A Sister Like No Other

Advocate and educator Rosemary Flanigan inducted into Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

Although they were among hundreds of other marchers in 1965, the presence of six women dressed in black floor-length habits and veils marked a turned point in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Never before had Catholic nuns been involved in a national public protest.

Organizers of the march had been denied a permit to demonstrate; however, with courage and conviction, they planned to protest barriers that had been put into place to keep African Americans from voting. The Sisters of Selma, aka the Selma Six, were featured on the front pages of newspapers across the country.

Rosemary Flanigan, Ph.D., a Kansas City native, philosopher, teacher and sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, was one of the six. But that remarkable feat probably isn’t the achievement for which Flanigan is best known. She also has had distinguished careers in education and healthcare.

From 1992 to 2010, Flanigan served as director of Ethics Committee Development and Education at the Center for Practical Bioethics. In that role, she worked to establish ethics committees in hospitals and nursing homes across the country and to educate their members about ethics. That effort established a mechanism that supports patients, their families and healthcare professionals when confronted with making difficult life-and-death decisions. The center created an endowed chair and campaign in her honor.

Before teaching at Fontbonne, Avila and Rockhurst colleges for decades, Flanigan taught high school English in St. Louis and at her alma mater, St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City.

In recognition of Flanigan’s lifetime achievements and contributions, she is one of nine exceptional women from the metropolitan Kansas City area included in the second class of honorees to be recognized in the new Starr Women’s Hall of FameStories of other inductees can be found online.

John G. Carney, president and chief executive officer at the Center for Practical Bioethics, nominated Flanigan for the Hall of Fame. Carney wrote: “Dr. Martin Luther King once said ‘there comes a time when one must take a position that is not safe, politic or popular, but (s)he must take it because it is right.’ Rosemary did, Rosemary does and Rosemary always will.”

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 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 Starr Women’s 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.

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.



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