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New organization looks to highlight Michiana's female leaders

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Michiana Women Leaders, Inc. held its first event in downtown South Bend Friday night.

The nonprofit is a community-based history project highlighting women of Michiana.

They include female leaders left out of the history books and those who make an impact today.

How did the organization start? Terri Russ is a professor at St. Mary's College who founded Michiana Women Leaders, Inc. She also has her law degree and is a co-founder of Showing Up for Racial Justice.

One thing she'll tell you, the common thread is peoples' stories.

“I have always loved stories. Writing stories, reading stories, telling stories.”

Part of Friday night’s Michiana Women Leader's event celebrated the women Russ has interviewed so far.

Terri Russ calls herself a "Region Rat." She was born in Northwest Indiana and she stuck around. She started the Michiana Women's Project in 2014 after searching libraries for Michiana women's history and finding none.

“We currently don’t have any collection of women's contributions in this area,” she said. “So this is starting from ground zero and building as we go.”

She focuses the nonprofit on women leaders because fewer women get leadership positions nationally, even though more women earn college degrees these days.

The reason? They have to fit into a masculine leadership model.

“Anyone who has been active in any organizations knows that women get the work done,” said Linda Wolfson, retired Science teacher at John Adams High School. “But they don’t always play the leadership role that they could.”

After 5 years of collecting women's stories in the area, Russ has interviewed over 80 women for the website. And people love the work she's doing.

“God have mercy. I think she’s doing a wonderful job,” said Marguerite Taylor, Robinson Community Learning Center retiree.

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Right now, Russ is working on a manuscript about Michiana women. When we asked her if there's been any negative feedback to the nonprofit's launch, she laughed and said she doesn’t read the comments.

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