Starr Women’s Hall of Fame Announces 2023 Class of Inductees

Organization honors Kansas City influential women, past and present

From a protector of parks to a pioneer in LGBTQIA advocacy, from a former U.S. senator to a Major League Baseball owner, from groundbreakers for women in finance to champions of human rights, neighborhoods and Latino issues – the 2023 inductees into the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame have made extraordinary and enduring contributions to their fields of work.

The UMKC Starr Women’s Hall of Fame will induct its fifth class honoring Kansas City women leaders on March 21, 2023, at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  The Kansas City community has benefited from the work of outstanding women from its earliest beginnings, and the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame recognizes their extraordinary accomplishments.

The Hall of Fame recognizes women with noteworthy ties to the Kansas City area who have made important and enduring contributions in their fields of work. Alicia Starr and Michelle Wimes are co-chairs of the 2023 induction ceremony.

“We are honored and excited to recognize these remarkable women who dedicated their time and talents to improving Kansas City for all its citizens,” Starr says. “We celebrate their inclusion in the Hall of Fame so that their stories will inspire future generations of women in Kansas City and beyond.”

The Hall of Fame includes a Wall of Honor on display in the UMKC Miller Nichols Library, as well as an archive of important papers, images and artifacts of the enshrined members. Money raised from the induction event will assist in further development of the digitization and acquisition of materials for the Hall of Fame archives, ensuring that the works of these exceptional women will be accessible in perpetuity not only to community members, but also to researchers world-wide.

The eight outstanding women in the 2023 class of inductees will be honored in a ceremony on Tuesday, March 21. Festivities will commence at 4 p.m. at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Sponsor opportunities are available at

Event speaker and individual ticket information will be released in January 2023.

The new inductees are:

UMKC alumna Karen L. Daniel (MS ’81 accounting) is a recognized leader in Kansas City. The first African American woman to be a Major League Baseball owner since her addition to the Kansas City Royals ownership group in 2020, Daniel is retired executive director, CFO and president of Global Finance and Technology Solutions at Black and Veatch. She was the first African American female to chair the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and has been a leader and advocate for restoration of the Liberty Memorial Tower at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. She has created a legacy fund for scholarships to support Black college students. President Barack Obama named Daniel vice chair of the Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa in 2015.

Anita B. Gorman has been an advocate for area parks, recreation and conservation for six decades. She fought to save the Native American Hopewell archaeological site, which became a part of the Kansas City Parks system. In 1979, she was the first woman appointed to the Kansas City Parks and Recreation board. In this role she raised funds to establish a conservation center in the urban core of Kansas City. Gorman was the first woman to chair the Missouri Conservation Commission and helped establish the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. She received the Pugsley Medal from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in 2017 for her contribution to the promotion, development and conservation of public parks in the United States.

Lea Hopkins has been an advocate and activist for LGBTQIA communities for more than four decades. She co-founded the Christopher Street Association, a gay and lesbian advocacy organization, in 1977 and organized the first Pride parade in Kansas City in 1979. She founded the Kansas City Gay Injustices Fund, which provided legal support for LGBTQIA people who were arrested based on their orientation. She was a member of the inaugural leadership team of the UMKC Gay Students’ Union. Hopkins is an accomplished poet, watercolor artist and collagist.

UMKC alumna Alice Kitchen (MPA ’89) has been a longtime advocate for human rights, healthcare and children and women’s issues. She is co-founder of the Women Quality Coalition and the Child Protection Center. A longtime director of social services at Children’s Mercy Hospital, she was a board member of the Kansas City Housing Authority who helped with neighborhood cleanups and worked to help young mothers obtain health insurance. She was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for her work on education for the Affordable Care Act in 2015.

Community activist and a leader for the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council in Kansas City, Mo., Margaret J. May served as the executive director of the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council from October 2001 to December 2017. During her tenure, the council became a community development corporation that develops new housing and rehabilitates existing homes. The Downtown Council of Kansas City recognized May in their first class of Urban Hero Awards in 2005. She has served on the City of Kansas City Plan Commission and the Kansas City, Missouri Community Development Entity, which is now known as Alt Cap.

Sen. Claire McCaskill has dedicated her life to serving women, families and her community. An accomplished attorney, she was the first woman elected as Jackson County, Missouri prosecutor, and the first woman to be elected U.S. Senator from Missouri. In 2004, she defeated incumbent Governor Bob Holden in the Democratic primary, becoming the first candidate to defeat an incumbent Governor in a primary election in state history, although she lost in the general election. She served as a U.S. senator from Missouri from 2007 to 2019. During her term in the Missouri House of Representatives, she chaired the civil and criminal justice committees. She is currently a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

Barbara Pendleton paved the way for Kansas City women interested in careers in finance. She started her career in banking as a messenger with City National Bank. She became chairperson of City Bank at Crown Center and retired as an executive vice president of United Missouri Bancshares, Inc. An active volunteer in community organizations, she was often the first woman member, officer or president. A founding board member of the Central Exchange, she also chaired the UMKC Women’s Center Advisory Committee. She worked for several mayors, including Mayor Kay Barnes, who appointed her to work on downtown Kansas City revitalization.

UMKC alumna Freda Mendez Smith (BA ’80) is a champion and advocate for the Latino community in Kansas City. A current advisory board member for the Women’s Foundation of Kansas City, she has worked with MANA de Kansas City  for four decades, serving as a board member of the national organization twice. Smith is an advocate and mentor to members of the Latino population who encourages people to become engaged in community service, including serving on local boards of directors. She has been a volunteer board member at many community organizations including the UMKC Hispanic Advisory Board, the UMKC Women’s Council, Greater KC Hispanic Heritage and Mattie Rhodes Center.

The Starr Women's Hall of Fame recognizes extraordinary Kansas City women and preserves the history of their accomplishments. To date, The Hall of Fame has inducted 37 Kansas City women, half of them posthumously.

“These women are social reformers, volunteers, philanthropists, business executives, civic leaders, activists and educators,” Wimes says. “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 is a repository for their legacies, offering an extensive archive of these women’s activities and achievements available to researchers, educators and historians.

Stuart Hinds, curator of special collections at the Miller Nichols Library, says it’s imperative to preserve these stories.

“These women have had a significant influence on the history and development of the region. Collecting these stories of Kansas City women ensures a more inclusive and thorough historical narrative. Preserving and more importantly, publicly sharing, these stories, allows girls and young women to learn how to overcome the challenges they encounter as they move forward in the world as women.”

A permanent display honoring Hall of Fame members is now open to the public on the third floor of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The library is at 800 E. 51 St., Kansas City, Missouri.

By sharing their stories, the Hall of Fame encourages and inspires women everywhere. Biographies of all of the inductees are available at

The Hall 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. She played an important role in establishing the university’s Women's Council and the Graduate Assistance Fund, which today provides financial assistance to female students. Starr died in 2011 at the age of 104.

The hall of fame is made possible through the Starr Education Committee, Martha Jane Starr’s family and the Starr Field of Interest Fund, which was established upon her death through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The idea for the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame stemmed from Starr Education Committee members.

The civic organizations that advocate on behalf of women and family issues and have signed on in support of the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame include: American Association of University Women, American Business Women’s Association, Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City, Central Exchange, CBIZ Women’s Advantage, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri, Greater Kansas City Chamber’s Executive Women’s Leadership Council, Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus, Jackson County Missouri Chapter of the Links, Inc.; Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri; KC Metro Latinas, Kansas City Athenaeum, Kansas City Young Matrons, OneKC for Women, SkillBuilders Fund, Soroptimist International of Kansas City, Soroptimist Kansas City Foundation, UMKC, UMKC Women’s Center, UMKC Women’s Council, UMKC Women of Color Leadership Conference, United WE, WIN for KC, win|win, Women Leaders in College Sports, Women’s Public Service Network, Zonta International District 7 and Zonta Club of KC II.

Published: Dec 14, 2022

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