WASHINGTON — When she was a homeless single mother, Evelyn Wynn-Dixon contemplated suicide as her only escape from poverty. Today, she is the mayor of Riverdale, Ga.
“All some people need is just a hand, not always money like people think, just support,” said Wynn-Dixon, who heads a town of about 12,000 people south of Atlanta. She got support from her church and community groups, encouraging her to get her nursing degree. She ran for mayor to inspire others facing hard times.
More American working women are economically vulnerable now than in previous years, according to report by a women’s advocacy group headed by Maria Shriver.
“We can do better,” said Shriver, at a conference hosted by The Atlantic magazine and her group, A Woman’s Nation, on Wednesday.
The Shriver Report states that one in three American women live on the brink of poverty, which it defines as up to 200 percent of the poverty level. The U.S poverty threshold for a family of four is $23,500 per year.
However, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans estimated that a family of four would need to earn at least $58,000 per year to survive.
“When women succeed, America succeeds,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. She and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said they are pushing legislation that will help women by providing pay equity, paid sick days an extension of unemployment benefits and a hike in the minimum wage for everyone. While many of these initiatives would help all Americans, DeLauro noted they would be especially helpful to working women.
Each day women are forced to send their sick children on the school bus in fear of losing their jobs, said Pelosi. Paid sick leaves will allow mothers to stay home and care for their children.
According to Barbara Ehrenreich, author of “Nickeled and Dimed,” conservatives are stigmatizing single mothers, who have been “used as the punching bag for the cause of poverty.”
She and others criticized a recent opinion article by Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, who wrote that marriage would be the best solution to solving the nation’s poverty.
According to Pelosi, the Shriver Report has raised the level of awareness to the struggles facing women who want to maintain a steady income and provide for their families.
“They have to know we are not going away, this is not one meeting,” said Pelosi. “We have to make a change in the law that will change the lives of the people.”