Amy Moses and Sara Lynn Johnson Fultz

Amy Moses (left) and Sara Lynn Johnson Fultz (right)

for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Amy Moses and Sara Lynn Johnson Fultz

Menstrual cramps. Painful intercourse. Bowel incontinence. Urinary leakage. Vaginal dryness.

These are “below the belt” subjects that we just don’t talk about but that have a tremendous impact on our quality of life, from adolescence through menopause.

Freeing women from the misery, embarrassment and limitations of these problems is the vision and work of physical therapists Amy Moses and Sara Lynn Johnson Fultz. As co-founders and co-owners of MOJO Pelvic Health, as therapists, educators and advocates, they share a vision of a world where women can be pain-free and comfortable in their bodies throughout their lives.

Deeply sensitive to the stigma around issues involving the pelvic floor, they see that when women have issues that impact this part of their body, it affects their confidence, their independence, their dignity. They knew they had to create a safe space for patients to be seen, heard and understood.

Both women grew up in Mississippi and wandered far before a shared passion for lifelong women’s healthcare took hold. Sara Lynn spent several adventurous years in Alaska and returned to Memphis in 2010 where she saw in her practice dramatic relief from specialized physical therapy.

“I was treating someone who had bowel incontinence, a younger mother with four or five children. But she couldn’t go to any birthday party of her child for fear of something happening,” Sara Lynn said. “She came in and was crying because she had [finally] been able to go to a birthday party. Physical therapy makes a difference but this type impacts women in a way I had never experienced before.”

Similarly Amy, who traveled to Seattle for her residency, saw with her patients how imbalances in the pelvic floor impact literally every other part of the body. She also personally had fertility and pelvic floor issues that were resolved with pelvic PT, inspiring her to spend the rest of her life doing the same for others.

Sara Lynn and Amy met 10 years ago this year and almost joined up then but instead continued their independent pelvic health care work in the Memphis area. Five years later, in 2018, each on maternity leave with three-month-old babies, they met to talk and the vision of MOJO Pelvic Health was born. It opened in February 2019 and is now one of the largest woman-owned and operated pelvic health therapy groups in Tennessee and Mississippi. The practice began only with Amy and Sara Lynn and in five years has trained more than 30 physical therapists. MOJO has four core locations open to patients as well as therapists in six physicians’ offices.

They see how for centuries these problems have been blamed on aging, on being female, on having children. Menstrual periods shouldn’t be painful yet they are for many when issues in the pelvic floor could be the cause and could be addressed. Women are told to ignore their pain or cope with the difficulty and carry on.

“If this was any other part of the body,” Amy said, “this would be treated (likely by a PT!) with the goal of figuring out the why and solutions to resolve it. We should receive care even in our teen years or as children dealing with bladder issues or bowel issues so that this doesn’t become a lifelong issue.”

They spend lots of time helping patients realize that their issues can and should be addressed, that they are worth this care and do not have to just live with it because mom, grandmother or their aunts had the same thing and “made do.”

Awareness is urgently needed among aging women. The top two reasons women end up in nursing homes are urinary incontinence and bowel incontinence. Amy said, “Management of these issues causes us to lose independence, the comfort of our home, and impacts our caregivers and family members. This is devastating especially when care is available and should be offered as first line of treatment.”

Much more attention is needed about pelvic health in medical training. Amy and Sara Lynn both teach pelvic health curriculum – Amy at her alma mater, The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and Sara Lynn at hers, UTHSC in Memphis. They regularly welcome residents, nurses and physicians to their clinics to learn.

They are eager to talk about the benefits of pelvic health and therapy anytime, anywhere. They are working now on programs to increase accessibility for children and “pelvises with a penis,” Sara Lynn said.

Access to healthcare that restores comfort, dignity and independence to women and girls, across their lifespan, is the vision and work of Amy Moses and Sara Lynn Johnson Fultz, our 2024 Women of Achievement for Vision.

Lori Spicer Robertson


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Lori Spicer Robertson

Lori Spicer Robertson used to call herself a ‘hometown fleer” who chose to return after college and grad school to her hometown, determined to make a difference. Even as her career has climbed through major local and national organizations with an increasingly vibrant focus on workplace diversity and inclusion, Lori’s personal passion for supporting women and girls has resulted in creation of timely, empowering programs and events.

She earned her Bachelor’s in business at UT-Knoxville and a Master’s in communications at University of Florida. After a year in Washington invigorating the communication operation for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, she came home in 2007 to accept the position as communications specialist for the Greater Memphis Chamber.

And she dove into community leadership: on the board for Dance Works, board communications co-chair for MPACT Memphis, on the Leadership Council for Young Women Philanthropists of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. She was chapter and public relations chair for Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, and then its president, where she initiated a women’s summit.

In 2010 she became manager of Community Affairs & Engagement at The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, building relations with key community leaders and groups throughout the Mid-South.

With female alumnae from several high schools, Lori produced Brown Girls Dream, a mentoring program offering service projects and life lessons by women from many walks of life. She also hosted a Memphis Prom Closet with donated dresses and a giveaway party for juniors and seniors in several schools, complete with hair and makeup tips and guidance on how to dress for your size, make good choices and own your own power.

Lori joined First Horizon National Corp. as change leadership manager in 2013 and then became chief communications and engagement officer for United Way of the Mid-South in 2016. She led the way to form the Memphis iteration of Women United, created to “harness the power and dedication of women leaders to transform the Mid-South community through awareness, service and advocacy.”

Anxious for connection with other moms, she and her best friend Erika Matlock Conley organized The Gathering, a supper club where women could escape their isolation and share their experiences as wives and mothers. The supper club led to launching in 2020 of Wundher, a digital media and experiential production company designed to connect women and mothers to their joy. Lori says Wundher is the culmination of all of her pet projects: to connect people, to share storytelling that models resilience for other women and to foster mentorship.

This “fempowerment” platform features a membership community of women from all backgrounds, race and ages; a podcast and vlog; brand partnerships; and curated experiences. A lively website connects women to past and current local activities and voices from women around the country.

After a year of work Wundher’s launch came just as COVID struck so most activities became virtual, including a conference titled “Joymaker 2021: The Future of Women and Work” with a slate of national speakers that drew a couple thousand attendees.

 In-person events resumed last spring when 300 women in full finery gathered for the Mother of Wundher luncheon, giving every woman in the room an award for the often thankless journey of motherhood.

Wundher activities range from annual January vison-boarding partay to #MOMversations on race featuring a range of expert voices to evening cocktail gatherings with special speakers in support of local nonprofits and a march/rally in Overton Park in support of black children after George Floyd’s death.

Lori served Saks Fifth Avenue as vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion from September 2020 to February 2022. Sensitive to the weight and trauma that DEI officers carry, not only for their employees, but themselves, Lori initiated in late 2021 an annual DEI Summit to support self-care and wellness among DEI professionals.

She organized the second summit in December 2022 after moving in October to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.

In her 2023 Linked In profile, Lori lists these titles:

MOM | VP, Chief DEI Officer | Founder, The DEI Collective & Wundher | Experience Curator | Corporate Collaborator | Speaker/Facilitator | Board Director | Career Aligner | Writer | Multihyphenate

The record of her professional and civic life is a litany of energetic, creative, passionate leadership to help women and girls live their fullest, most equitable and joyous life. Lori lives the Vision definition, constantly finding timely, new ways to respond to women’s needs with sensitivity and purpose.

Judy Card


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Judy Card

Madeleine Albright, the United States’ first female secretary of state,
famously said: “There is a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.” Be assured: Judy Card is headed for whatever Paradise she chooses!

Judy lives as a vibrant example of what it means to help other women – to nurture, to value and to celebrate all that is powerful, that is precious, that is universal, mysterious and eternal about the feminine.

The Mid-South was blessed the day that this daughter of the East Tennessee hills chose to cross the state for a job in the Memphis Public Library. Thanks to her, Women of Achievement was born and has survived and thrived since 1984.

Judy came to Memphis carrying generations of Appalachian storytelling and singing in her veins. She sang when her extended family gathered in four-part harmony around a piano, and she sang in the car with her mom. Judy graduated in a class of 125 from the same Hixson, Tennessee, school building where she began her education. She happily escaped to university in Knoxville to finally live in a place where everyone did NOT know everything about her whole life!

She awakened to the stirrings of women’s equality on campus – swapping “person” for “he” in conversation and reading – a lot. She moved to Memphis in 1975 with her library degree and special training in children’s service, leaving behind a brief marriage, a no-benefits job with some architects and beginning her 40 hugely productive, creative years as a librarian.

The Memphis library was striving to desegregate staffing, so she was posted to the Hollywood Branch. After a break for some San Francisco adventures, she returned as acting director of the children’s department and eventually was invited to apply to direct the adult literacy project. She trained prison inmates and spoke at many African American churches. She recalls the most memorable moment of two years with the literacy program — when she had to speak after the masterful Apostle GE Patterson delivered his Sunday message!

Judy found other women sharing her concerns in the Memphis chapter of the National Organization for Women and its consciousness raising groups where storytelling was again a potent force. She also volunteered with the Memphis Center for Reproductive Health self-help groups. Volunteers with the center’s Memphis Self-Help Collective were trained using their own bodies to teach other women about their sexual health and how to check for disease and care for their bodies – from birth control and abortion to pregnancy, menopause and abuse. They instructed about women’s health at campus events, women’s fairs and in church basements, equipped with a metal speculum, which Judy still has, and a slide show of their cervixes. “We rabidly wanted to show you all about your body,” Judy says.

For several years, she counseled patients before termination procedures at the center, now known as CHOICES, and served on the board.

In the late ‘80s and 1990s, Judy and four women friends formed Delta Rising Storytellers, a collective that told stories about women, “love stories, more or less,” at events like Take Back the Night for free and for pay at festivals and museums. She was part of the first group of Artists in the Schools, telling tales to engage children in active listening. She hosted a radio show on WEVL for about 6 years, called Pass It On. And she also performed with a group called Tellervision that combined stories and music. She served on the board and produced festivals for the Tennessee Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling. As a volunteer, she coordinated children’s tents for the Center for Southern Folklore and Memphis in May.

Judy was the pick when library leadership created a staff development position for planning programs and writing grants. That’s where she was, in an airy office high above Peabody Avenue, when community organizer Jeanne Dreifus sought library partners to seek a federal Humanities grant for a women’s history project offered through Radcliffe College. Judy wrote a winning grant and the Memphis team produced Women in the Community in 1981, four programs of panels and music on women’s historic leadership in religion, music, social services and work. The series brought to light many rarely mentioned and little-known stories of women’s roles in local history – city builders, change makers, creators of institutions and makers of policy.

Journalist Deborah Clubb, weary of covering events that honored men’s accomplishments, was inspired by those local stories and came looking for help inventing a celebration of local women to be part of the new national recognition of women’s history each March. Judy says, “It was the obvious next thing to do.”

Meetings of the 15 founders were held around her conference table, talking about Deborah’s idea of building a community coalition of women and women’s groups to collect local women’s history and give awards for outstanding community work by women. They invented a program of seven awards that capture and preserve women’s essential and outstanding work to make communities better – and indeed to make history.

Judy is the only person besides Deborah who has participated in the Women of Achievement process and planning most years since 1984. She was the third president and the two have co-written many of the essays. Judy’s wide connections across Memphis communities shaped and strengthened WA’s diversity of faiths, ages, races and communities engaged in the nomination and selection process and in the panorama of women among the 262 honorees and three groups whose stories are preserved. It’s an archive of stories that can’t be matched, Judy says. Stories and honorees come from the community and are shared with the community, not as a fundraiser, she says, but “because someone has done something to be remembered and recognized.”

In 2004, Judy was named Librarian of the Year by the Mid-South Chapter Special Librarians Association and the Memphis Area Library Council. She served twice as president of the library association now called the Library Learning Network.

She retired from the Memphis system after 28 years in late 2003, as head of Staff Training.  She traveled a bit then joined the 5-county First Regional Library in Mississippi in 2006 to coordinate Youth Services. She retired again in 2016, then returned to be interim director, then REALLY retired in 2018.

She is on the board of the Memphis Area Women’s Council and recently rejoined the Nubian Theater Co. where she is transforming the folktale The People Could Fly into Fly: The Musical.

Judy Card has a vision of a world where all people are free and empowered by their stories and where women’s truth and contributions are valued, known, learned and shared. She strives purposefully toward making that vision a reality for today and always.

Judy Card is our 2020-2022 Woman of Achievement for Vision.

Carol Danehower


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Dr. Carol Danehower

Every day dozens of women and girls in Memphis and Shelby County endure beatings, sexual abuse, verbal abuse and emotional violence that strip them of their health, their sanity, their confidence and their capacity to study or to work. Every year 15 to 20 local women are killed by men who have claimed to love them.

Dr. Carol Danehower is committed to giving of her time, her expertise as a researcher and educator, and her passion for helping women to fulfill a vision of safety and fairness for women in their homes, at work, everywhere.

Carol is an associate professor in the Department of Management at the University Of Memphis Fogelman College Of Business. She became aware of the deadly extent of domestic violence locally and nationally as member of the board of the Memphis YWCA, a leader in DV services for over 40 years. Nominated to the Tennessee Economic Council on Women by UofM President Dr. Shirley Raines in 2007, Carol read their research on the economic impact of domestic violence and began to develop her own research into the connection between DV and the workplace.

She came to the Memphis Area Women’s Council in 2011 as a volunteer concerned about women and violence and interested in how that connection limits women’s capacity to be productive and maintain jobs or careers.

She soon created with the Women’s Council a two-hour training workshop “Violence at Home. Victims at Work. Employers Confront Domestic Violence,” a compelling program that equips employers to recognize when employees or colleagues are struggling with domestic violence – intimate partner violence – and to respond with compassion and community resources.

Carol presents the training to classes at UofM every semester and, with Deborah Clubb, has trained nearly 1,000 people in workplaces across the city — without pay and on top of her full-time job.

Carol’s route to a thriving academic career began at Hendrix College in Conway, AR, where she studied economics after a wonderful childhood on her family’s farm outside Forrest City. She got her master’s in economics from the University of Arkansas in 1978 and then was drawn to the emerging profession of personnel management and human resources. She completed her Doctorate in Business Administration in 1987 at the University of Kentucky.

She taught at Rhodes College 1986-1989. She moved to the UofM where her role also involves graduate students, older students and those from varied backgrounds. She was an administrator in the Fogelman College for 12 years, then returned to regular faculty position in 2009. Since 2015 she has been part-time teaching, including on-line courses, and part-time working in Academic Affairs on various projects.

It was Carol who initiated the effort at UofM in 2015 to address the scourge of on-campus sexual assault with the debut screening of “The Hunting Ground” documentary. She secured the powerful film about the scourge of college campus rape and led programming for it at Memphis and Jackson/Lambuth campuses. For 2019 she is giving the same leadership to securing “Roll Red Roll” about the Steubenville, OH, high school football team rape case and working with MAWC to create a special training event for local high school teachers and coaches on disclosure and consent.

Carol for years mentored and advised the campus chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. She is greeted regularly around the city and across the Internet by former students happy to see “Dr. D.”

Carol began chairing of the Women’s Council board of directors in 2013 and continues in that capacity.

Her vision for safe, secure, productive homes and workplaces for all is critical and just. For her generous and persistent efforts toward that vision, we honor her today as Woman of Achievement for Vision 2019.

Cherisse Scott


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Cherisse Scott

28 years old.

Singing the lead in a national touring company production.


Home to Chicago and to an abortion clinic.

Only it wasn’t. It was a crisis pregnancy clinic where Cherisse Scott was convinced to stay pregnant and sent home with a onesie. She went back to her pre-musical job as a paralegal, delivered her son and seven months later was unemployed, on food stamps and getting nothing from the crisis clinic to sustain the life, health and well-being of her child.

For six years, and through three pregnancies that were terminated by abortion, Cherisse worked temp jobs and performing gigs. She says, “I didn’t understand my body. I had no information. After the third time, I ran into a reproductive justice advocate who finally taught me how to understand my fertility.”

The power of understanding her body – fertility, pregnancy and how to prevent it – made her passionate about sex education. She knows full well how life changes positively when a woman is empowered with access and information about her reproductive and sexual health.

She began volunteering with her new friend’s group – Black Women for Reproductive Justice – and soon joined the board and then the staff.

In 2011 Cherisse moved to Memphis where her mother lives and where she had spent part of her childhood. Her mother saw the need for what Cherisse was doing in Chicago to be black-woman led on behalf of black women, Cherisse says.

With her mother and grandmother as honorary co-founders, she launched SisterReach, a nonprofit whose mission is focused on empowering women and girls of color through a broad interpretation of reproductive justice.

SisterReach defines reproductive justice as “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities in all areas of our lives.”

SisterReach provides comprehensive sexuality education, sexual communication training and outreach to women and girls, men and boys, families and LGBTQI individuals at churches, schools, community centers and through local, state, regional and national collaboratives such as Memphis Teen Vision, Free Condoms Memphis, Choose2Wait, Healthy and Free Tennessee, Advocates for Youth, Trust Black Women and Raising Women’s Voices. Outreach efforts and classes cover healthy relationships, anatomy, birth control, consent and risky behavior.

Women in higher poverty areas are at greater risk of unwanted pregnancy, dropping out of school and other things related to sexual health so SisterReach strives to guide women and girls to resources for pap smears, emergency contraception, testing and treatment.

Cherisse and SisterReach produced a 2015 report on the need for comprehensive sexuality education for Southern youth of color; opposed anti-abortion billboards in Memphis targeting black men, trained clergy and faith leaders on social justice issues; and presented to the United Nations Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice on the impact of fetal assault legislation on Tennessee women. SisterReach’s work and state and national partners led to defeat of the fetal assault bill which in 2016 criminalized women struggling with drug addiction.

Cherisse is a 2016 Rockwood Institute Fellow, Reproductive Justice and Faith Fellow with the Center for American Progress and has been featured in New York magazine, O magazine, NBC News #31DaysofFeminism Campaign and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. A recent push for meetings in Washington are aimed at talking to decision-makers about the kind of support black women need.

And on top of all that, Cherisse has returned to her music, singing jazz/soul/R&B fusion. She will release a third album this year and wants to create a one-woman show that incorporates her social justice passion and her music.

In a social and political atmosphere which scapegoats and stereotypes young women of color for their sexuality, Cherisse instead teaches, supports and advocates for them in claiming control over their bodies and their reproductive decisions.

“I’m a bisexual black woman who is also a Christian and a minister,’ Cherisse says. “I hope SisterReach is a space for black and brown women to feel community.”

Elaine Blanchard


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Elaine Blanchard

Elaine Blanchard is a writer, mother, minister, nurse, hospice counselor and actor. But most of all she is a storyteller. Elaine believes in the power of story to help us share our humanity and understand the deeper meaning of our lives.

She knows through her own experience that understanding our own story and sharing that story with others connects us to ourselves and our humanity. That knowledge has led her to a vision of using storytelling to bring self-understanding and hope to women in prison.

Elaine grew up in a rigidly religious and misogynistic Southern household. She married, became a minister, and gave birth to a daughter. She left that marriage after realizing that she is a lesbian. She became a nurse, and then a hospice nurse. She returned to the ministry, she found love and formed a life-partnership with Anna Neal. In 2000, she graduated from Memphis Theological Seminary.

While presenting the Children’s Sermon, at First Congregational Church, she began telling stories of her childhood. And people listened.

During this time her understanding of the power of story grew and she took it to other areas of her life. Having a mother with Alzheimer’s, dying in a care facility, Elaine recognized that giving voice to her mother’s story could help caregivers see her mother as a person, She created a brief story narrative of her mother’s life to “introduce” her mother to caregivers. This was hung over her mother’s bed, along with pictures from her mother’s life and caregivers began to interact with her mother in a more humanized way. This led to the work of “I Am” Stories, which helps provide narratives for families to honor loved ones at the end of life.

In 2010, she gathered childhood experiences with racism, sexism, abuse and dogmatic religion and turned them into a play. The critically acclaimed For Goodness Sake has toured extensively. Her second play, Skin and Bones, is an exploration of the shame, power and beauty of the human body.

Since 2010, Elaine has been working behind bars with women inmates to produce Prison Stories, a story listening/story telling process that gives voice to the stories of the lives of the women.

Why? Elaine grew up in a home with three brothers and a father. For Elaine, it was a “rigid, judgmental and misogynist environment….I grew up feeling like I was invisible.”

This led Elaine to a vision of using story as a way to help women adapt to life behind bars and learn to avoid the behaviors that put them there. “My inspiration to go to the prison and listen to women’s stories comes from the pain of being dismissed, neglected and forgotten.”

Each series of Prison Stories includes 12 volunteer inmates who sit in a circle two days a week for 16 weeks and talk about themselves and issues. Each group reads two books: coming-of-age story Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and Zen writer’s guide, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. As they discuss the books, the women open up about themselves. At night they keep a diary. Themes tend to repeat with each group – body image, food, mothers, unintended pregnancies, life in prison and violence. At the end of the series, a readers’ theatre piece is created and performed by actors. There is a prison performance as well as performances on the outside.

The prison system hopes to reduce repeat offenses. Women who have shared their stories say the experience helps them understand their pasts and to feel like their lives matter.

Next, Elaine will work with clients of Friends for Life, to help people living with HIV tell their stories.

Judy Wimmer


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Judy Wimmer

Judy Wimmer has long had the vision of a peaceful and loving community free of prejudice and with respect for all. This vision has led her to bring her creative and enlightened leadership to many projects and initiatives designed to improve the lives of women and children in Memphis and Shelby County.

Judy has always been very sensitive. Even the nuns at school told her so. She’s always been an activist, ever willing to take on a new challenge. She began taking dance classes at age 3 and started her own dance school right after high school, teaching ballet, tap and jazz in her own studio in Whitehaven while attending college. She only became a stay-at-home mom with the birth of Dana. But even then she didn’t stay home.

In the spring of 1968, Judy participated in the first Rearing Children of Good Will Workshop, a program that brought black and white mothers together to hear speakers on civil rights, child development and community needs and then to promote dialog across racial lines. Inspired by the experience, that summer she organized a second workshop in the Whitehaven community.

That same year, she became a founding member of the Memphis Panel of American Women, organized locally by Jocelyn Wurzburg. This group brought together ethnically and religiously diverse women to speak at service organizations, schools, etc. about their personal experiences with exclusion and discrimination.

In 1969 she chaired the Public Affairs committee of the Concerned Women of Memphis and Shelby County. Their primary goal was to help AFSCME avoid another sanitation workers’ strike.

Being a family who talked the talk and walked the walk, Judy, her husband Fred, and their three children purposefully moved to the integrated Vollintine-Evergreen community. The children were then enrolled in public schools, much to the dismay of the grandparents.

She next became one of the key organizers and volunteers of IMPACT (Involved Memphis Parents Assisting Children and Teachers), a group that supported the court-ordered public school busing which took place in 1972. She often ran the office and served as the group’s spokeswoman. Once busing began she organized volunteers at every bus stop to insure a peaceful process. J. Mac Holladay, director of IMPACT, recalls that “her dedication to public education and to the future of the City of Memphis was a shining light in a time of crisis.”

Continuing to pursue her vision for women, from 1974-1976 Judy was a VISTA volunteer, working at MIFA as co-director of Mother to Mother, a program that paired church volunteers and mothers on welfare to help them navigate the social service system. Pairing these mothers from different backgrounds had the additional impact of dispelling myths on both sides.

In 1981, the Memphis Public Library received a National Endowment for the Humanities’ Women in the Community grant administered through Radcliff College. A small committee planned a series of public programs called “Memphis Women: From Yellow Fever to 2001.” Judy was a member of the committee as well being a program chair.

Judy says that one of the best things that ever happened to her was returning to the University of Memphis to complete her degree. She says that Maya Angelou and Women of Achievement Heritage recipient Myra Dreifus are to blame. Judy had gone to hear Ms. Angelou speak and along with a few others went out on the lawn in the rain to continue the conversation. Myra was there, invited her to lunch, and after two hours of exchanging confidences, told Judy to go finish school. Undecided until that conversation, she did, completing her degree in 1982.

Of course Judy was there – on the planning committee – when Women of Achievement began in 1984. Our goal of recognizing the unheralded achievements of women is right up her alley.

In 1968 Judy wrote: “These are times of soul-searching throughout our community, our country, our world. As never before, concerned people are seeking ways to live in fellowship, harmony, understanding, and love with all persons everywhere.” These words still inform her vision.

Judy Wimmer passed away on September 22, 2021.

Donna Fortson


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Donna Fortson

In the early 1980s, downtown minister Jesse Garner saw Donna Fortson as a woman with the ideal characteristics to lead the First Presbyterian Church soup kitchen.

He recalls: “Something about Donna struck me as a person who had the savvy to run something, and also as a person who had a great deal of compassion.’’

Donna, a Sunday School teacher and municipal bond underwriter, hadn’t thought about volunteering in the soup kitchen, but she agreed to take the job leading the church’s outreach committee. “I thought it was somewhere that I could help,” she said.

About 25 men began to show up for meals every Sunday afternoon, and the regular group grew to about 100 by the late 1980s. With the growing numbers of people, Donna began to notice a heartbreaking change in the patrons.

“When women and children started coming to the soup kitchen, that upset me,” Donna said.

Some of the families were homeless. Others were struggling to make ends meet in nearby Lauderdale Courts. Some of the women had been abused. Donna did what she could through the soup kitchen. She and the volunteers set up special tables for children and served them milk and Spaghetti-o’s instead of the adult food. But there just wasn’t much she could do to help the families on a Sunday afternoon. Donna wanted to do more and began to envision a shelter for women and children — something that wasn’t available in Memphis then.

She started making connections, attending meetings and learning all that she could about ways to address the problems the women were facing. By 1992, her vision began to manifest, and Memphis Family Shelter was incorporated. Two years later, Donna left her investment banking career to make her vision a reality. The first shelter, which housed four families, opened in 1996 with Donna as the first executive director.

Even as the shelter opened in a Midtown foursquare, Donna and her board knew they needed a larger facility if they wanted to make a real difference. They began to plan for a larger shelter that would house four times as many families. The new $1.7 million shelter opened in December 2000, providing food, shelter and safety for 16 women and their children.

Families can stay in the shelter for up to two years; the average stay is between six and nine months. While there, they have access to counseling, budgeting help, and tutoring for their children and rental assistance programs to help the families make the move from the shelter to apartments.

More than 250 families had found temporary homes in the shelter in its first 10 years. As she begins the second decade, Donna is looking to the future. She is challenged by decreases in federal funding, but encouraged that there are now other agencies offering transitional housing for families.

“I think this is what I was supposed to do,” she said.

Rev. Garner calls the results “spectacular” and says his suggestion of Donna for the outreach committee exceeded his greatest expectations.

“I don’t remember the particular logic, though I would call it divine inspiration,” he said. “I have always described that as the single smartest thing I have ever done in my life.”

Women of Achievement agrees! Donna Fortson turned the suffering she saw in the soup line into inspiration for helping homeless women.

Donna’s vision of a home for women who have no home, of a safe place where mothers and children can heal and renew their lives, has come true.

Ruby Bright


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Ruby Bright

Ruby learned early in life that if she could imagine something, she could make it happen.

As a teenager growing up in Byhalia, Mississippi, Ruby took a walk with her father one Saturday afternoon and was saddened to see poor chidden in her community whose toys were sticks, tin cans and old car tires. She told her father: “I wish we could build a park for them.”

His response: “Why don’t you? You can do anything you want to do.” He offered her a small piece of land he owned for a park.

Many children hear “you can do anything you want to do” from parents and teachers. Some act on it. Many would look at an overgrown lot and think “that’s too big for me.” Not Ruby. She acted on her father’s encouragement with the energy and optimism that she has brought to projects through her career.

Ruby went to church the next morning and found others who would join her. Within a few months, the community had a new park built on the donated land with $5,000 in contributions.

Ruby was sensitive to the children in her community and envisioned a park. She made it a reality. Now she knew that she could truly change the world — or at least her part of it. She combines her vision with passion and practicality. And she excels.

When she got a job at a printing company, she learned everything about it and became its executive director. When she volunteered for Junior Achievement, the organization recognized her value, and hired her.

When she applied to become executive director of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, the board chose her from among 90 candidates across the country. The organization was just five years old then, and searching for its fourth top executive. Each of the first three directors led the organization to another level of accomplishment. Now it was time to find the woman who would lead for the long-term.

“We wanted a visionary director and also somebody who could churn it out day-to-day because an organization can’t run on vision alone,” board member Debbie Binswanger told a reporter after Ruby completed her first year.

The board members found what they wanted. Ruby marks her fifth year with the Women’s Foundation this summer, and the organization marks its 10th anniversary of making Memphis a better place for women and their children.

Most recently Ruby has put her vision for women into action by co-founding the Memphis Area Women’s Council, a new non-profit dedicated to changing policy to open opportunities for women.

We asked her what factor contributed to her success in so many areas — from teenage community volunteer, to printing company executive, to president of Junior Achievement of Middle America. “I’ve always been the one who says, “Why do we have to do it that way?” “ What if we could do this?” she said. “At Junior Achievement, they called me ‘the Why Lady’. ”

As Ruby and the Women’s Foundation look to the future, count on her to keep asking ‘why’ and to accomplish even more for women and their children.

Since 1996, WFGM has awarded $6.6 million to 395 programs, supporting more than 30 local non-profits each year with grant awards of over $600,000. Stated in 2009, the Women’s Foundation Legends Award was created to pay tribute to innovative women whose work embodies the mission of the women’s foundation.

Sonja White


for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Sonja White

Love shouldn’t hurt and Sonja White’s vision is for a world where it never will.

Women struggling to escape domestic violence desperately need the safety and justice that the legal system purports to offer, so nothing makes Sonja White angrier than seeing it fail them.

Her passion has fueled her work in two aspects of domestic violence – as a victim’s advocate and as a legal aid attorney. But she has not only worked her paid job – she also gives hours of her time in various volunteer leadership roles seeking resources and policy change that will rescue women and children from the nightmare epidemic of domestic crime that infects our community.

Sonja grew up in Memphis, graduated from Hamilton High and journeyed to Adelphi University in New York for college in 1981. She did a variety of part-time jobs to get through college and law school, including selling lingerie for Bloomingdale’s. She earned her law degree from Hofstra University 1988 and worked for eight years in the New York City criminal courts.

It was during that time that she realized she could not continue to defend batterers. She could not look into the faces of the injured and traumatized women and then stand up for the men who had hurt them. She came home to Memphis and went to work as director of the Memphis YWCA Abused Women’s Services Court Advocacy Program, helping women navigate the complex system of courts.

From fall of 2001 to spring of 2004 she was an adjunct professor of law in the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Domestic Violence Clinic. She has specialized since then in domestic violence cases as managing attorney of the Memphis Area Legal Services Family Law Unit. Her focus is on utilization of the judicial system to eliminate barriers to violence free lives for victims of domestic violence.

She goes above and beyond the parameters of her job, however, every day.

She writes grants to bring new resources to the community, such as one that created the Opportunity Plus project at Memphis Area Legal Services Family Law Unit. It offers women who have survived domestic violence case management support and assistance with employment, housing, child-rearing and other issues so that they can become independent and self-sustaining and avoid returning to their abuser.

She regularly speaks to civic and professional groups about domestic violence and court reform and has written numerous articles. She has led one plank of the domestic violence strategy for Operation: Safe Community, the coalition of business, elected and law enforcement leaders. Sonja’s initiative seeks to create a Unified Family Court here and she was named to the Shelby County Unified Family Court Task Force last year – a task that took many extra hours of work beyond her case docket.

As president of the Memphis Area Women’s Council since 2006 she leads the council’s DV action team that is pursuing new legislation, new funding and new collaborations to address the high numbers of local domestic crimes, including a record 34 domestic homicides.

As co-chair of the Memphis Shelby County Domestic Violence Council, she will oversee a revamping of its mission to grow from a networking organization to a hub of collaboration to fill gaps and strengthen capacity of essential service agencies.

Sonja White cares fervently for the hundreds of women and children who are damaged by domestic crime. She works tirelessly every day – while raising her own three children – to build a world where they and their friends and all of our children can expect to live in safe, nurturing relationships.

For her vision of a place where women can be safe from denigrating, demeaning and deadly treatment by those who are supposed to love and care for them, for her vision of a world where children can grow up in homes where adults are respectful and nurturing of each other and of them, for her vision that the judicial system can empower women to prosecute their abusers and rescue their children from harm and from generational violence, Sonja White is the 2009 Woman of Achievement for Vision.

Sonja White died in May 2013.