Sharing Best Practices: A Philadelphia Chapter’s Study Group

Learning is one of Together Women Rise’s key focus areas: we learn together to increase our understanding of global gender equality issues and to fuel our collective action. Our PA, Philadelphia-8 chapter has taken this one step further! About four years ago, the chapter – led by Maryanne Schiller, Cheryl Boyd, and Harriet Williams – created a study group for those members interested in learning more and having deeper discussions about global gender equality, outside of their regular chapter meetings. As one person describes it, this study group has led to more connection and community amongst members. The following blog has been written by Chapter Leader Maryanne Schiller.


Learning Together Leads to Deeper Connections

Our study group of nine is a subset of our PA, Philadelphia-8 chapter of 40 women. We were inspired by Mary Ellen Graham, one of our chapter member who is on the Together Women Rise Grant Selection Committee (GSC). When Mary Ellen shared her enthusiasm over the readings she was doing as part of the GSC, we decided to meet regularly to learn more together. Organically we grew in numbers, expanded our study materials, and met more regularly over the last four years.

Currently, we meet about eight times a year when we can arrange dates that work for everyone. Anyone can suggest a topic or source. We use consensus to pick each new study material. Usually, our conversations flow without a direct facilitator so the soundtrack of our meeting is more like friends sharing thoughts/feelings in a stream of consciousness flow, rather than a formal academic seminar.

Often, we read the books selected by Rise’s national Book Club, attend the online Book Club meetings, and then discuss the work in greater detail afterward. Other times, we select our own books, or find informative videos to watch together if they are an hour long or less. Longer videos like feature films we watch separately and then meet to discuss.

One of the materials we have used is Abigail Disney’s documentary series, Women, War & Peace. We also watched the series entitled Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, based on the book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. We found an excellent film, Period. End of Sentence, about an innovative, menstrual pad project in India. A favorite upbeat documentary, Solar Mamma, highlighted the Barefoot College for Women in India. The all-time favorite we discussed over two meetings was Melinda Gates’ book The Moment of Lift. Another instructive book was Sex and World Peace.

For more information on this Philadelphia Study Group, contact Maryanne at

Here are a few quotes from our members about the study group:

“I enjoy learning with and from this special group of thoughtful, powerful, intelligent women. The group makes it safe for me to ask any question and express any thought or feeling.”  Bonnie Scheer

“The books we read and films we watched inspired deep and thoughtful discussions that led to more connection and community.” Rina Rosenberg

“I appreciate the flexibility in terms of what we choose to learn about.

I learn a great deal at our gatherings on a variety of topics, and I love that we bring different perspectives.”  Harriet Williams

“I do enjoy the intimacy that this group brings. The resources we have used are very impressive. I have deepened the sense of community I already have with RISE members.” Miriam Cohen

“I don’t think I would have ever watched the films we have or read the books we did on my own. They have all impacted me and most have distressed me deeply. Having the opportunity to discuss them with our group has allowed me to work through my feelings and hold onto the information. I care deeply about the life of women and girls around the world. Being able to continue to take a deeper dive with such an intelligent, warm, and supportive group really works for me.” Lee Tracy

“I value the discussions among these brilliant women who bring vast and diverse experiences to the table. It is also true that, as younger women, we were all active in the women’s movement, and our concern for our sisters throughout the world is an extension of our ongoing commitment to the equality of women.” Susan Klein