Meet Me in St. Louis – A Prayer Vigil & Rally for the Equal Rights Amendment

by Helene Swanson


St Louis Mosiac       Graphic Design by Helene Swanson

As I leave the Kansas City area heading towards Jefferson City and then on to St. Louis, where I will be meeting with Senators Roy Blunt and Clair McCaskill to urge them to co-sponsor S.J. Res. 15,  l give serious consideration to this past week. But before I get ahead of myself I want to make sure that I get the word out that we are holding a Prayer Vigil & Rally at the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, MO on November 8, 2014 at noon to 2pm.  The Old Courthouse is where the Dred Scott Decision was issued March 6, 1857.

Please be sure to JOIN, INVITE, SHARE and POST this Facebook Event Page everywhere

After the St. Louis vigil my grassroots organizer Portia and I will head out with a small group of women as we walk into Springfield, the state capitol, to call on the Illinois State Assembly and Governor for Illinois to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Women will walk with me into Springfield, Illinois will demonstrate that like Ghandji this can be accomplished peacefully while chaos surrounds us. Many women will be gathering at the Illinois Prayer Vigil and Rally we will holding in Springfield.  It is important to note that the Illinois State Senate ratified the ERA in about 36 hours from being dropped into the hopper and being voted on the floor. Which is simply amazing!

I am praying to God that all come together and that everyone everywhere helps and co-ordinates with those that have been working so long and hard to move Illinois to be the first state in 21st Century to ratify. I know we can do it! I have faith and I believe, “That if ye have faith of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible unto you.” Matthew 17:20


10253989_10203052730701502_2518471768494395982_nGeoff Jolley, Legislative Aid, Marion Dyer, and Helene Swanson met to discuss Congressman Emanuel Cleaver co-sponsoring H.J. Res. 113.  Photo Credit: Holly Long


But back to this past week, it has been one of rest and recuperation and also great excitement. I arrived worn and weary my backpack strap broke in Tulsa, OK and I had been making due but the backpack has caused me great pain in my left arm and shoulder, and the storms that delayed me in Fort Scott lead to my sitting for longer than I should, and my Post Deep Vein Thrombosis Syndrome flared up. So when old family friend Marion Dyer picked me up and took me to her home in Lawrence, KS, I was suffering from exhaustion. I slept the entire three days I was there.  As the saying goes,” No rest for the weary”

Marion and I meet with Geoff Jolley, an aid to Congressman Emanuel Cleaver to ask that he co-sponsor H.J. Res. 113. And Portia made the arrangements for the telephonic conference portion of the meeting. In attendance was Zoe Nicholson, who fasted for 45 days back in 1982 in Illinois; and Sandy Oestreich from Florida of the Equal Rights Alliance, Inc.; and Candy Graham co-founder of Women Matter, and Jencelyn King-Witzel from Illinois from 3WF – Third Wave Feminism; and Cathy Kaelin from Ohio of ERA Action and Progress Democrats of America’s ERA Three State Strategy Issue. The meeting went extremely well and I anticipate that Congressman Cleaver will come on board sometime in November… God Willing.

Now, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could get some Republican Groups on board!


10633163_10204766519233256_6972655847713278167_oCarole Plesser and Helene Swanson take a selfie.

The following day I was shuffled over to another dear family friend’s home Carole Plesser who fondly recalled days past when Katrina and George, my husband William and his brother Olof would drop by every Christ Mass Eve to sing Christ Mass Carols. This was especially touching to the Plessers’ who just happen to be Jewish, as it was their wedding anniversary. On Saturday Marion came by and off we went to speak on Sharon Lockhart’s Every Woman radio show. Sharon exemplifies what we at Katrina’s Dream wish to see – more woman be an empowered woman with a voice. We had a great time after the show hanging out with all the folks dropping by for the fundraiser.


10284546_10204747625960936_7994260813246791407_oBeth Pike, Lisa Kim, Marion Dyer, Sharon Lockhart, and Helene Swanson at the KKFI Studios in Kansas City, MO following the broadcast of her show Every Women

Sadly though the lyrics from Meet Me in St. Louis seem all to fitting.

Verse 6

In church sat a man near the door,

asleep, he was starting to snore,

The Minister rose,

and he said, “We will close

singing, Meet on the Beautiful Shore.

The man in the back then awoke,

he caught the last words that he spoke;

He said, “Parson White,

you can meet me alright,

but The Beautiful Shore is a joke.

While I don’t think Heaven is a joke I do find what is happening in Ferguson, MO is despairing. It is not to going to be easy over the days and weeks ahead.  While the terrain was much more demanding on the west coast crossing vast desert regions without water or food the only thing to really fear was poisonous insects and creatures.  In the mid-west where I am now it is racially divided.  There is rioting and the many people are getting killed.

Several weeks ago a young black man, Michael Brown, was shot by a police officer. Please see Police officers shooting black youth is not uncommon in fact it is epidemic. William, my late husband and I were actively involved with the Oscar Grant Committee which formed after a BART officer killed Oscar Grant on New Years Day. Oscar was handcuffed at the time. Fruitvale Station is a movie, which chronicles the killing and I recommend everyone watch it. So I have been following the events in Ferguson, MO closely. When I head into the region known as the Deep South where the custom was to  lynch black people and hang them from trees or worse. I admit I am little concerned.

So, I will need your prayers more than ever for there is not one issue, which is not a woman’s rights issue. We as mothers love our children and seeing them killed is horrific.

Unfortunately, many turn a blind eye to the way women are treated here in the United States. Yes, our standard of living is good here but the way women and children are treated is deplorable.  Be sure to read Women in the US are attacked by the police as well.

However, very few care or dismiss women’s issue stating our needs are not a priority I was recently told that my pilgrimage was bad timing for Missouri and I was being inconsiderate and there was not a enough “bandwidth” that maybe later when things in Ferguson calmed down.  When I became passionate I was verbally attacked and my every word was picked a part.  I wonder how can things calm down in the US when we are divided by our given sex and sexual orientation.

So, America what is it going to take for folks to realize that by empowering women we can change the world. Some joke that if women were in power there would be no war (folks is that really a bad thing), the PBS Series Women War & Peace demonstration just that. I believe that if women were empowered then maybe, just maybe, we just might also stop raping and plundering Mother Earth. Have you ever thought if Earth were called Father Earth instead of Mother Earth would folks be so willing to destroy the planet and the environment?

Lucretia Mott AmendmentLucretia Mott Amendment written by Alice Paul.  Graphic: Helene Swanson

I believe that when the Equal Rights Amendment were passed here in the US that men and women will live longer happier lives as the work load would be evenly distributed, imagine children having quality time with both parents. I have had this dream for a number of years… since my earliest days. So with this I will leave you with a little something from my American Concerto: The Women’s Rights Movement.


American ConcertoHelene Swanson playing the American Concerto: The Women Rights Movement at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Kansas City, MO