By: Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press |
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - When a group of New Orleans women chartered a private jet and flew to Washington in January imploring members of Congress to visit their hurricane-scarred city, one of their selling points was their size.
A total of 140 housewives, mothers, former debutantes and successful businesswomen flew to the Capitol in a show of charm and force.
Now, the Women of the Storm are about to grow from 140 women to 300,000 nationwide, as they join hands with four national groups: the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc., the National Council of Jewish Women, The Links Inc., and the Women's Initiative of the United Way.
"We are going from 140 to 300,000 women across of the country. That's huge. It's mind-boggling," said Anne Milling, the founder of the New Orleans group.
Their goal remains the same. They want to pressure members of Congress to visit their flooded city. Only by seeing the devastation up close, the women argue, will the lawmakers be moved to action.
The partnership with the other women's groups is strategic: Lawmakers who rebuffed the hand-delivered invitation of the New Orleans women may have a harder time saying no to their own constituents.
"Having all of these organizations mobilizing all of their members will have tremendous impact because we represent lots and lots of concerned constituents," said New York-based Susan Danish, executive director of the Junior Leagues International with 293 chapters and 170,000 members.
When the nonpolitical, but highly influential, New Orleans women first came together, it was in disgust over the fact that only a fraction of Washington's leadership had toured the destruction. As of January, just 13 percent of the House of Representatives and 30 percent of the Senate had traveled to New Orleans, according to the women.
In the words of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the women's initial visit to the Capitol "took Washington by storm."
Soon after Milling visited her congressional office in January, Pelosi, D-Calif., co-led a delegation of 34 Congress members to New Orleans. Other visits followed, including one led by presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Now, 40 percent of the Senate has visited and roughly 20 percent of the House.
The America's WETLAND Foundation manages the largest, most comprehensive public education campaign in Louisiana's history, raising public awareness of the impact of Louisiana's wetland loss on the state, nation and world. The America's Energy Coast initiative works to sustain the environmental and economic assets of the Gulf Coast region. The initiative is supported by a growing coalition of world, national and state conservation and environmental organizations and has drawn private support from businesses that see wetlands protection as a key to economic growth. For more information, visit www.americaswetland.com or www.futureofthegulfcoast.org.