CINCINNATI — There are countless women in our communities working behind the scenes to make a difference.
It's possible you've never heard their names, but you should know them. Throughout 2021, WCPO’s Tanya O’Rourke will introduce you to nine influential women breaking glass ceilings or asserting their influence to make the Tri-State a better place to live.
The first woman in our series is Sister Sally Duffy, a nun with the Sisters of Charity who is using her influence to end poverty in local communities.
Moira Weir, president and CEO of United Way Greater Cincinnati, describes Duffy as essential to the fight against poverty.
"Everything I think about when I think about poverty and what we've done, Sister Sally has been a part of it, or has an influence in or has recommended something that's come out of it,” Weir said.
Weir said Duffy is humble but passionate. Motivated by her faith, she's fought to raise wages in the healthcare system where she worked and helped hungry children get access to food. Duffy hopes her efforts are most noticeable in the lives of children.
“I think I've seen it manifested somewhat through the child poverty collaborative. Least I hope it has been,” Duffy said. “This pandemic has shown us, it has totally ripped open and revealed, you know, the inequities in the disparities that exist here. And especially for people of color.”
She's been fierce in pushing her ideas for years. When Duffy began discussing her agenda with people in power, she faced some blank stares.
“More than a fair number, Duffy said. “At times, I felt like, 'Well, we'll just let sister talk, and then go on.'”
Weir said she’s encouraged Duffy to use people’s expectations about nuns to her advantage.
"She's a sister, so who is gonna be mean to her? Weir said. “So I mean, like sometimes I say to her, 'You go say that, because you can say that and they're not gonna get mad at you.’”
Duffy said her work won’t be over any time soon.
“We're called to make a just and inclusive society and an equitable society, and God knows it's been inequitable for a long time, and we have a lot of groundwork to make up,” she said.
Her steady resolve is what Weir believes makes her so effective.
“She quietly gets things done and I love that about her,” Weir said. “She just keeps doing her thing and things get done, and she doesn't need a lot of accolades. She shied away from it. And she doesn't like to tell you all the things she's doing. She just quietly continually plods along, and things are happening because of her.”
Her work is part of her promise to God. It isn't just poverty she wants to eliminate. She would like to get rid of the death penalty and is working on a way to do that in the state legislature. She's also been visiting the border and trying to find a pathway to citizenship for immigrants.
"The border is only a symptom," Duffy said. "It's not where the crisis is. And so I definitely believe, you know, like, right now, we have potential legal permanent residence and pathways to citizenship."
To nominate someone you feel is an influential woman, email Tanya O’Rourke at firstname.lastname@example.org.