Jeanette Stokes, Executive Director

Early Life
Jeanette Stokes was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 26, 1951 to Elmer Malcolm Stokes and Mary Jeanette (Netta) Wilkirson Stokes. She spent her childhood in Tulsa and graduated from Edison High School in 1969. Stokes moved to Northampton, Massachusetts to study mathematics at Smith College. Stokes graduated from Smith in 1973 and moved to North Carolina upon graduation where she worked odd jobs and applied to graduate schools.

Duke Divinity School
Jeanette entered Duke as a divinity student in the fall of 1974. During her time at Duke Divinity School, she worked as the director of the Duke Divinity Women’s Center. When she graduated from divinity school in 1977, she moved to Greensboro, NC. While attending divinity school, Stokes noticed that women serving churches in the South experienced a lack of support, because there, at the time, were few resources for women in professional ministry.

While living in Greensboro, she developed the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South (RCWMS), worked for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and chaired the North Carolina state board of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL-NC). In addition, she worked as a campus minister at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Stokes continued to work for RCWMS and served as the Executive Director from 1977 to 1995. After leaving for two years, Stokes returned to RCWM in 1997 and continues as the Executive Director.

The Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South
The Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, began in a spare room of Stokes’s Greensboro apartment. The original trustees were Helen Crotwell, Sue Parkerson, and Jeanette Stokes. In 1978, RCWMS received a grant from the Emergency and Experimental Funds of the Council on Women and the Church and a donation from the Orange Presbyterian Committee on Women’s Concerns. In the same year, RCWMS began publishing their newsletter, South of the Garden. In addition to the newsletter, RCWMS began to organize retreats, workshops, and conferences related to creativity, spirituality, and social justice. In 1988, RCWMS relocated from Greensboro to Durham, NC. RCWMS continues to sponsor programs, host workshops, and produce newsletters to work towards their mission: weaving feminism and spirituality into a vision of justice for the world.

Life in North Carolina
Since moving to North Carolina in 1973, Jeanette has made the state her permanent home. She left for a brief time in 1990 for Philadelphia but returned before a full year had passed. She lives with her husband, Dwight, and continues to work for social justice through the RCWMS and other work in the community. She serves on the board of the Pauli Murray Project and has been involved in various political campaigns. In addition, she is an art enthusiast who values creating her own and encouraging others to make art.

Stokes has authored six books: 25 Years in the Garden (2002), Hurricane Season: Living Through a Broken Heart (2008), 35 Years on the Path (2012), Flying Over Home (2013), Following a Female Line (2015), and Just Keep Going (2016). These books range in style from collections of personal essays to non-fiction family histories. Stokes has been praised for creating “the genre of feminist inspirational writing.”