A pioneer who worked tirelessly to lift up the status of women in the United Church of Christ, Louise Wallace, is being remembered for her leadership. Wallace died surrounded by loved ones the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 6, in Kansas City. She was 101 years old.
"Louise was a force to be reckoned with," said the Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, Acting Conference Minister of the Missouri MidSouth Conference UCC. "She loved the United Church of Christ and aspired for us to be the inclusive, affirming, mission-focused Church we are becoming. She was a strong advocate, an astute guide and mentor, and a gracious presence. She lived a long and full life, surrounded by family and friends who kept her aware of the world around her even as she began to lose her sight and her hearing."
Wallace was a long-time member of Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ in Kansas City. She died peacefully under hospice care, according to her pastor, the Rev. Chase Peeples.
Wallace was a member of the UCC's Executive Council from 1965 through 1971, a strong advocate for women and was active in Planned Parenthood, the non-profit national organization that offers reproductive health and maternal services for women.
"When we younger women haltingly and brashly took to the microphones at General Synod in Grand Rapids in 1971 and worked to amend a resolution so that it would include the concerns of women, calling for the establishment of a 'Task Force on the Status and Role of Women in Church and Society,' very soon Louise was standing with us," Crabtree said.
Then UCC-president Robert V. Moss asked the Rev. Barbara McCall and Crabtree to identify about a dozen people to serve on the task force. Wallace was asked to co-chair the Task Force, along with the Rev. Tilda Norberg. As the years unfolded and the Task Force grew in its capacity to influence the church, by 1974 it was clear that a way was needed to uplift women in ministry, so the the Antoinette Brown Award was created. Wallace went back to her congregation and asked them to fund the creation of the medallions that were awarded at General Synod to two ordained women each time, one older and one younger. These pewter medallions have graced 39 ordained women as an affirmation of females in ministry, while the 40th and final medallion hangs framed in Country Club Congregational.
"She gave us weight and credibility and solidness – all of us young up-start women" said the Rev. Barbara Gerlach, Wallace's successor as co-chair of the task force. "Her support of women clergy was so positive and solid, and she became a close friend."