Background Stories

The Organic Story of the Birth of 5WWC
by Penny McManigal

In the first meeting of the founding of the Millionth Circle, March 2001, it was mentioned that one interest would be to support the U.N.'s 5th NGO Conference on Women. At that time it was assumed that the 5th Conference would be 10 years after the 4th, which had been held in China (in Beijing and NGO one hour away in Huiaro China) in 1995.

The second meeting of Millionth Circle (Oct. 2001) included Jean Bolen, Penny McManigal, Betty Rothenberger, and Ann Smith, among many others. At this Circle it was decided that The Millionth Circle would like to learn more about The United Nations. As such we decided to gather Millionth Circle Delegates to attend the 2002 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held annually for 2 weeks at the United Nations.

The CSW includes the official UN Reps from each country as well as NGO Delegates attending and participating in parallel events in addition to the CSW events. The official CSW delegates who represent every country in the U.N. are both female and male (the title being UN Conference ON Women... not OF Women).

Nancy Grandfield and I were invited to become the co-leaders of the Millionth Circle Delegation, as they had both had had organizational leadership experience in related events. In 1995 Penny had been a delegate to the UN 4th NGO World Conference on Women with the Center for International Dialogue and Conflict Resolution. She was also on the Organizing committee for the program in The Peace Tent. Her group had been sponsored by MiraMed (which included Sr. Anele Heiges!) Nancy had earlier worked with Ann Smith on many occasions to organize various large events for the groups within the Episcopal Church. At that time Ann Smith was Director of GEA in NYC and thus able to help Nancy and Penny organize and register 27 delegates for the March 2002 CSW.

Other than having a hands-on experience at the United Nations, we delegates also went to the CSW to encourage women to meet in Circle. To this end we spoke to many people, sharing guidelines to creating Circles as well as buttons which noted the website of The Millionth Circle (containing our Circle Guidelines and Principles). We attended some of the official CSW meetings, as observers in the balcony as well as conducted our own Circle Workshop in a Parallel event at the UN Church Center, directly across the street from the United Nations. We began our experience together the Saturday before the Opening of the UN by hearing a talk about Reform needed in the UN. The following day we attended a full day CSW NGO preparation for the CSW at The New School in NYC. During the time at the CSW our delegation split into numerous smaller groups and attended many workshops. we networked with women from all over the world and learned a great deal about the interior workings of the United Nations. We were sponsored by GEA, Pathways to Peace and MiraMed.

Following 9/11 it became evident that CSW had concerns that a 5th UN World Conference on Women might endanger the 12 point Platform for Action, created, fought for and achieved at the 4th Conference.

Meanwhile in 2003 the first Gather the Women Congress was being planned for October in San Francisco. At that time several women began to vision different portions of some entity which might serve as a bridge between the 4th UN World Conference on Women and a possible 5th Conference AND/OR any other vision which could continue to empower women around the planet.

It was at the GTW Congress, attended by many of the Millionth Circle Conveners, that the first mention was made of envisioning Congresses on every Continent. To this end Ann Smith had connected with Angela Weber of Salvador (state of Bahia) Brazil and brought her to the GTW Congress where Angela announced that her Governor welcomed a 5th Conference in Salvador. A petition was formulated and signed and circulated by many.

In 2004 Clare Peterson (of Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada represented The Millionth Circle along with Ann Smith). To this end Carol Hansen Grey and Penny McManigal designed a logo for an envisioned Conference in Salvador Brazil. Carol voluntarily designed and developed our website ( and a Living Directory listserve. It was named 5WWC to specifically represent the wording: 5th Women's World Conference (as opposed to 5th UN World Conference on Women) so that the UN would not feel encroached upon, but rather see a sister spirit arising. And at the same time we created a unique name so that we could move forward independently and support all grassroots efforts for women to gather. It was our hope that we might serve as Grassroots Catalysts so that the UN would consider a 5th Conference and know that it had widespread grassroots support. Jean Bolen and Harriet Adams created a Petition which Carol Hansen Grey posted on with a link to it on the 5WWC website. Millionth Circle provided flyers about meeting in Circle and Clare and Ann spoke at the NGO Open Meeting about our desire to see the planning for a 5th UN World Conference on Women and directed people to our new website for more information.

Time passed and there were no plans being made for a 5th UN World Conference on Women.

Meanwhile a 2nd Gather the Women Congress was held in Dallas in 2004. Many members of Millionth Circle had active roles as speakers and workshop leaders. We had been Working Sisters with GTW since its first Congress. Martha Hall of Social Artistry was also active at GTW Dallas.

Collaboration is the name of the future for all women!

A next step was to create our 5WWC Conference Calls. At first we met every 3 or 4 months. As Gather The Women began to plan for their Congresses on every Continent we incorporated more of their content into our Agendas.

Carol Hansen Grey continues to volunteer her time, talent and treasure in developing, maintaining and hosting our ever evolving 5WWC website as well as administer the 5WWC Living Directory listserve. Penny paid for the 5WWC domain name registration and acted as Moderator-Weaver of the 5WWC calls (and later with the coordination of the delegates). Jean Bolen published her book UGENT MESSAGE from MOTHER: GATHER the WOMEN, SAVE the WORLD, which came out of her Keynote to the Gather The Women Dallas Congress in 2004. Kathe Schaaf of GTW has given constant support to 5WWC, offering information about the forthcoming Congresses as well as taking great notes for many of our 5WWC calls.

In June of 2006 many of us attended a very successful GTW Canada on Vancouver Island, B. C. Canada. Sometime in 2006 it was agreed that 5WWC would create a Delegation to attend the 2007 CSW at the U.N. Around that same time Clare Peterson contacted Paula Donovan who spoke to us on our 5WWC call about a selected group within the UN attempting to form an independent UN Women's Agency (combining the various UN Women's agencies to give it high visibility). Paula's presentation and paper further galvanized our 5WWC interest to attend the upcoming CSW!

We next went about finding NGO sponsors. Our numbers began to grow exponentially! Linda Merryman of Millionth Circle suggested that we consider staying at The House of the Redeemer in NYC (18 spaces). The point person for that coordination has been Ann Smith. Others are staying near by. We are now about 30+ delegates. This past summer Betty Rothenberger and Penny McManigal wrote a letter to invite women in Social Artistry to join with us of 5WWC. Many have and Lauren Oliver, Cheri Catt, Basia Christ, Judy Grosch, and Lynda Sechrist (and Penny---and Anele enrolled several as delegates thru IPPI) signed up to become delegates. In addition they have taken on significant roles in the planning for our 5WWC delegation of 30 or more women.

We are all grateful to become sponsored delegates thru IPPI, Pathways to Peace and WIN (Women's Intercultural Network) and several others.

And so it is that we are in preparation to meet in NYC on Saturday Feb. 24th, at which time we will meet in Circle at Trinity Episcopal Church Parish Hall and plan our UN NGO Parallel 5WWC workshop (sponsored by the 3 NGOs listed above) to be held on Tuesday Feb. 27, 2007 at the UN Church center from 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

In our many recent calls we have welcomed more and more women. Among them a NY Regional GTW has been formed and they have invited us to meet and network before the Opening of CSW on Monday morning Feb. 26th.

So what are our Great Questions and why are we attending? Surely one fact is that we still support women to come together in whatever form is possible. We also acknowledge that if EVER there will be an interest in the UN forming a 5th World Conference on Women (and also a Women's Agency) that this is the time to begin that process! A world conference will take approximately 3 years to organize. Meanwhile the GTW Congresses continue on different continents...

The topic of 2007 CSW is THE GIRL CHILD. Our own interest also includes finding more ways for groups to meet in non hierarchical venues (e. g circles)

We of 5WWC now see that we have been holding the door open for continued possibilities to emerge.