An Immovable Force for Equality and Justice in Kansas City

Beth K. Smith to be inducted into Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women, preserving the history of their accomplishments and inspiring women everywhere. Beth K. Smith (1921-2017) is one of the outstanding women being honored in the 2019 class of inductees.

A 1943 graduate of Wellesley College with a degree in economics, Smith went on to earn her M.P.A. from the Henry W. Bloch School of Management in 1976. She went on to co-found The Central Exchange and The Women’s Employment Network (WEN).

In the early 1960s, Smith became an activist and advocate for both women’s and civil rights, culminating in leadership roles with the Kansas City Human Rights Commission. Over the years, she consistently worked to help women in Kansas City reach their full personal and professional potential. In 1978, Smith co-founded The Central Exchange with 2015 Starr Women’s Hall of Fame inductee, Marjorie Powell Allen and in 1986, the two launched The Women’s Employment Network (WEN). The organizations were created with the aim to promote equity, inspire confidence and foster economic independence for women. Additionally, Smith was instrumental in founding the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City and the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership.

“An immovable force for equality and justice in this community.” – Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, U.S. House of Representatives

She also served as an adjunct professor at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management and established the Edward Smith internships to encourage students to pursue careers at nonprofits in Kansas City.

The recipient of numerous awards, Smith received the first American Jewish Committee Human Relations Award, the Bridge Builder Award for improving race relations and the first ATHENA Award given by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, U.S. House of Representatives called Smith, “an immovable force for equality and justice in this community,” during his time as Kansas City mayor.

“From the days of the 1960s to the turn of the 21st century, Smith was an ardent advocate, leader and collaborator — one who was committed to the cause of supporting the development of opportunities for the women of the region while also working tirelessly to strengthen the fabric and vitality of the community as a whole,” says David O. Renz, Ph.D., Missouri Chair in Nonprofit Leadership at UMKC. 

About the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women and preserving the history of their accomplishments. These women are social reformers, volunteers, philanthropists, civic leaders, activists and educators. They are neighborhood leaders and grassroots organizers, from yesterday and today, both famous and unsung. They are movers and shakers whose tireless commitment to community has made Kansas City a better place to live. 

The Hall of Fame honors their legacies by sharing their stories to encourage and inspire women everywhere. A permanent display honoring these women is open to the public on the third floor of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Hall of Fame is named in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, a legendary activist and philanthropist who blazed a trail for family issues and women’s rights. The Hall of Fame is made possible through the Starr Education Committee, Martha Jane Starr’s family and the Starr Field of Interest Fund through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.

Published: Mar 18, 2019