My name is Alexis, and Ten Thousand Girlfriends began with me. As a child of nine, at a time of crisis in my home, I learned the power of women coming together in community to support one another, and I grew up looking for ways to create that feeling for myself, to be involved with a convergence of strong women who made a difference in this world. Fortunately, groups of powerful women are not difficult to find; they are everywhere around us.
I worked in social services in Chicago for 35 years, working in many of the lower-income communities in the city, and with a variety of what people call ‘marginalized populations.’ But mostly I worked with families, and they were often mother-led families; mostly working poor or seriously impoverished. I identified with them, because I was also a single parent, raising a daughter on my own. And I marveled at them, because even though I seldom had two dimes to rub together, the families I worked with were generally worse off than I was.
Society doesn’t think much of working poor or just plain poor single mothers. We shame them for what we consider the selfish, impulsive and uninformed choices that led to their being poor single mothers. But the decisions or choices that lead to single motherhood are often made when we are young, teenagers. And young people do not always make good decisions. In fact, they are known for making poor choices.
This always raised questions for me: How long does that single mom have to pay for her unwise decision before we decide she is worth helping? Why do we resent assisting her and her children when we know that improving their standard of living is the best course of action on any number of levels?
I have never found good answers to these questions, and after many years, I decided to do something, and put my faith once again in the power of community to support and heal. And Ten Thousand Girlfriends was born.
What We Believe
At Ten Thousand Girlfriends, we believe that single moms are some of the strongest, most capable women on the planet.
We dismiss the implication that we are responsible for the ills of society because it is financial insecurity, not single parenting, that causes hardship for the 30% of single-parent families living in poverty.
We reject the judgment of a society that stigmatizes us both for having babies and for not having babies; for having to put our children in childcare in order to work or for staying home and relying on safety-net programs because we can’t find affordable childcare; for not having enough income—despite working more than one job– while we are being paid minimum wage, and less than men, at jobs with no benefits.
We believe, as audacious as it may sound, that we are entitled to relationships that include sexual intimacy, even if we are poor and unmarried. Perhaps especially if we are poor and unmarried.
We refuse to recognize any process that results in a decision about women’s lives if women did not participate equally in making that decision.
We believe that women are entitled to the same rights as men, including the right of agency over their own bodies.
We hold negligent a society, Congress and justice system that continues to place responsibility for a man’s criminal behavior with women; that refuses to find men culpable and administer adequate punishment for serious crimes; that places the needs of felons over the needs of the women and children they rape.
And we believe in the power of women, coming together in community, to provide support and create positive change for single parents and their children.
What We Are Doing
We are a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation whose mission is to help female-headed families improve their socio-economic status through access to resources and information that empowers and assists them in creating a better life for themselves and their children. That's a fancy way of saying we assist single moms and their children by offering help that meets their needs.
We are currently engaged in:
Publishing an online magazine called RISE, written for women, with a focus on low to middle-income single-parent moms.
Building an online community of individuals interested in assisting women and their families as they climb up and out of poverty, who are supportive of women’s issues, and who reject the idea that if you are poor, you are also morally suspect. Members, identified as ‘Girlfriends’ (even when they are men), can be involved in the organization in a number of ways.
Initiating partnerships with women-focused NGOs and community institutions where you find single moms and their families, We strengthen support and close gaps in service in order to supplement the work already being done on behalf of single-parent families. We ask, ‘What do your families need to move forward?’ And then we try to give it to them.
Learning about and sharing (through our RISE and Ten Thousand Girlfriends Facebook pages, in addition to RISE Magazine), a focus on family, parenting, social, societal and financial issues impacting women, and especially single moms.
Our current services include School Fees and School Supplies, a program that helps lower-income single moms be able to send their kids off to school knowing they have what they need to get the most out of their education; and the Single Mama Helpline, so moms can talk to someone who will listen and help with referrals for a variety of issues or goals.
Plans for the future include SPAN, the Single Parent Advocacy Network, which will share information about how government policies help or hurt their efforts to create a better life for themselves and their children, and whether or not their representatives are addressing the needs of single-parent households, and what they can do about it; the Homeward Project, a group of services to assist homeless single-parent families transition to a home of their own, and decrease the chance that they will become homeless again; and two funds, which will provide grants to single moms to assist with education and training, housing, childcare and healthcare.