‘Grace and Elegance While Doing the Unpopular and the Unprecedented’

Photos by Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

Nine Pioneers Inducted Into Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

The event was an inspiring one, a celebration of people who blazed trails and empowered the overlooked and underserved, all of whom happen to be women.

A crowd of 1,000 gathered at a luncheon to honor the second class of the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame. Dedicated in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, it recognized nine leading local women whose contributions have made a lasting impression on Kansas City and beyond.

Inspired by this group of women’s “gumption, elbow grease and stamina,” featured speaker Ashley Judd emotionally and extemporaneously mentioned each of the nine inductees in her talk.

“The women who are being inducted represent grace and elegance while doing the unpopular and the unprecedented,” said Judd, an actor and activist.








The stories of the nine 2017 inductees were told on video:

Sarah Coates

Sarah Coates (deceased), abolitionist 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 Katharine Berry Richardson

Sisters Dr. Alice Berry Graham and Dr. Katharine Berry Richardson (deceased) in 1897 founded Children’s Mercy.

Lucile Bluford

Lucile Bluford (deceased) was a civil rights pioneer and nationally recognized reporter, editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call newspaper.

Mary Shaw “Shawsie” Branton

Mary Shaw “Shawsie” Branton (deceased) was co-founder of the first nursery school for children with disabilities, now known as Children’s TLC.

Rosemary Flanigan

Sr. Rosemary Flanigan, Ph.D., is 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 U.S. From 1992 to 2010, she served as director of Ethics Committee Development and Education at the Center for Practical Bioethics.

Mary Kay McPhee

Mary Kay McPhee has been a community volunteer for more than 55 years, serving on more than 90 national, state and local boards and organizations, and was co-founder of the Good Samaritan Project, the first nonprofit in Kansas City to provide assistance and support to AIDS patients.

Yvonne S. Wilson

Sen. Yvonne S. Wilson served 35 years as an education professional including president of the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals, and represented her community in the Missouri General Assembly.

SuEllen Fried

SuEllen Fried is 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.

Everyone at the luncheon was treated to a neon green “Power of Kindness” button, the signature pin Fried wears each day when she visits schools and prisons; and a box of Thin Mint cookies, passed out by Girl Scouts who attended.

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 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 next class of women will be inducted in 2019 in the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame. Robin Roberts, anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and a breast cancer survivor, was the speaker at the inaugural induction in 2015.

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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