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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Nguyen

The Women’s Fund and "The Ultimate Book Club"

Story and Interviews by Teresa Nguyen

January, 2023

The Women’s Fund

A fundraising event titled, “The Ultimate Book Club – The Next Chapter: Her Story” will commemorate the 20th Anniversary of The Women’s Fund. The event is being organized by the Women’s Fund, a component of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin.

The mission of the Women’s Fund is to provide a permanently endowed funding source to non-profit agencies serving the needs of women and girls in Rock County. The organization was founded in 2003 by a group of active community women and, since 2007, the Women’s Fund has given back over $ 140,000 to the community in the form of grants.

The Women’s Fund also aims to provide hands-on grant-making and leadership experiences through volunteer opportunities for Fund donors.

The Advisory Board is comprised of community volunteers and Community Foundation staff. The Advisory Board raises money for the endowment as well as recommends grants from the Women’s Fund in support of priorities they set related to the current needs of women and girls in Rock County, Wisconsin.

The Ultimate Book Club Event

The event is on Thursday, January 19th at the Janesville Performing Arts Center and features five women authors with Wisconsin ties. These talented authors will share their inspiration for writing and excerpts from their books. The public will also have the opportunity to purchase a ticket for a special Meet and Greet with these creative writers prior to the show.

Janesville Area Stories gathered short biographies of the authors and summaries of the books, plus a few interviews with some of the Women’s Fund Advisory Board members, to hear their thoughts on the importance of continuing the work for women and girls in Rock County.

Author Dr. Sagashus T. Levingston

Infamous Mothers

Dr. Levingston was born in Chicago and raised in the area now known as Bronzeville. She holds a bachelor’s in English Literature from the University of Illinois. She also holds a master’s in Afro-American Studies and a PhD in English literature - both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While Dr. Levingston's research focused primarily on literature, it was informed by theory and criticism from rhetoric, motherhood studies and black feminism. Her coffee table book, simply titled Infamous Mothers, is inspired by this work and so is Infamous Mothers, LLC.

Sagashus and the Infamous Mothers brand has been recognized in several publications, including Demeter Press (the premiere publishing house for motherhood/mothering research), BRAVA Magazine, the Wisconsin State Journal, Forbes and Essence Magazine.

She is a highly sought-after speaker, educator and consultant. Dr. Levingston, or Dr. Sagashus - as she is often called - is a proud button-wearing member of the Doyenne Group, Inc. located in Madison, WI. She also sits on the WWBIC South Central Ambassadorial Advisory Committee.

As the proud mother of six children, three boys and three girls, Dr. Levingston and her family live in Madison, WI.

Author Ginny Priem

You’re My Favorite

Ginny Priem is an authentic and influential leader. Throughout her career, she has honed her gift as a respected and natural speaker and presenter. With her aptitude for all forms of communication, You’re My Favorite was created – her debut book as a published author. She is curious and passionate about personal growth and overall wellness.

A Minnesota native, Ginny is a lover of travel and experiences. She continues to reside in the Minneapolis area with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Francien, who is generous enough to share her king-size bed with Ginny. Ginny’s sister, Lori Stottler, is one of Janesville’s women leaders, serving as the City Clerk-Treasurer, formerly Beloit City Clerk and Rock County Clerk.

About You’re My Favorite - Ginny Priem, the quintessential bachelorette with a successful career along with a full social calendar, had little time or care for dating. When a casual encounter brought Chad into her life, it changed everything. Her walls quickly crumbled and she was swept up into a fairytale relationship.

Or so she thought...

Ginny's life sets into a tailspin as she slowly uncovers the man, she fell in love with is not the man he is at all. Based on a true story, You're My Favorite shares Ginny's vulnerable and authentic journey of romance, heartbreak and ultimately discovering true love in the most unexpected of places.

Author Anne Goodwin

Come to the Lake

Although Anne Goodwin is the recipient of several small press Independent Publishing Awards, she describes herself as an accidental author. Armed with a marketing/branding expertise with a special passion for high-end print production, it was natural for her to turn her story telling talents into treasured books in her hand. Het two art-house quality books , Stay For Lunch and Come To The Lake were each awarded a prestigious IPPY (International Independent Press Award) and Come To The Lake received six other nods as both winner and finalist.

Ms. Goodwin is also recognized as an inspirational and motivational speaker. She leads book chats that explore universal ‘pearls’ gleaned from each book. Reflecting on Come To The Lake, Goodwin engages the audience through an exploration of choosing to disconnect in order to reconnect with one’s self, family/friends and importantly, one’s relationship with natural environs. Sprinkled with humor and lake anecdotes, Goodwin’s creates a cozy Pleasant Lake ‘state of mind’ for her audience as she reflects on 1920’s lake cottage freshwater fun.

People seek different means to “rescue” themselves from the hustle and bustle of everyday lives, escape from the hundreds of daily peeks on their smartphones, and seek a sense of peace, solitude and tranquility. Maybe they pursue self-help mentors, study religion, take up relaxing hobbies, and ok, even bury themselves in a book. For Anne Goodwin, she goes to the lake.

“Early on at the lake, I started taking notes,” Goodwin explains. “These notes have been tucked away for years, with me occasionally feeling compelled to add to the pile. The pile evolved into a book. Life at Pleasant Lake is a jumble of friends, families, adults, children, routines, traditions, activities, games and gatherings amid the magical backdrop of cottage lake life. It also conveys my singular relationship with nature.”

Author Lynne Diebel

Crossing the Driftless

Lynne Diebel grew up in southeastern Minnesota, and has lived since 1974 with her husband, Bob Diebel, in Wisconsin, where they raised their four children. Her many books are centered on the natural world and waterways of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Canoeists since childhood, she and Bob discovered as adults that they love canoeing whitewater rivers. Together they paddled almost 3,000 miles on the rivers of Minnesota while researching their two guidebooks, Paddling Northern Minnesota: 86 Great Trips by Canoe and Kayak and Paddling Southern Minnesota: 85 Great Trips by Canoe and Kayak.

Her book, Crossing the Driftless, is about a canoe trip she and Bob took from her childhood home in Minnesota to her Wisconsin home.

The Driftless Area is the land the glaciers missed, an ancient landscape of bluffs, ridgetops, and steep valleys that long ago was a seabed. Covering much of southwestern Wisconsin, its contours were deeply carved from bedrock, not by ice but by many rivers.

It is both a traveler’s tale and an exploration of this dramatic environment, following the streams of geologic and human history. Lynne Diebel and her husband, Bob, crossed the Driftless Area by canoe, journeying 359 river miles (and six Mississippi River locks and five portages) from Faribault, Minnesota, where her family has a summer home on Cedar Lake, to their Wisconsin home in Stoughton, one block from the Yahara River.

Author Jamie A. Swenson

We Want Snow!

Jamie A. Swenson is the author of numerous award-winning picture books for children. Ms. Swenson, who grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, has worked at Janesville’s Hedberg Public Library for 22 years as a Children's/Youth Services Associate and Early Literacy Storyteller.

When not writing, she can be found hiking, traveling, or dreaming up new stories.

Ms. Swenson received her MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. Her latest book, We Want Snow: A Wintry Chant was released in Sept. 2021. Jamie A. Swenson received an award for Outstanding Children's Book of the Year by Wisconsin Library Association at their Literary and Children’s Book Awards for 2022.

Jamie's book, We Want Snow: A Wintry Chant was one of ten titles recognized as an outstanding book for youth by Wisconsin-connected authors.

Jamie says, "We Want Snow! was inspired by my storytime friends, as most of my picture books are.”

Swenson’s award-winning book was also the featured winter title for the Robert O. Cook Memorial Arboretum StoryWalk®.


Thoughts from Women's Fund Advisory Board

The following are some behind-the-scenes perspectives from a few Women’s Fund Advisory Board members. They share their stories of involvement in the organization and their excitement for this special book club event.

Lori Stottler

Women’s Fund Advisory Board Member

When I was the Rock County Clerk, I engaged with Sue Conley and others who were on the Women’s Fund Advisory Board while they were working on the courthouse mural, and there were some open seats on the board. They invited me to a meeting and shared some information about the fund. I knew at my first meeting that these would be wonderful people doing good work and I wanted to be a part of this!

Since then, I've met and worked with several new faces - all of them having philanthropic hearts and a desire to share this mission over and over.

The Importance of the Women’s Fund

The mission of the Women's Fund is to provide a permanently endowed funding source to non-profit agencies serving the needs of women and girls in Rock County. It is a great way to make sure funding is available for generations to come.

The Ultimate Book Club Event

The Ultimate Book Club event is a wonderful way to showcase regional women authors and celebrate their story and their successes. I'm also very excited because one of the authors is my own sister who is sharing a powerful story of resilience and becoming through difficult times.

Maryam Enterline

Women’s Fund Advisory Board Member

I have been an "armchair activist" for most of my life and I was approached by a current board member to join. I knew being on the Women's Fund Advisory Board would connect me with likeminded individuals with a passion for serving and supporting women and girls in our community.

Why Women and Girls?

Being a woman of color, raised by a single mother and a first-generation college graduate, I know the importance of the programs we are able to support through the Women's Fund. Investing in women and girls only has benefits. When we invest in women and girls we invest in our future.

If the last year hasn't shown us the disparities that continue to plague women and girls in our society, I don't know what will.

The Ultimate Book Club Event

I am excited for the variety of women's stories and experiences that we will get to hear! I am always amazed how resilient women are in their everyday lives.

Mary Frederick

Women’s Fund Advisory Board Member

In talking with Sue Conley over lunch a few years back, we both were lamenting the fact that women, both young and old, seem to be going backwards, not only in their rights, but in how society, as a whole, views women and their place. The Women’s Fund was started to help with many of the challenges women and young girls face today. Through the years, The Women’s Fund has been able to help women and girls face some of those challenges.

Focus on Women and Girls

Women and girls’ roles are very complex and, no matter where in the world we speak of, today’s society treats women and girls without due respect. An example in the 21 century is how women are still fighting for equal rights. This is a fight that wouldn’t have to be fought if women were truly respected. I feel the focus on women and girls is important because we have gained rights, but in the same breath we have gone even more backwards. If we, as women, don’t stay in the forefront of the fight to be heard and respected, we will only go backwards further. The need for supporting women will never diminish, but will only get bigger.

The Ultimate Book Club Event

Book Clubs were started as ways for women to meet, talk, discuss and just feel safe about their thoughts and ideas. The Ultimate Book Club event is highlighting women authors and paying respect to a gathering that brings women together to highlight their thoughts and understandings.

Book clubs are a function, a ritual, in women’s lives that brings a fresh breath of air into their lives.


The public is invited and encouraged to attend this interesting and worthy event, to meet and listen to these inspiring women authors.

There will be an authors Meet & Greet, the $50 ticket (limited availability), which begins at 5 pm in the Hendricks Room at JPAC. The tickets to the event itself are $15 and it begins at 7:30 pm in the large auditorium.

We hope you will enjoy this show in support of The Women’s Fund, a component of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, helping women and girls in Rock County!

Click here for a link to tickets:

Click here to donate directly to the Women’s Fund:


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