Women of the River: Grassroots Organizing and Natural Disaster

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Journal of Rural Social Sciences, 28(2), 2013, pp. 28–55. Copyright © by the Southern Rural Sociological Association


This study, a sub-study of a larger project, the Missouri Mobile Home Estates Project, examines the grassroots efforts of three women in an impoverished Midwestern river community to improve the lives of the children living there. The women’s efforts included infrastructure improvements, a summer meal program for the children, a food bank, and a thrift shop. This community was devastated by floods in 1973, 1986, and 1993; at these times, crisis intervention services were provided to the residents. Yet, it appears little assistance was offered to the community between these floods, despite the community’s well-publicized crime and poverty. Using a social action framework and interpretive phenomenological analysis,the participants in this study were interviewed to examine the following questions:(1) Are the characteristics ofgrassroots community organizing evident in the grassroots efforts of the women of the river?; (2) How did residing in Missouri Mobile affect the women long term?; (3) How did residing in Missouri Mobile affect their two children?; and (4) What common themes emerged from the women’s and children’s interviews?