Meet Claire Cox & Lynn Snyder
Claire Cox & Lynn Snyder
Co-founders, Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us)
Claire Cox wasn’t able to attend the January Women’s March on Washington this year, but that didn’t stop her from being inspired by its message of harnessing women’s political power around the country to create grassroots social change. Claire, a native of Waycross, Georgia, had lived all over the state before finally settling in Macon, initially because of her father’s job as pastor of Vineville United Methodist in 1979, then because after she graduated from Georgia Tech as a Chemical Engineer, she landed a job at the paper mill here, known as Georgia Kraft at the time. She wound up meeting her husband-to-be, Charlie, on the day he graduated from Mercer Law School. The couple settled in Macon, where they raised their two daughters, and Claire worked tirelessly in a myriad of volunteer and service-based roles, using her skills of organization and administration for the greater good.
Up until our current election, Claire, like many of us, didn’t think our country was perfect, but she did feel that we’d been steadily making progress with regards to issues of social justice and equality. She’d never been compelled to be politically involved before, preferring instead to volunteer via church or school in a hands-on helping role, but post-election, she found herself depressed – “I ‘own’ that I was a snowflake,” Claire says, “but I spent the next couple of months being distraught about the path our country had chosen, and I knew I couldn’t ignore the political arena any more.”
On the day after the Women’s March, its organizers put out a call for women around the country to gather with likeminded friends to send out postcards regarding decisions being made by our new political administration. Intrigued, Claire held the idea in her head all morning – she felt compelled to take action, but knew that none of her close friends were politically aligned with her, and she wasn’t sure where to go next – until she attended church that morning and absorbed her minister’s message about how to react to the often-hateful positions of our country’s leaders. The thing that got to Claire most: the minister’s impassioned call to take risks for the things you believe in.
That afternoon, after discussing her idea with her supportive husband Charlie, Claire created a Facebook event inviting interested parties over to her house to share their experiences and write a few postcards. At first, the event sat lonely and unnoticed, but after a day or so it began to gain traction, and on the following Sunday, when Claire opened up her home expecting a dozen or so guests, over 50 people showed up ready to take action.
Among those in attendance was Lynn Snyder. Lynn, a native of North Carolina, had moved all over the country before landing in Macon as a result of her husband’s job. She worked as a nurse for almost thirty years before retiring, and she and her husband have one son, an attorney living and working in Cincinnati.
Like Claire, Lynn hadn’t ever been incredibly political, though she had volunteered her time to work on two different campaigns – one for a Republican candidate, and one for a Democrat. “I’ve always considered myself an Independent,” Lynn says. “I vote on issues, not on party affiliation. I always felt that voting was my civic duty – that it was what I was supposed to do. This election made me realize that voting isn’t enough.”
Lynn had attended the Women’s March in Atlanta, which she found inspiring and motivating; she considers it the jumping-off point for her current level of political activism. Post-election, Lynn shared the same sentiment as former First Lady Barbara Bush, who famously said “I don’t know how women can vote for Trump.” When Lynn saw the Facebook posting for the event at Claire’s house not a mile away from her own, she was thrilled – “I thought, oh my gosh, she lives in my neighborhood!” said Lynn. “I didn’t even know there were any likeminded people here!”
That meeting is where the group Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us) was formed. Claire was impressed that Lynn had arrived with a plan already in place – to visit Austin Scott’s office and discuss healthcare issues with him. “I’m a doer, not a talker,” Claire said, “and I like other doers!” The visit to Austin Scott’s office generated a good bit of press, which had the effect of directing lots of traffic to the newly formed Facebook group and email address. At the second meeting of Georgia Women, 140 people showed up – they’d been expecting around 50.
As the group continued to grow, so did their influence – in just six months’ time, Georgia Women has worked to ensure that antidiscrimination language would be added to the Macon-Bibb County Charter, thus ensuring sexual orientation and gender identity protection for employees. They led a coalition to pass the Parental Leave policy in Warner Robins, Fort Valley, and Macon-Bibb, making Warner Robins the first municipality and Bibb County the first county in Georgia to have paid parental leave. They successfully campaigned for Mayor Reichert to join the Mayors Climate Network, a national group committed to continuing the work started by the Paris Climate Accords. And finally, they joined their voices with tireless thousands of others in calling and communicating with representatives daily to voice their opposition to the plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
There’s no resting on their laurels for these women, though; they’re constantly planning their next move. As their website says, “We don’t come together for meetings – we come together to ACT.” They’ve been hosting a series of salons (community conversations) with such themes as healthcare or immigration, and they’re currently planning organizational meetings for those wanting to work on voter access/voter registration issues. “We believe in doing what you can do,” says Claire, “rather than wringing your hands and doing nothing.”
The best way to keep up with Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us) is to join their closed Facebook group – it’s active and often updated, including with the weekly Lynn’s List, a curated outline of specific advocacy actions, based on the group’s core concerns, that individuals can take during the week ahead. There’s also a website, www.gawomenstand.com, where you can find links to the group’s Instagram, Twitter, e-mail, and even a PayPal button if you’re interested in donating some much needed funds – the group is currently applying to be a 501(c)4, which is a costly process.
One important theme for Georgia Women is coalition – finding common ground with groups with whom you might not fully agree, which is important in a political climate that’s already so divided. “I always take the time to really listen to people who tell me they voted for Trump,” Lynn says, “because they had their reasons, and to them, those reasons were valid, and I have to respect that. And when people start to realize all his campaign promises aren’t happening, I don’t want to have turned them off with negative rhetoric.”
Claire and Lynn, and a core group of other women who form the steering committee, have proven themselves more than capable of generating buzz and creating change – one reason for this is their excellent interpersonal dynamic, with Lynn as the risk-taking, impulsive rebel and Claire as the organized, thoughtful, restrained one. “We’re a great balance,” says Claire. “If my leadership style dominated, we’d be too cautious. If Lynn’s did, we’d be too fringe. One of the goals of Georgia Women is to find areas of agreement between the extremes of the two parties – consensus, education, and steady progress towards common areas is an important focus.”
Becoming a political activist will change you, there’s no way around it. For Lynn, it has strengthened her resolve to work to be certain her elected representatives really are representing the people they’re elected to represent, rather than the president or the political party. And for Claire, it’s broadened her worldview – she’s created opportunities to form friendships with people of all faiths, she’s read and learned so much about immigration, environmental, and healthcare issues, she’s read books about white privilege and sought the viewpoints of Black Lives Matter leaders, she’s initiated friendships with more members of the LGBTQ community – “In other words,” she says, “the country’s problems have moved into my house. I can’t sit in my home in North Macon and act like all is well. All is not well.”
Visit Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us) on the web at www.gawomenstand.com, or search for them on Facebook.