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Thank you to Joyce Aljouny for those insightful comments…

And many thanks to the Commission on the Status of Women...along with the Community and Family Resources Department, for all the work you have done to observe Women’s History Month this year and over the years. You do essential work in identifying and tackling the issues unique to women in our community, all of which of course ultimately affect our community as a whole. In raising awareness of and honoring the work of women and women-led and women-serving groups here, you are doing the essential rewriting and restructuring our society requires to become truly inclusive, equitable and sustainable.    

I would like to acknowledge all the commissioners [by name--Chair Ashley Hazelrig, Jacqueline Fernette (Chair of WHM Luncheon), Debby Herbenick, Landry Culp, Savannah Wormley, Nana Amoah-Ramey, and Maqube Reese, who serves on the WHM Lunch planning committee,] staff liaison Sue Owens, and CFRD director Beverly Calender-Anderson.  

Today we are here to recognize the 2019 Woman of the Year and the Toby Strout Lifetime Contribution Award recipients.  Both of these awards go to women making changes within the criminal justice system to restore human dignity, heal broken lives, and enhance safety, civility, justice and equity.  

Our honorees have worked mostly with the people in the criminal justice system, our neighbors, co-workers, sisters and brothers who are incarcerated, or often cycling through the courts, and their families. A highly marginalized and under-served population. These magnificent women we are honoring today lead with their vision, intelligence and empathy, recognizing that systemic injustices are so often the reason so many people end up with convictions or in the criminal justice system -- deeply entrenched, exclusionary patterns that have created and sustained inequities in education, employment, housing, and quality of life over centuries in this country and the world. Our award winners work against those deep patterns that privilege those in power because of race, gender, ability, religion, and many other categories. Privileges and patterns that result, for example, in a wealth gap in this country where the net worth of the three richest individuals is equal to that of the combined worth of the 50 percent of the population with the least wealth--that’s three people with a net worth as much as 160 million people.

Oh, and those three people are, yes no surprise, white men.  

Gender is one of the biggest factors when it comes to wages and earning, and our state, I am sad to report, does not fare well. A report by the American Association of University Women in 2018 on gender pay gap ranks Indiana 49th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  In 2016, women in Indiana earned on average just 74 cents compared to a Hoosier man’s one dollar.

Of course this is an intersectional issue:  when you factor in race along with gender, the situation is worse.  For example, women of color are seven percent of the state’s entire labor force, but make up 20 percent of our full-time labor force earning minimum-wage. And in Indiana, that minimum wage of $7.25/hour -- amounting to less than $15,000/yr -- is not a living wage. Much needs to be done.

Here at home, in Monroe County, the gender wage gap is 80 cents on the dollar, compared to that 74 cents statewide. Although the state prevents us from enacting local minimum wage ordinances, your city government is setting an example.  All 700-plus full- and part-time regular employees of the City now earn at least $15 an hour. And over two years, this year and next, all seasonal and temporary employees -- pool attendants and summer camp workers and other seasonal temporary service workers -- will earn the city-set annually adjusted living wage, presently at $13 an hour. In addition, knowing the critical importance of child care to help build equity in our economy, the city for the first time has allocated $200,000 over two years to fund pre-K education, to create more spots especially for children from low-income families.  

It’s also a good time to share the annual report on the gender distribution in some of the key local government offices, which continues to be a strong report. Women constitute 45% of our city elected officials -- council, clerk and mayor. Women lead 53% of the cabinet departments in the city administration. In the county offices, it’s even stronger: women make up 43% of the county council, 67% of county-wide elected administrative officials, 89% of our nine county judges, and in a state historical first, 100% of our county commissioners.

Progress comes, through intentional, persistent, dedicated effort. And that is what our honorees today have in their bones. And in their spirit. To address and improve the situation facing those involved with the criminal justice system. I have the privilege of introducing this year’s Woman of the Year. Many, many people in the community were eager to express their enthusiasm about longtime Bloomingtonian Mary Goetze.  No fewer than seven people wrote glowing letters of support for Mary, who is being honored for her dedication to supporting people who are incarcerated and their families.

Mary had already enjoyed success in her career as a music professor at the IU Jacobs School, when she became immersed in the work for which we are recognizing her today.  Mary’s love of music and understanding of its transformative power inspired her to offer songwriting classes for female inmates. Her service to the incarcerated population expanded with the New Leaf/New Life organization where she assists ex-offenders when they are released from jail, and by working on the Hope for Prisoners Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Church.  And Mary expanded an innovative program at the Monroe County Correctional Center -- with “Read to Me,” Mary restored the invaluable experience of sharing a story to children and parents separated by incarceration. The program allows inmates to send recordings of storybooks -- along with the books themselves -- to their children and grandchildren.

In all of this work, Mary has endeavored to upend preconceptions and eliminate bias--

Here’s what one nominator told us:

“Mary has faced many challenges in helping the folks at the jails realize how important it is to treat the inmates with respect and dignity and understand that they are people to be loved who have just made mistakes in their lives.”

And another:

“It never ceases to amaze me how there seems to be no limit to what she will do to help former prisoners regain a successful life full of dignity while providing support to those who are taking care of the children while their parents are incarcerated. No one is judged. Everyone is embraced.”

Through “Read to Me,” Mary was able to see directly how the lives of these children are disrupted when their parents are incarcerated.  She was inspired to create the Kids with Absent Parents (of KAP) in September of 2017, which hosts numerous events for the children of incarcerated parents and their caregivers.  Through KAP, one of Mary’s nominators wrote, children “find what they may need most: time to feel safe, a place to develop their own self-worth and confidence, and a space (inner and outer) where child and caregiver can address concerns, crippling anxieties, without fear of repercussions and from which they can perhaps have a chance of moving into more productive and sustainable lives.”

In KAP, “The kids share their triumphs and disappointments, celebrate birthdays, show off their abilities, share worries and fears -- and receive the encouragement and praise of adults.  Their caregivers have a chance to deal with their issues in an environment of empathy and free from stigma.”

Another nominator wrote: “These are the kids that are likely to fall through the cracks; they are the statistics that none of us likes to hear, the kids that are marked to end up in jail before they’re out of third grade. I think of the stories of people incarcerated who I know, and wonder how their stories might’ve been different if they had had a Mary Goetze in their lives.”

In this program, Mary is doing nothing short of building the fabric of community, one life and family at a time:

“These KAP interactions are life-changing for not only the KAP families,” another nominator wrote, “but for us volunteers, as well.  We are serving and getting to know a marginalized segment of our community that we would not have met otherwise, let alone shared meals and laughter, joys and sorrows with them.”

Maybe one nominator summed it up best--

“Mary Goetze is a community superhero. Mary’s superpower is finding and meeting the unaddressed needs of the underserved.”

For rebuilding lives, and strengthening community, the City of Bloomington is proud to present the 2019 Woman of the Year award to Mary Goetze.  Thank you for the tremendous contribution you have made to this place we call home.

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