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Fearless Voices - Mothers Who Spoke Up in 2006

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Maybe it is my own growing awareness, but, it seems to me, that 2006 was the year mothers spoke up louder than ever before. There are four mothers this year who have especially stayed on my mind for their voices, fearlessness and strength.

Kiki Peppard, with the help of, through the blogs, message boards, and online petitions, delivered thousands of letters, emails and signatures to lawmakers in Harrisburg, PA in the last couple months alone. Getting closer to her goal of passing into law legislation that would make it illegal in Pennsylvania to discriminate against mothers in hiring, Kiki has waged a tireless fight, never giving up and always working a new angle or idea to make her voice heard. This year Kiki's voice was heard wider and louder than ever, with media coverage (most recently NPR's All Things Considered), internet buzz and a front and center role in the documentary "The MotherHood Manifesto," and book of the same name, by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. Kiki's bills did not make it out of committee, again, but with the momentum she has behind her, 2007 is sure to be Kiki's year.

The results of the 2006 mid-term election, for me, are forever linked with Denise Johnson, an Acorn organizer in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. Denise gave up her counter job at McDonalds for the $8-an-hour position with Acorn, doing GOTV canvassing. Denise took the job, in part because she wanted to help her struggling community, but mostly because she wanted to show her children her strength. The day after the mid-term election, I can only imagine how proud Denise felt, and how proud her children were of her, because they knew their mother made a difference -- and that she was one of the reasons Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the rest of the country were able to make such a significant change in our country's future.

Beth Osnes, co- founder of Mothers Acting Up, gets the award for organizing the most original political marches ever - mothers wearing stilts, dressed as suffragettes. Driven by the overwhelming health, education and safety needs of children everywhere Beth sums up Mothers Acting Up's mission with this rallying cry:Let us whisper this to each other,sing it out in the streets,yell it from our rooftops,declare it in our houses of government:we will protect our children with ourpersonal and political strength, wherever they live on earth!

Lurline Cadogan, executive director of The Gulf Coast Connection in Pittsburgh, PA, is a force of nature.As the founder of the first known association of Gulf Coast evacuees in any U.S. city, Lurline (a mother and a grandmother who evacuated her own family from New Orleans) has banded together the 200 displaced citizens of the Gulf states who have found a home in Pittsburgh and has given them the one thing they need most: each other. In regular meetings, parties and outings, Lurline and her group share job leads, help find furniture and clothes, and tell each other it is going to be OK. Lurline, a person something like Katrina will never stop, is working to set up a similar groups in Philadelphia and other major cities.

Thank you Kiki, Denise, Beth and Lurline for all you have given me to think about and be inspired by this year, and I can't wait to see what you do in 2007.

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