balch studied at various universities in the U.S., Germany and France and joined the faculty of Wellesley College in 1896. Deeply interested in social issues, Balch collaborated with Jane Addams of Chicago and joined the peace movement at the start of World War I. She became a central leader of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), based in Switzerland. Balch received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.

9 | Rigoberta Menchú


Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a K’iche’ political activist from Guatemala. She became prominent in the women’s rights movement as a teenager. She joined the Committee of the Peasant Union in 1979, teaching herself Spanish and additional Mayan languages in order to play a prominent role in its strikes and demonstrations. In 1981 she was forced to flee to Mexico, where she continued to organize resistance to oppression in her home country and promote indigenous rights. Menchú brought international attention to the Guatemalan Civil war through her testimonial biography, I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983). She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.

10 | Gabriela Mistral

(b.4/7/1889 d.1/10/1957)

Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, was the first Latin American author to receive a Noble Prize in Literature (1945). She began writing poetry while working as a teacher’s aide. Mistral was nominated at a young age to a post in the Chilean ministry of education, but was shunned for her humble background and chose to take on a similar job in Mexico instead. While primarily known for her literary career, Mistral was also a diplomat for many years and represented Chile for the League of Nations.

11 | We remember the women brought out of Africa into slavery who were baptized against their will.

12 | Sr. Dianna Ortiz


On November 2, 1989, while serving as a missionary in Antigua, Guatemala, Sr. Dianna Ortiz was kidnapped by the Guatemalan military. For 24 hours she was tortured and raped. Since then she has attempted to raise concern about the plight of victims of abduction and torture by speaking about her ordeal. In 1998, she founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC), which provides support to survivors, especially those in the United States.

13 | Anne Reynolds

(b.1/13/1934 d.3/0/2004)

Anne Reynolds assisted Catholic parents of LGBT children by encouraging them to give their children unconditional love. Anne helped create conferences to educate youth, professionals and the public, and worked with the Catholic Parents Network to assist parents. She wrote letters to publications and to pastors, assisted PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and was always available to speak with individuals.

14 | Sr. Theresa Maxis

(b.1810 d.1892)

Sr. Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin holds a unique place in Black Catholic history. She helped found two religious communities, one for white women and the other for Black women, and served as the leader of both.

In 1831, when a cholera epidemic struck Baltimore, the Oblates (the Black order Theresa had founded) helped nurse the sick. While the city fathers publicly thanked the white sisters for their service, they ignored the Oblates altogether. During the 1840’s, the community experienced a major crisis as ecclesiastical authorities tried to disband it. At that time Theresa, who was seven-eighths white, seems to have made a decision to no longer identify with her black heritage and left the Oblates. Soon thereafter she met a young Belgian priest named Louis Florent Gillet, who was looking for sisters to teach in Monroe, Michigan.

In November 1845, Sister Theresa and Father Gillet founded the Sisters of Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (I.H.M.). She became the first Mother Superior. Over the next decade, the Sisters opened several schools and orphanages in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Doing so angered Detroit’s Bishop, Peter Paul Lefevre, who knew about Mother Theresa’s racial background and was prejudiced against her. Lefevre used his authority to depose her and she became an exile without a community. Mother Theresa was forced to take refuge in Canada with the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. She lived with them for nearly twenty years, but never stopped considering herself a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In 1885, Bishop James Wood of Philadelphia lifted the ban, and at age seventy-five, Mother Theresa was allowed to return to the community she had founded.

15 | Etty Hillesum

(b.1/15/14 d.1/30/1943)

Etty Hillesum was the author of confessional letters and diaries which describe both her religious awakening and the persecutions of Jewish people in Amsterdam during the German occupation. Her diaries record the increasing anti-Jewish measures imposed by the occupying German army, and the growing uncertainty about the fate of fellow Jews who had been deported by them. As well as forming a record of oppression, her diaries describe her spiritual development and deepening faith in God. Hillesum addressed God repeatedly in her diaries, regarding him not as a savior, but as a power we must nurture inside of ourselves: “Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us, but we must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last.” In 1943 she was deported and killed in Auschwitz concentration camp. Etty is the author of An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum.

16 | Dian Fossey

(b.1/16/1932 d.12/26/1985)

Dian Fossey was an American zoologist, primatologist and anthropologist who undertook an extensive study of mountain gorilla groups over a period of 18 years. She studied them daily in the mountain forests of Rwanda. Her 1983 book, Gorillas in the Mist, combines her scientific study of the gorillas at Karisoke Research Center with her own personal story. It was adapted into a 1988 film of the same name. Fossey was murdered in 1985; the case remains open. During her time in Rwanda, she actively supported conservation efforts and strongly opposed poaching and tourism in wildlife habitats. It has been theorized that her murder was linked to her conservation efforts.

17 | Martha Cotera


Martha P. Cotera is a writer and influential activist of both the Chicano Civil Rights Movement and the Chicana Feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Her two most notable works are Diosa y Hembra: The History and Heritage of Chicanas in the U.S. and The Chicana Feminist. Cotera was one of six women featured in a documentary, Las Mujeres de la Caucus Chicana, which recounts the experiences of some of the Chicana participants of the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas.

18 | Coretta Scott King

(b.4/27/27 d.1/30/2006)

Coretta Scott King, was an American author, activist and civil rights leader and the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was an active advocate for racial equality, playing a prominent role in the years after her husband’s 1968 assassination when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the women’s movement. Coretta founded the King Center and sought to make Martin’s birthday a national holiday. She finally succeeded when Ronald Reagan signed legislation to establish Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. She later broadened her scope to include opposition to apartheid and advocacy for LGBT rights. King became friends with many politicians before and after Martin Luther King’s death, most notably John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy.

19 | Mourning Dove

(b.1888 d.8/8/2016)

Mourning Dove is the literary name chosen by Christine Quintasket, a member of the Colville Confederate Tribes. Mourning Dove earned her living most of her adult life as a migrant worker, picking fruits and vegetables by day and writing in her camp tent at night. She is known for being an ethnographer, orator, pamphleteer, teacher and novelist. She believed that her description and analysis of indigenous American culture would ensure better treatment for her people.

20 | Victims of Domestic Abuse

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. (National Domestic Violence Hotline)

21 | Sophia Jex-Blake

(b.1/21/1840 d.1/17/1912)

Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake was an English physician, teacher and feminist. She led the campaign to secure women access to a University education when she and six other women, collectively known as the Edinburgh Seven, began studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1869. She was the first practicing female doctor in Scotland, a leading campaigner for medical education for women and was involved in founding two medical schools for women in London.

22 | Hildegard Goss-Mayr


Hildegard Goss-Mayr is a nonviolent activist. She and her husband lobbied for the recognition of the conscientious objection by the Roman Catholic Church during the Second Vatican Council. In the 1960s/70s, they lived and worked for some time in South America, training groups in active nonviolence and helping in the creation of Servicio Paz y Justicia, a Latin American human rights NGO. They trained others groups in active nonviolence in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. They participated in the preparation of the People Power Revolution in Philippines in 1986.

23 | Gertrude Elion

(b.1/23/1918 d.2/21/1999)

Gertrude Elion was an American biochemist and pharmacologist who shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with George H. Hitchings and Sir James Black. Working alone as well as with Hitchings and Black, Elion developed a multitude of new drugs, using innovative research methods that would later lead to the development of the AIDS drug AZT. She developed the first immunosuppressive drug, azathioprine, used for organ transplants.

24 | Maria Tallchief

(b.1/24/1925 d.4/11/2013)

Maria Tallchief was born in Oklahoma to a Scotch/Irish mother and a father who was a member of the Osage Nation. She began ballet classes at only 3 years old, and her family moved to Los Angeles soon after to further her opportunities. At 17, she moved alone to New York City and became the star of the New York City Ballet in 1946, popularizing the dance form. Tallchief was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received a National Medal of Arts. In 1996, Tallchief received a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievements.

25 | Sandra Ware

(b.4/27/1954 d.1/25/1997)

Sandra Ware founded Mary’s Pence grantee “Let’s Start,” which offers assistance to women after they are released from prison in St. Louis. A native of St. Louis, she grew up in Pruitt-Igo, the notorious public housing high rise. Sandra spent 17 years in and out of the Missouri prison system. Poorly educated but intelligent and insightful, she was able to turn her life around with the help of Jackie Tobin, SSND and the other women of “Let’s Start”.

26 | Angela Davis


Angela Davis is an American political activist, academic scholar and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. She co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She was a professor (now retired) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in its History of Consciousness Department and a former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department.

27 | St. Angela Merici

(b.3/21/1474 d.1/27/1540)

St. Angela Merici founded the Company of St. Ursula in 1535 in Brescia, Italy. Women in the organization dedicated their lives to serving the Church by educating girls. Aside from being the first teaching order of women religious, it was also unique in that members remained in their own homes.

28 | We Honor Women Theologians

29 | Sr. Kaye Ashe

(b.1/29/30 d.2/15/2014)

Sr. Kaye Ashe served as the first board president of Mary’s Pence. A leader in justice and religious organizations, she challenged and encouraged those in the Catholic faith community and beyond to seek out common ground and fight against injustice. She was especially passionate about issues of sexism and racism as well as women’s involvement in the Roman Catholic Church.

30 | Sr. Ritamary Bradley

(b.1/30/16 d.3/20/2000)

Sr. Ritamary Bradley, Professor Emeritus at St. Ambrose College, was born in Iowa in 1916. At 17 she entered the Sisters of Humility of Mary of Ottumwa. After college, she taught English at Marycrest College, all the while working during 14 summers for her M.A. and PhD. She explained her choice to specialize in Chaucer as “determined by the fact that women were barred from studying theology and it was only through back doors like medieval literature or general courses like Christian Wisdom that one could obtain a background in theology and philosophy.”

31 | Ludmila Javorová


Ludmila Javorová  is a Czech Roman Catholic woman who worked in the underground church during the time of communist rule in Czechoslovakia and served as a vicar general of a clandestine bishop. She is known for being one of a number of Czech women who underwent an ordination ceremony.

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