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UU Women’s Federation Report, General Assembly 2014

General Assembly 2014 Event 434

This report is part of a longer event. Go to General Session VI for the complete video and order of business.


THE MODERATOR: The UU Women's Federation is an organization that advances justice for women. The UUWF is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation, and one of our associate member organizations of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The UUWF was formed in 1963 through consolidation of the Association of Universalist Women, which was founded in 1869—and believed to be the first organization of lay church women in the United States—and the alliance of Unitarian Women founded in 1890. Please welcome Kirstie Lewis, President of the UU Women's Federation.

KIRSTIE LEWIS: Hello. I begin my first General Assembly report as President of the UUWF, Women's Federation, by reminding you again of our mission, which is advancing justice for women, and for girls, and supporting their spiritual growth. So, you might ask, how do we implement that mission? Certainly through our three funding programs, but education and advocacy also comprise a major portion of the UUWF's work.

In 2002, for example, we founded the UUWF Clara Barton Internship for Women's Issues in the UUA's Washington Center. Jessica Halperin—who was the intern when the General Assembly adopted the 2012 to 2016 Reproductive Justice Study Action Issue—helped call UUs to action on this issue, by both assembling the congregational resource packet, and writing a fantastic curriculum on reproductive justice. We are proud of Jessica's work.

Hanna Christianson is our current intern. She continues the work of providing resources and opportunities for congregations and their leaders to advocate for justice and issues specific to women.

This aspect of our work assumed an exciting new dimension last fall with the appointment of Reverend Marti Keller as our affiliated minister. We see her ministry as parallel to the UUA's Congregations and Beyond initiative, which refocuses the UUA as both an association of congregations, and the epicenter of a liberal religious movement. While our affiliated ministry benefits our traditional members in congregations, it extends beyond the congregations to embrace many other women who identify as UUs and see themselves as participating in the UU movement, but may not belong to a congregation.

The legislative part of Reverend Keller's ministry addresses UUWF's key public policy priorities. She works with the UUA and other partner organizations in public witness and grassroots organizing around reproductive justice, immigration reform, economic justice, domestic violence, and sex trafficking, as these issues impact women and girls. Her weekly blog on our website keeps us up to date on those issues. And Reverend Keller also provides valuable advice to our leadership on advocacy initiatives. I highly recommend Marti's blogs. This includes recommendations to sign onto Amicus briefs—statements either in support or in opposition to legislation—and letters to Congressional Representatives.

Another goal of Reverend Keller's ministry references doctor Cynthia Grant Tucker's groundbreaking book, Prophetic Sisterhood, the story of the mid 19th century female Unitarian ministers who became the voice of liberal religion in the Midwest. Reverend Keller seeks to create a new prophetic sisterhood among ordained and fellowship UU women ministers, whom she envisions as supporting her ministry's other goals, and participating in a new demographic study of women in UU ministry today.

Reverend Keller's proactive professional connections with UU seminaries and theological schools, as well as with organizations such as UUMA, LREDA and DRUUMM, and with her UUA staff colleagues, will also deep in the work of the Federation's three funding programs. So what are those, what are these three programs? Well, our Equity and Justice Grants Program awards funds to UU congregations and organizations to support justice projects that improve the lives of women and girls, and address the root causes of gender oppression.

At this GA, in fact, just a couple of hours ago, we're proud to highlight the Amigas de Amado Project, a project that received our Equity and Justice Grant in 2012. Women from the UU congregation of Green Valley, Arizona, have been using their $5,000 grant for activities that help empower marginalized Hispanic women and girls in their congregation's home community of Amado.

Their work there has included hosting craft and art workshops as a venue in which self-esteem issues were addressed, assisting at local youth centers, after school homework sessions critical to young girls who may not have English speaking parents or guardians in their homes, and teaching English as a second language in both formal classes and as part of their activities. I'm going to correct myself, they're teaching English as another language, not necessarily as a second language.

Especially rewarding has been the relationship the UU women have established with the local Hispanic church in the area, where they are helping the congregation renovate a camp for their children.

So our second funding program is called the Margaret Fuller Grants Program. It supports UU women doing scholarly and accessible work in UU religious feminisms. Here in Providence, we featured Reverend Susanne Nazian's funded project, a book about the Women's Congress, an event which was held in conjunction with the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. A significant number of Unitarian and Universalist women helped plan and participated in the Congress, and Reverend Nazian's book will partially focus on the concepts and ideas these women put forward, and how their contributions reflect a feminist theology from a UU perspective in 1893.

Our third finding program is named for the late Reverend Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley. And it gives scholarships for general support to individuals who identify as women of color, Latina, or Hispanic, and who are either aspirants or candidates for the UU ministry, or are enrolled in the UUA's religious education, or music leadership credentialing programs. Since creating this program in 2009, we had given scholarships to a dozen women. And this year's recipient, Ranwa Hammamy, is a candidate for the Ministry at Union Theological Seminary.

In closing, none of what I've spoken to you about today would even be possible without the financial support of our members, and the generous amounts of time and energy our volunteers contribute, and our long history since starting in 1869, but 1963 as a combined group. If you aren't a member of the UUWF, there's still time for you to join by visiting our booth in the display area. Or, if you miss our booth, visit our website and click on Donate and Join buttons, and we'll be happy to get in touch with you.

Thank you again, go to

Thank you.

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