One of the most tweeted and re-tweeted quotations from last summer’s Netroots Nation conference came from Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner ’91, who gave a keynote speech at the annual meeting of progressive activists– “The problem isn’t that moms work in this country. It’s that this country doesn’t work for moms.”
Rowe-Finkbeiner, wife and parent of two, is on a mission to change that—not only for American moms, but for their children and families as well.
As co-founder and executive director of MomsRising.org, she and her team are mobilizing women across the country to build a more family-friendly America by confronting the obstacles that face them—in the workplace, on the economic front, and in a range of other important areas like health care, childcare and environmental hazards.
Founded in 2006 with just a handful of people, MomsRising has swelled into a “motherhood movement” with more than a million members, hailing from every state in the nation. And it’s making steady gains in influence and policy. Through online and on-the-ground efforts, the multicultural, grassroots organization has collaborated with roughly 150 allied groups to win an impressive number of victories. Just since 2012, its coups have included helping to secure paid sick days in cities across the country, gaining protections for pregnant employees, getting funding for early learning programs, establishing improved nutritional standards in schools, and winning passage of the Consumer Product Safety Protection Act. MomsRising also helped push forward the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill President Obama signed into law in 2009, and increased funding for children’s health insurance programs.
The highly trafficked MomsRising blog—described as “a soapbox where people across our nation can talk politics, policy, and parenting”—boasts more than a thousand bloggers and reaches 3.5 million people. For the last four years, Forbes magazine has named the MomsRising website— which functions as both an action platform and a media outlet—as one of “The 100 Best Websites for Women.”
Rowe-Finkbeiner, who lives in Kirkland, Wash., launched MomsRising with Joan Blades, the co-founder of MoveOn.org. Blades contacted Rowe-Finkbeiner after reading her first book, The F-Word: Feminism in Jeopardy. In 2006, the two women co-authored The Motherhood Manifesto, which calls for a sea change in America’s support for mothers and families. (The book was turned into a 2007 documentary film of the same name, which aired on PBS.)
Once they finished writing the book, they decided to join forces again, this time to work for change. MomsRising.org was the outcome: an online vehicle for grassroots action to advance the voices of women and mothers within the framework of family economic security. The group’s core issues are paid family leave and sick days, flexible work hours, affordable health care, excellent childcare, fair wages for working parents, and environmental health.
MomsRising practices what it preaches. “We are flexible and virtual,” said Rowe-Finkbeiner. The organization’s 26 staff members are scattered around the country and work around their family’s needs. “We’ve found that to be incredibly effective,” she said. “It’s very important for moms to have time to be moms. When they do, it increases the effectiveness of the whole team. We look at outcomes, not whether people are punching a clock. And we have incredible outcomes in terms of policy and bringing moms’ voices forward.” – Carolyn Shea, Evergreen.edu