GoWomen: Rev. Willie T. Barrow’s Legacy

Rev. Willie T. Barrow’s Legacy

February is Black History Month celebrating the profound and lasting impact that the civil rights movement had on all marginalized groups. While the primary focus of the civil rights movement was the critical need for racial equality and justice, Black women also challenged gender norms and advocated for the rights of all women. 

Black women played a pivotal and influential role in civil rights, including Rosa Parks, who famously refused to give up her seat on the bus that barred African Americans from sitting anywhere they chose, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who led voting drives to register Black Americans. Many women in the movement were unacknowledged–women like Ella Baker, who advocated for widespread local action, or “participatory democracy,” and Dorothy Height, who was president of the National Council of Negro Women and who focused on the double jeopardy of racism and sexism African American women often faced. Their leadership paved the way for women to take on more prominent roles in various social and political spheres.  

Our own hometown hero, Rev. Willie T. Barrow, was no exception.  

 As a leader in Chicago’s civil rights movement, Rev. Barrow believed in breaking barriers, challenging the status quo, and bringing women together to support and learn from each other, mentoring an ever-expanding pipeline of leaders. She helped to build networks with others working for change, often saying, “We are not so divided as we are disconnected.” 

That exceptional work continues through “Willie’s Warriors,” a leadership development cohort of Black women in the Chicago region. Rev. Barrow’s legacy and fierce commitment to justice lives on through The Willie Taplin Barrow Fund for Black Women’s Leadership at Chicago Foundation for Women. 

 How proud we are that CFW houses this program!   

Willie’s Warriors are important to CFW’s overarching work of building a diverse, multi-sector, inter-generational, and intersectional Gender Equity Network of individuals and organizations committed to working together to end gender bias in our region. Black communities and Black women often experience this inequality in its harshest forms. Sharing space with other women who have had similar experiences breaks down isolation and builds leadership. Through its efforts to help build community and by funding organizations that work directly with people where they live, CFW is committed to supporting Black leaders in their work to create a more equitable society. 

During her lifetime, Rev. Barrow exemplified Black women’s leadership in social justice movements as a field organizer for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where she was responsible for the organization of transportation, shelter, meetings, and rallies for demonstrations, including the 1965 March on Selma, Alabama. She was also a founding member of Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, later called the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, working with Rev. Jesse Jackson. She provided spiritual guidance and practical assistance to communities in need. 

Being the driving force in cultivating change can weigh heavily on women. On top of being civic leaders, women are often caregivers and mothers, and with a tendency to give much of themselves to a cause, many leaders experience burnout. That’s why Willie’s Warriors is curated to be different from traditional leadership development programs. It is intended to be led by Black women for Black women, creating a sense of security and grounded in self-reflection and self-care.  

The support doesn’t end after graduation. Once participants complete the program, they’re inducted into the alumni group which provides lifelong support. I recently had the honor of attending the Willie’s Warriors alumni induction ceremony; connection, support, and joy radiated from the group.  

This year–which would have been Rev. Barrow’s 100th birthday–will also mark the milestone of over 100 women participating in the program. Much work is still to be done in the fight against racism and the work for women’s rights, but we can celebrate Rev. Willie Barrow for the change she helped create over the years, and, also the 100 Willie’s Warriors for the successes their work will bring. 

 Stay tuned to further announcements from CFW on the next cohort of Willie’s Warriors. While applications for this year are closed, applications for the 2025 cohort will begin in a few months. Please think about applying or passing the information along to someone who may be interested. Know that, like Rev. Willie Barrow, you can also lead a life of service in the fight for women’s and civil rights. Your actions, whether through active support, generous donations, or leading the charge, can create monumental impact and a legacy of transformative change. 

Together we will persist,

Sunny Fischer


CFW’s co-founder, and interim President & CEO

Western Suburbs Giving Circle Requests for Proposals are due February 15th

The Western Suburbs Giving Circle is seeking proposals from local agencies working to advance economic security, freedom from gender-based violence and access to health. The deadline for proposals is February 15, 2024. To learn more visit here.

The WSGC is a group of Cook County and DuPage County women who combine their funds to address the needs of women and girls in the western suburbs. Since its inception in 2016, WSGC has awarded over $225,000 to local organizations working with women and girls. WSGC will be accepting applications for program or operating support in any of CFW’s three issue areas: economic security, freedom from gender-based violence, and access to health.

Early Bird Tickets are now on sale for LBTQ Giving Council's International Women's Day Dance

The LBTQ Giving Council will host their returning International Women’s Day Dance on March 9th, 2024 at 4432 S Ashland. Early bird tickets are now on sale until February 9th! All funds from the event will go towards the grants made by the LBTQ Giving Council to organizations and programs benefiting lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning women and girls in the Chicago region. Sponsorships are available! To learn more visit here.

Our News

CFW is hiring!

We are seeking candidates for the following open positions:

The President & CEO role at CFW represents the opportunity to engage the hearts and minds of staff, to knit together a cohesive and motivated staff team, and to build a culture aligned with the mission and values of CFW. CFW seeks a leader whose commitment to the mission allows them to create a stronger, larger, even more influential foundation, to fundraise fearlessly, and to have the skills to steward donors and investments. The CEO will also have the opportunity to connect at both the intellectual and emotional levels with motivated donors to create change for women and girls throughout the community.

The Manager of Communications is responsible for promoting the Foundation through community and media outreach, marketing, online communications and public relations. This position includes creating informative content, project management and implementation; intensive writing and editing on deadline; aggressive media outreach and story placement; interagency collaboration; public relations and speechwriting for Foundation events; production of all Foundation marketing materials and videos; and general communications.

Find the full job descriptions here.

In The News

Obama Foundation Gives $500K To Chicago Groups Supporting Girls’ Health, Education And More

The Obama Foundation gave $500k to 14 grassroots organizations in Chicago that support programs for girls’ health and education. Some of the recipients are CFW’s grantee partners!  Read more about The Girls Opportunity Alliance program and the recipients here.

Our Community

Mujeres Latinas En Accion is hiring!

Mujeres Latinas En Accion is seeking a Senior Grants Compliance Manager! This person needs to be a strong writer (a writing sample might be requested). This position will assist in managing, budgeting, allocation, and reporting of approximately $3.5 million in revenue, from approximately 20 government funding streams, as well as advising on private funding initiatives. To learn more visit here.

COFI is hiring!

COFI is looking for experienced organizers for a range of positions. At least 2 years of organizing experience is required, and COFI is particularly looking for staff with 3-5 years of organizing experience. To learn more visit here.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is hiring! 

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is seeking a mid-level Scholarship and Streetlight Coordinator to join our Law Project team to manage the Streetlight App and companion website on behalf of CCH, manage the CCH Scholarship Program, and in the process, work to advance racial equity. To learn more visit here.

City of Evanston Entrepreneurship Support Grant

The program is intended to assist in the growth of jobs in Evanston through entrepreneurship, helping residents and local business owners to create jobs by starting and retaining sustainable small businesses. Funds can be used to cover operating expenses, equipment, licensing fees, and other eligible expenses. Learn more about eligibility here.

The City of Chicago Law Department is hiring!

The City of Chicago Law Department is hiring for entry, mid, and supervisor level attorneys. View the open positions and job descriptions here

Community Resources

Support Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

Search by various criteria the City of Chicago minority and women-owned businesses here.
Bossy Chicago has curated a list of women-owned businesses in various sectors across Chicago, which you can find here.
YShop – YWCA Metro Chicago’s online store, offering a curated selection of goods and services with a portion of each sale benefiting YWCA

Mental Health Resources

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has compiled a list of mental health resources you can find here.
2-1-1 Metro Chicago Hotline

211 Metro Chicago is a free resource connecting all Cook County residents with essential health and social services to help them meet their basic needs. Trained, local specialists are available 24/7 to connect individuals with the support they need, such as food, housing, utility assistance, access to health care, and other vital resources. Learn more here.

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