Taking Action, Making Changes
In the last year since starting, the MomsRising membership has gone from 0 to over 120,000 people--and is growing weekly by 500 to 4,000 members lately. This membership growth is mainly due to friends telling friends about MomsRising—i.e. you. Working together, we are truly building a powerful movement, and are already having a significant impact.
*MomsRising members played a critical role in winning Paid Family Leave in Washington State this year! Washington is now the 2nd state with such a policy in place. Here's the lowdown:
MOMSRISING.ORG STATE PILOT PROJECT SUCCESS: The combination of MomsRising’s c3 educational efforts and c4 direct legislative advocacy efforts came together to create a big victory for families! On May 8, 2007, Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law a paid family leave insurance bill, making Washington the 2nd state in the nation to have such a law.
WHY FOCUS ON THIS ISSUE? Paid family leave helps combat poverty, helps give children a healthy start, and helps lower the wage gap between women and men by providing the structural support necessary to balance work and family. The United States is one of only 4 countries in the world that doesn't offer some form of paid leave to new mothers--we join Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho with that dubious distinction. It's time to catch up with the rest of the world. Paid family leave has been shown to reduce infant mortality by as much as 20% (and the U.S. ranks a low 37th of all countries in infant mortality), as well as to help keep families out of poverty. Right now, having a baby is a leading cause of "poverty spells" in this country (poverty spells are a time when income dips below what's needed for basic living expenses like food and rent). And a full quarter of families with children under six years old live in poverty here. Offering paid family leave is a critical component of a truly family-friendly nation.
HOW MOMSRISING MEMBERS TOOK ACTION: MomsRising’s c4 arm was a driving force behind the paid family leave measure in Washington State, generating more than fourteen thousand emailed letters to legislators, as well as thousands of calls, deliveries of over 600 “mom made” cookies to legislators, flowers, and Polaroid photos of parents and children who would benefit from this long overdue policy, and much, much more.
In addition, MomsRising’s c3 arm conducted extensive community education, media outreach, and leadership development around the need for family-friendly issues to be addressed. In March, MomsRising held an inaugural "Power of ONEsie" educational display, exhibiting more than 300 specially-decorated baby outfits (baby onesies) on the State Capital Campus (see picture below). These were decorated by parents and their children with messages about what they envision for a family-friendly nation (For a sense of the potential impact of the Power of ONEsie campaign, think of the early days of the AIDS Quilt).
Through strategic c3 and c4 efforts, MomsRising was able to create a synergistic process to educate and engage a broad constituency, bring new people into advocacy, establish a good balance of on-the-ground activities and online organizing, develop new leaders, and partner with a coalition of policy organizations to maximize each of our skills. (Scroll down to read the great quotes from MomsRising members.)
This is a pilot project that shows success, and we plan to roll this program out in additional states.
Leaders are saying the c4 arm of MomsRising was truly effective: The prime sponsor of the Paid Family Leave policy, Senator Karen Keiser, said, "The Family Leave bill would not have passed without the great work of MomsRising. Being able to mobilize thousands of constituents to e-mail our Governor and individual lawmakers made all the difference. It's a great model for an authentic political movement made up of people who are unable to attend rallies or raise huge amounts of campaign donations. It's a way for real people to make a real difference."
Also, John R. Burbank, Executive Director, Economic Opportunity Institute, our primary organizational partner on this project, had this to say, "Paid family leave is on the cutting edge of balancing work and family in our country. Since 1999, the Economic Opportunity Institute has been developing the policy and catalyzing the discussion for paid family leave. This work came together this year largely as a result of the birth and activism of MomsRising. With this new generation of moms (and dads) standing up and demanding true family values, paid family leave became first possible and then actual!"
HERE'S WHAT THE WASHINGTON MOMSRISING MEMBERS HAVE TO SAY: "Working with Momsrising, particularly on the Power of ONEsie campaign, re-enforced my faith in our democratic system. When we put those onesies up at the Washington State capital and Senators & Representatives stopped in their tracks to watch what we were doing, I was reminded that we DO have a voice, that we CAN change things and that we MUST do what we can, however wacky and outlandish, to remind our leaders that they are here for us and that families need to come first!" -Colleen
"When the Senators came out after the vote to give us hugs and high-fives, half of us were in tears we were so excited! It hit me then just how ground-breaking and powerful our work is. Washington is the 2nd state in the nation to have this kind of policy--and we did it!" -- Katie
"I felt like I was out riding the suffragist trains with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns! It was exhilarating to be part of the process that made paid family leave happen, and an honor, really, to help impact families. MomsRising has made advocacy timely, doable and effective—I'm ready for our next mom mission!" - Leslie
"When the vote in the House seemed in jeopardy, we needed an impactful way to influence legislators beyond making calls and e-mails. What better way to reach legislators than through their stomachs? I recruited a group of moms to bake 50 dozen cookies in a very short time. Within days of the crucial House vote, 600+ cookies were delivered to all 98 representatives with hopes of leaving a powerful impression in their minds (and stomachs!). I was overwhelmed at the quick response from the moms willing to help out on such short notice despite their hectic schedules. We'll never know what kind of impact a little 'ole batch of cookies made, but I like to think it pushed at least one or two votes over the edge!" -- Marisa
"Thank you, Momsrising, for giving me the courage to call our state legislators for the first time, during my lunch hour. I never dreamed I could fit lobbying into my busy schedule! I cannot wait to start seeing the amazing impact this bill will have." -Kymberlee
"When Ken and I committed to wear MomsRising shirts everyday until this bill passed, we believed we would be wearing the same shirts everyday for the next few years. Instead, our community spoke loudly that it supported this bill, our government listened intently and, when this bill is signed into law, we will be taking off our daily uniform after only 4 months. While we will be setting our Rosie & Baby t-shirts aside, what will not be set aside is that we can help to make history. We look forward to the year 2009 and the lucky babies who will have more time with their parents." --Yvonne
"My involvement started out with what was supposed to be a small house screening of "The Motherhood Manifesto" and turned into a coffee house screening with 50+ people and a cover story in the paper! With such an auspicious beginning with MomsRising merely 6 months ago, who knew I'd become an activist in such a short span of time! I'm amazed at the collective brain power and commitment of all the folks involved with keeping things rolling with MomsRising. What I appreciate most is the all-inclusive nature of this organization. If you've got an idea, then run with it! That's how the "Power of the Onsie" campaign got its start. I'm thankful for the opportunity and means to help make a positive impact for a cause that's truly worth believing in - the family!" - Marisa
Additionaly, here're some other recent highlights of MomsRising efforts (scroll down to see additional highlights from the past several months):
- 16,365 email letters were sent by MomsRising members to Congress (so far) to support the Healthy Families Act.
- After over 300 letters were sent in MA to state legislators by local MomsRising members to support paid sick days, here’s what Monica Halas, Senior Attorney for the Greater Boston Legal Services, had to say: “In Massachusetts politics, 3 calls is a revolution, so you've created an entire movement!!!”
***HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE YEAR OF MOMSRISING***
HOUSE BY HOUSE CHANGES--EDUCATING THE NATION: Hundreds of house parties to screen the Motherhood Manifesto documentary film have been held in living rooms, coffee shops, churches, and more across the nation. These home film screening parties have been bringing people up to date about what's really going on with mothers and families in our nation; and have also been a great way for MomsRising members to meet, as well as to get educated and engaged. Our house party work is ongoing (if you're interested in joining the fun, sign on at http://www.party2win.com/momsrising).
Here’s what Ashley, the House Party Director, has to say, “The success stories coming in from the house parties are really moving--it’s clear that the film is really striking a cord in people, and it has proven to be a wonderful way to create community and inspire action around these issues! As a result of the hundreds of registered house parties on www.party2win.com/momsrising, there are at least several state groups going gangbusters and many more we’re just starting to connect with! House by house, a movement is truly building!”
We've seen this documentary film speak to viewers of all political colors. Katie reports, "What was cool about watching this with my mom is that when I left home ten years ago, we basically agreed to disagree about political issues. But the film opened that door again for us. It was probably the first political conversation my mom and I had in a decade and it went really well, it went surprisingly well--we found we actually agreed on a lot of the issues. Actually pretty much everyone found something in the film they could relate to. We had a great, lively discussion, and several people plan to hold house parties of their own now."
And, here’s what one party host has to say, “Our party was a hit. Several moms were moved to tears by the movie. The group is interested in taking action on the MomsRising issues locally and is deciding what to do next. Thanks, MomsRising, for rallying us around these important issues!” -- Jenny, Montana
STATE LEGISLATOR EDUCATION PROJECT: Earlier this year, in partnership with the Progressive States Network, we snail-mailed, and e-mailed, 1500 state legislative leaders—making contact in all 50 states—a menu of model family-friendly legislation, with multiple options of sample legislation under each of the issue areas we cover, that legislators can use and implement in their home states. The 1500 state legislators also received a copy of the Motherhood Manifesto book and the documentary film on DVD. *Check out the model legislation package at: http://www.progressivestates.org/momsaction
Here’s a quote from one legislator who received the package, “MomsRising.org and the Progress States Network have moved beyond bemoaning a problem to providing legislators with concrete tools to actually change the staggering reality American families face. With the solutions The Motherhood Manifesto offers, and the model legislation of the agenda, I am confident that my colleagues and I will pass legislation that will support a better reality." -Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat (D- NY)
REAL-TIME MOMSRISING MEMBER ENGAGMENT: There have been several moments in the past several months when issues emerged that required you to jump on board and take action to make a difference. For example, when a woman was kicked off an airplane for breastfeeding, you responded, and over 20,000 petition signatures were gathered in a few short days. Delta Airlines, and its’ subsidiary airline, then apologized to the family, started doing better training of their employees, and is considering supporting the Breastfeeding Promotion Act in Congress.
“The tremendous response by members to the breast feeding story, the Healthy Families Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act have been inspiring, and have created much anticipation about what we’re capable of as we grow larger and stronger.”
WORKING TOGETHER: MomsRising’s goal is to bring the power of online organizing to motherhood and family issues, and we regularly partner with national and state groups to advocate for change and to educate the public (check out our list of more than 50 aligned organizations on our website at: http://www.momsrising.org/aboutmomsrising#aligned). We truly believe that by working together we can raise all boats as we build a strong movement for mothers, children, and families.
Here's one example: As a result of film screenings and MomsRising collaborative initiatives, a group of women and organizations in Pennsylvania have come together to work on stopping Maternal Profiling (descrimination against mothers in hiring), including: MomsRising, 9 to 5, Pennsylvania NOW, Mainstreet Moms, AFSCME, Mothers and More, Pennsylvania Commission on Women, Parents Action for Children, Women and Girls Foundation, and the Women's Law Project. Working together, we're finding we can "raise all boats."
“This Fall, when we all got onboard in Pennsylvania to stop Maternal Profiling (hiring discrimination against mothers), I found it very inspiring to see how quickly we could engage the people of Pennsylvania, local organizations, and the online community, especially bloggers, in the campaign. Hearing all of the stories from the bloggers who had "been there" themselves, brought home the fact that this policy change matters enormously to real people and real families. There are moms and kids who are facing enormous struggles because of these issues. MomsRising's commitment to a bipartisan approach to getting this and other family-friendly policy addressed and passed speaks to my heart.” - Emily
MEDIA COVERAGE EDUCATING THE NATION: Over 600 articles and reports on the issues that MomsRising covers--from the need for healthcare to cover all children, to the reasons paid family leave will help new parents, to childcare issues and more—have been covered by radio, television, blogging, and print outlets across the country in the last several months. We are working hard to educate the nation about the issues of mothers and families, and to bring these issues forward in the national political dialogue. From the New York Times, “Mom’s Mad. And She’s Organized” to CNN Money, “Moms rise up, fight for workplace rights: Mothers, fed up with work-life balance options, join Moms Rising to seek reforms,” and to all the local papers and bloggers, the word is getting out. *See some press highlights at: http://momsrising.org/press
EMPOWERING MOTHERS TO ENGAGE:
It was so inspiring to be part of real democracy in action! To actually voice my support for paid family leave directly to Speaker Chopp felt incredibly empowering and made me realize we can each make a real difference & get Paid Family Leave passed in WA! So often our legislators seem removed, or we feel like we don't have any power, BUT WE DO!! WE ELECT THEM & they need to hear from us! - Colleen
Wow! The gathering with Speaker Chopp was a wonderful reminder that politics are, at the root, about people's lives. The event wasn't carefully scripted, it wasn't a backroom deal or a handshake between men in suits, it was concerned citizens honestly communicating their needs and priorities to someone who has pledged to support them, with the children in the room acting as the major power brokers. It was brilliant. - Leslie
CREATING COMMUNITY ONLINE:
- MomsBlogging: Check out our ever more dynamic blog section, and member discussions, to hear voices from the cutting edge of parenthood and the growing movement. To read and discuss on the blog, go to: http://www.momsrising.org/blog
- The Book, The Film, The Movement: A cornerstone to getting out the word about what’s really going on with American families is the The Motherhood Manifesto book, and documentary film DVD. The book is available in written form online. To read the book, go to: http://www.momsrising.org/manifesto The documentary film can be ordered through our website, and will soon be available to stream online for free. We’re also organizing house parties to screen the film across the country. To host a film screening, go to: www.party2win.com/momsrising
The film is getting terrific reviews. Ann Crittenden, author of the Price of Motherhood, raved, "The Motherhood Manifesto documentary is a funny, fascinating, informative and finally infuriating film about motherhood in America. At the end of this one, you'll want to jump out of your seat, rush out the door and, start demanding change immediately!"
- Creating a “Buzz” About the Issues Off Line: MomsRising is offering cool t-shirts, necklaces online--and temporary tattoos, MomsRising coffee, and pins are coming soon! All are ways to create culture change and build excitement about the growing movement and issues. To check out that page, go to: http://www.goodstorm.com/stores/momsrising
- What’s Cooking: A place on the homepage where you can find out about specific hot issues, get discussion guides on those issues, and ways to take action. Go to: http://www.momsrising.org/neighborhood/issue_of_month
- Collaborating with Aligned Organizations: In addition to working on our own, we’re working with more than fifty (and growing!) aligned organizations to build a more family-friendly America. MomsRising aligned organizations include some of the nation’s strongest women's organizations, family advocacy groups, mother’s organizations, faith-based groups, child advocacy groups, unions, health care organizations, parenting groups, the faith community, and many other organizations which have aligned missions to build a family-friendly America. Check out the list of aligned organizations here: http://www.momsrising.org/aboutmomsrising#aligned
- More Web-Based Resources Coming Soon: In the coming months we’re going to put more and more resources up for members under each of our issue areas. There will be ever more resources for members to access. For example, we’ll be updating our “O=Open, Flexible Work” page to include a help line from the Center for Work/Life Law for members who have questions about workplace discrimination. We are working to provide services to members, like this one, which could be hugely valuable.
To sum it all up, the MomsRising website is a work in progress, and the main goal is to provide the kind of space and resources that are going to be most valuable to our members. (And, just so you know, a large part of our staffing is volunteer—so our membership is MomsRising in a very real sense!)
EARLY SUPPORT IN THE BIG HOUSE: “At the first house party to screen the Motherhood Manifesto film this September in Washington, D.C., which was hosted by Senator Hillary Clinton, along with Senator Obama, Senator Dodd, and Senator Kennedy, a woman in the back of the room who was serving the food and drinks said that of all the Senate events she had been to, this one meant something to her. She was moved by the commitment and passion of everyone speaking, and told me she was a single mother and MomsRising was ‘telling her story.’” - Emily
And, here’re some quotes from that evening, "We're going to have a great movement of moms around the country, and dads, and grandparents and concerned Americans - what's more important than our children? I am absolutely delighted to welcome [MomsRising] to the Senate. This is where the first house party should be held." -- U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton
"Despite all the rhetoric about being family-friendly, we have structured a society that is decidedly unfriendly... What's missing now is a movement. What's missing now is an organization. That's why MomsRising is so important." -- Senator Barack Obama
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: As Cooper enthusiastically concludes about how far we’ve come with your help, “MomsRising is leading a mom-power culture shift through the latest in internet technology to make life better for all families. HOW COOL IS THAT!?! And we're not even a year old. The possibilities are limitless and my heart soars with thoughts of the potential impact we are making, and could make, down the road.”
Here’s to building a movement together, and to making 2007 the year of the family!
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