Looking Back at Women's History Month
Now that Women's History Month is over, CDF wants to draw attention to five female cooperators recognized during the month of March whose work continues to contribute to progress in the cooperative movement. Take a look at the continuing impact of Rebecca Allen, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Joy Cousiminer, Adria Powell and Judy Ziewacz.
Rebecca Allen, a true cooperative pioneer and Hall of Famer, founded Parent Cooperative Preschools International (PCPI), an organization dedicated to promoting and enhancing cooperative preschools and childcare. A respected speaker on the value of early childhood education, Rebecca promoted cooperative preschools as a vehicle for parental education and empowerment.
A leading consultant in early childhood education, Allen helped develop the federal Head Start program, and was responsible for including parents as decision-makers and staff. To this day, parental involvement is a cornerstone of the Head Start program.
An accomplished editor and author, Allen wrote numerous articles for PCPI's Parent Cooperative newsletter, as well as for national publications such as Child and Family and Children Today. Committed to PCPI's success, she served in various capacities for 40 years.
To learn more about PCPI and the work they do, check out NCBA CLUSA’s member spotlight.
Inspired by the Rochdale movement, Nannie Helen Burroughs believed that cooperatives offered Black communities a viable alternative to the hardships of the great depression. Burroughs co-founded Cooperative Industries in 1936, a self-help, agricultural and consumer cooperative in Washington DC. As the cooperative’s president, Burroughs used her National Training School as the co-op’s production and manufacturing plant to produce brooms and mattresses. With the help of a grant from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Burroughs expanded the co-op with the purchase of agricultural land in Maryland to form an agricultural producer co-op.
Committed to teaching others about cooperatives, Burroughs attracted new cooperative members through education on the cooperative principles. She used the National Training School as the organizational base for her educational and political endeavors exposing its students to firsthand experience and knowledge about the co-op’s daily operations. The National Training School was later renamed the National Trade and Professional School where Burroughs created a course titled Cooperatives: The New Program for Economic Security.
While Cooperative Industries’ lifespan was only four years at the tail end of the great depression, Burroughs efforts helped meet the needs of working mothers in her community. Through Cooperative Industries, she created a safety net for Black women and children and ultimately served over 6,000 residents of Northeast Washington DC.
As founder, president and CEO of Bethex Federal Credit Union, Hall of Famer Joy Cousminer spent nearly six decades breaking down economic and educational barriers for people in need. While teaching low income women in the South Bronx working to earn their GEDs, Joy saw first-hand the hardships faced by people lacking access to banking services and credit. Thus, Bethex Federal Credit Union was born. Bethex, which eventually became the first New York City credit union to become an SBA lender, offered many innovative programs and partnerships that were adopted by other credit unions serving low income and working-class members.
A tireless advocate for small credit unions, she founded the We Care Network of small credit unions in New York to work cooperatively and support one another. A leader with a quintessential cooperative spirit, Joy is remembered by friends and colleagues as an advocate for making banking services and credit available to all.
Adria Powell is committed to the principle that quality care is achieved by creating quality jobs for home care aides. Adria is President and CEO of Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), the largest worker-owned cooperative business in the US. The 35-year old Bronx-based Licensed Home Care Service Agency (LHCSA) is owned primarily by Black and Latina women and is known for its high standards of training, benefits and support to workers. CHCA also serves as an example for worker cooperatives across the US that seek to improve the lives and livelihoods of their member owners.
Since starting at CHCA as a part-time worker in 1988, Adria’s responsibilities progressively increased. She joined the organization full time in 1993 after graduating from Boston College. Since then she has helped CHCA to grow from a small cooperative to one that employs more than 2,200 staff of which half are worker-owners. A mother of two, she received a Masters of Public Administration (Health Policy & Management) from New York University in 2000. Generous with her time and talent, Adria serves on the board of the Democracy at Work Institute and makes CHCA’s resources available to host and mentor other worker cooperatives.
Adria Powell is making history by leading an innovative organization that believes that quality outcomes and higher consumer satisfaction are achieved by investing in the homecare workforce. Learn more about Adria and CHCA at youtube.com/watch?v=ijXy29jQibA .
For over 40 years, Judy Ziewacz has doggedly championed cooperative development, articulating a vision of the power of cooperation, and reminding cooperatives and cooperative institutions that they exist to empower people. Her strategic thinking created cross-sectoral coalitions that have created critical infrastructure for the co-op community domestically and internationally.
Judy was instrumental in launching the nation's first statewide cooperative development center now known as Cooperative Development Services. She also played a key role in establishing CooperationWorks!, a national cooperative development network, which is responsible for the creation of hundreds of co-ops, thousands of jobs, and serving hundreds of thousands of members. As the Executive Director of the Cooperative Development Foundation, she led the charge for the creation of dotCoop, an important branding tool for cooperatives in the internet age.
Through her work as a cooperative innovator, anchor cooperative institutions have been strengthened, and their focus and support for cooperative development renewed.