Did you know that throughout Missouri’s 200 years, only 36 women in total have served in our Senate? For comparison, 1,118 men have served as Missouri Senators. Though we celebrate Missouri’s 200th birthday this year, we haven’t even been able to celebrate 50 years since Missouri’s first woman Senator was elected.
Of those 36 women, 11 are Missouri Senators right now—more than ever before at one time in Missouri’s history. To celebrate this milestone in history, we 11 Senators were invited to a female department head’s farm for a home-cooked meal and a chance to visit together in a bipartisan manner. It was truly an incredible evening of downtime with great food and interesting conversations. We talked and laughed, enjoying the informality and each other’s company.
The topic of our heretofore unmatched number as Senate women led to a conversation about doing something positive together that would benefit the people of Missouri. Ideas and laughter began flying back and forth in rapid succession! Literacy became the general consensus as our focus. After all, the need for our youth to read at or above grade level is a must in today’s fast-paced world.
That evening, we decided on a program to improve Missourians’ literacy. We want to help every child in Missouri to read at grade level by the end of third grade! This will change young lives for the better and open doors of opportunity throughout their lifetimes.
As part of this program, one of us suggested: “We should write a book!” What should the subject of this book be? The 36 brave women who have served as Senators and our journeys to the Senate. Our different lives and lifestyles are evidence that serving as Senators was not the result of some special demographic or magic formula. We want young people to know: You Can, Too!
Missouri’s 36 women Senators have all come from different backgrounds, different political parties, different strengths, and different challenges. What has been the same? We’ve all had a desire to serve our communities and state in order to leave it better than we found it.
In order to encourage more women to take that leap of faith to represent their communities, Missouri Humanities is generously funding the development of You Can, Too!, which will be published by Missouri Life.
With the publication of You Can, Too!, we will take our message across the state. What if everyone in Missouri joins us in getting excited about reading, not just in the quiet of their living rooms or library, but publicly? What if we had communities coming together to talk about books? What if they all had books for their visitors, especially the young ones, to enjoy? What if adults made a habit of bringing along a book when they were running errands or visiting others? What if our radio stations, newspapers, and television stations devoted a little time to talking about a book to draw in the young ones alongside the adults in the room? What a special way to spend some intergenerational time exploring books! So the eleven of us plan to travel the state, meeting with leaders and community members who want to cheer on reading.
And, of course, an additional benefit of this wonderful project is the new relationships we have developed. This has been an amazing experience for the 11 of us. Literacy—helping children learn to read so they can read to learn—got us here. Our project has helped us build new relationships, including with each other. We would like to share the outcome of our time together with all of you. Join us in this effort to give kids the tools they need for their tomorrow. In so many ways, it can open up new worlds!