Starr Women’s Hall of Fame Inducts New Class

Hall honors Kansas City’s greatest women, past and present

A new group of extraordinary women, past and present, who have made their mark on the greater Kansas City community have been named to the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame.

The hall was created to honor women who have made Kansas City a better place, said Debby Ballard, co-chair of the hall of fame planning committee, and the nine women in the hall class of 2017 have clearly done so.

“These women represent another class of remarkable women whose stories will be preserved for those that will come after, to learn from their good work and inspire the next generation of leaders to dream big and not fear the impossible,” Ballard said.

The new inductees are:

  • Sarah Coates (deceased), who sheltered wounded soldiers in her home during the Civil War and led the formation of nine different women’s associations, including the 1870 formation of the WCA (Women’s Christian Association)
  • Alice Berry Graham and Dr. Katharine Berry Richardson (deceased), founders in 1897 of Children’s Mercy Hospital
  • Lucile Bluford (deceased), Civil Rights pioneer and nationally recognized reporter, editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call newspaper
  • Mary Shaw “Shawsie” Branton (deceased), co-founder of the first nursery school for children with disabilities, now known as Children’s TLC
  • Rosemary Flanigan, Ph.D., a leader in education and health care, and one of the “Sisters of Selma” who joined the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States
  • Mary Kay McPhee, community volunteer for more than 55 years, serving on more than 90 national, state and local boards and organizations, and co-founder of the Good Samaritan Project, the first nonprofit in Kansas City to provide assistance and support to AIDS patients
  • Yvonne S. Wilson, whose 35 years as an education professional included service as President of the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals, and represented her community in the Missouri General Assembly
  • SuEllen Fried, co-author of three books on bullying, founder of BullySafe USA and nationally acclaimed expert in systemic transformation of human behavior through research-based programs and legislation

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women and preserving the history of their accomplishments. These women are social reformers, volunteers, philanthropists, civic leaders, activists and educators. They are neighborhood leaders and grassroots organizers, from yesterday and today, both famous and unsung. They are movers and shakers whose tireless commitment to community has made Kansas City a better place to live. The Hall of Fame is a repository for their legacies. By sharing their stories, the Hall of Fame encourages and inspires women everywhere.

A permanent display honoring Hall of Fame members is now open to the public on the third floor of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The display currently includes memorabilia and information about the contributions of the inaugural class of inductees. The library is at 800 E. 51 St., Kansas City, Missouri.

The Hall is named in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, a legendary activist and philanthropist who blazed a trail for family issues and women’s rights. The hall of fame is made possible through the Starr Education Committee, Martha Jane Starr’s family and the Starr Field of Interest Fund, which was established upon her death through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The idea for the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame stemmed from Starr Education Committee members.

Seven women were inducted into the hall of fame in March of 2015 as the inaugural class: Marjorie Powell Allen, the first woman to chair the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation;  Kay Barnes, the first woman mayor of Kansas City; Myra J. Christopher, founding director of the Center for Practical Bioethics;  Adele Hall, civic leader committed to helping children and families; Shirley Bush Helzberg, civic leader, educator and businesswoman; Dorothy H. Johnson, journalist, researcher and social scientist; and Martha Jane Phillips Starr, philanthropist and community activist.

Additional information on the Hall is available at

The civic organizations that advocate on behalf of women and family issues and have signed on in support of the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame include: American Association of University Women, American Business Women’s Association, Central Exchange, CBIZ Women’s Advantage, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri, Greater Kansas City Chamber’s Executive Women’s Leadership Council, Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus, Jackson County Missouri Chapter of the Links, Inc.; Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri; KC Metro Latinas, Kansas City Athenaeum, Kansas City Young Matrons, National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, OneKC for Women, SkillBuilders Fund, Soroptimist International of Kansas City, Soroptimist Kansas City Foundation, UMKC, UMKC Women’s Center, UMKC Women’s Council, UMKC Women of Color Leadership Conference, WIN for KC, win|win, Women’s Foundation, Women’s Public Service Network, Zonta International District 7 and Zonta Club of KC II.


  • Recent UMKC News

    UMKC Theatre presents ‘King Lear’

    Eight events you have to see We are Kansas City’s … Read more

    A Special Calling

    Q&A with Angelique Long, whose disabilities have inspired a life … Read more

    Seven Things to do this Weekend

    Don’t miss these top events We are Kansas City’s university, … Read more