The Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri: women building better communities.
Mary Shaw “Shawsie” Branton’s daughters, Page Reed and Leslie Hoffecker accepted her Starr Women’s Hall of Fame Award on her behalf. She passed away last year at the age of 95. Jen Bennett, League President, joined them onstage afterwards.
At the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame Luncheon and 2017 Class Induction, Kansas City leaders, along with special guest Ashley Judd took the time to recognize, acknowledge and thank nine remarkable female pioneers whose lives have changed the landscape of our city – including our very own League member, Mary Shaw “Shawsie” Branton.
Shawsie, The Association of Junior League International’s prestigious 2011 Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award winner, was recognized by those who knew her best as not only “a lightning rod of compassionate change,” but as “a voice of the underserved” as well.
At an early age, Shawsie saw how the extension of a hand could make a difference in people’s lives. When she was 11, her grandfather, who owned a local pharmacy, passed away. As her family members cleaned out his desk, what they found spoke volumes – a stack of IOUs to him for medicine, with a note from him saying not to collect them after his death.
Throughout her life, Shawsie was hailed as a catalyst who changed the landscape – and the people – of Kansas City forever. In the 1940s, she led the organization of the Cerebral Palsy Nursery School (today known as the Children’s Therapeutic Learning Center), at a time when children with disabilities were often shunned.
In the 1950s, a full year before the Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling, Shawsie convinced the board of the local nursery school to integrate students. In the 1970s, while serving on the board of Planned Parenthood, she fearlessly advocated for birth control and families, and at the age of 73, she became the first female Chairman of the Board of the Greater Kansas City YMCA.
Special guest Ashley Judd was visibly moved and grateful for Shawsie’s and all of the inductees’ dedication to civil responsibility. She added in her message that activism is doing what’s right with dignity and respect – and “If you are a human, you are a humanitarian.”
The tireless efforts of Shawsie and her peer inductees have had a lasting impression on our city. To them, we simply can’t say thank you enough! Their legacy is truly an inspiration.