The Women of the Storm Stir Up a Tempest
Though the Women of the Storm have become a sensation in New Orleans, on Capitol Hill and across the nation, they humbly view themselves as doing necessary work in the tragic wakes of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “We are all here working for the betterment of our community; everyone who is pitching in is a hero,” says Anne Milling, the founder of this passionate, committed, nonpartisan, multicultural organization of women from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds who hail from the New Orleans metropolitan area, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Thibodaux and Houma. “I asked a small group over to my house on January 10th to bounce my idea off of them,” Milling smiles. And the idea took. These ladies, Peggy L. Laborde, Beverly Church, Pam Bryan, Nancy Marsiglia and Liz Sloss, “are all knowledgeable volunteers who work throughout the community and had a wonderful perspective on what was doable. And they said ‘Let’s go;’ 20 days later, we were on a plane to Washington D.C. with 130 Women of the Storm.”
The Message is Clear
It all began as an idea: Milling saw the devastation around her and decided that it was important for Congress to see New Orleans, tour its devastation and understand its needs, and to hopefully incite them to become more involved in the city’s resurrection. The women’s mission is to inspire each member of Congress to visit and view the desolation in New Orleans and South Louisiana caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Only by absorbing it block-by-block and mile-by-mile, they believe, will the members who vote for federal help truly understand. Since their trip to D.C., their mission has not changed one iota. “The ladies and I feel that once they have been here, then we can advocate for oil and gas revenues and for increased funding for houses. We can do all of those things, but the mission of the Women of the Storm is to get Congress here,” Milling reiterates.
The Women of the Storm successfully stirred things up in D.C. “The media was overwhelmed by the ladies with their blue tarp umbrellas,” Milling smiles. “We swarmed Capitol Hill like little bees in pairs and knocked on doors where we had appointments. It went so smoothly. I think the ladies made an impression on everyone.” Each pair of women extended a personal invitation to four Congressmen. This included an all-expenses paid, 36-hour trip to New Orleans and a copy of the book America’s Wetland: Louisiana’s Vanishing Coast by Mike Dunne and Bevil Knapp. Beyond achieving their goal of inviting each member of Congress, this became a bonding experience among women, many of whom had never met each other before their triumphant trip.
Now the hard part begins. “It’s one thing to extend the invitation. It’s another, and a more difficult one, to get them to accept the invitation,” Milling reminds us. The first Congressman will have visited by the end of the first week of March, and they hope that many more will follow suit.
The Women of the Storm are growing in numbers as well. Anyone who is passionate about New Orleans and wants to help them find ways to entice others on Capitol Hill to come and visit are encouraged to join the group. “We would welcome anyone who would like to be a part of the Women of the Storm,” Milling smiles.
If you would like to become a Woman of the Storm, email Anne Milling at: [email protected].
The Women of the Storm who met with members of Congress on January 30:
Sandra Rhodes Duncan
Anne C. Goliwas
Simone Theriot Maloz
Sr. An Nguyen
Sr. Anne Marie Nguyen
Tina Freeman Woollam