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Body Politic

August 16, 1992|Idelle Davidson

Last fall, shortly after the Clarence Thomas hearings, author and producer Diana Meehan and a dozen other women sat in songwriter Marilyn Bergman's Beverly Hills living room. They discussed how rarely women have their voices heard. "We talked about the infamous pictures of those 14 white men," says producer and journalist Pat Mitchell, "and somebody said, 'Where's the woman?' "

So in May, they created WANDA--Women of America Now Demand Action--a Glendale-based nonprofit activist group, complete with its own 900-hot line. For $1.75 a minute, people across the country can call (900) 288-1285 and listen to amusing and provocative messages from such celebrities as Michelle Lee and Whoopi Goldberg on issues affecting women. Then, at the sound of the beep, callers are encouraged to speak their minds on issues. Starting in September, WANDA will then send printed copies of these opinions--in June there were 180--to each member of Congress.

"There's something liberating about becoming involved, even if it's only for 37 seconds," says WANDA project coordinator Suzanne Ebner. "Our audience is the vast majority of women who feel strongly about issues but rarely act on them."

Organizers, who are touting WANDA through fax and computer networks, plan to spend their 900-number proceeds on voter registration drives, research projects and workshops encouraging women to speak up. WANDA is intended not only to empower women, but also to educate them, says Mitchell. For example, a caller hearing Amy Irving's recorded message may not have known that women earn one-third less than men. And, says Mitchell: "A woman's voice will have more amplification through WANDA than it does all alone in Dubuque, Iowa."

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