Mona Shaw is a fourth-generation Iowa native and was born in Burlington, Iowa. She grew up in a socially stigmatized tenement neighborhood called Flint Hills Manor. Shawbecame a social justice activist in 1961 whenshe was ten-years-old and worked in a strike kitchen andwalked the picket line during a labor union strike at theChampion Spark Plug factory where her mother worked. ?This led to her involvement in the civil rights movementwhile she was in high school in the 1960s.
Still believing in the Horatio Alger myth, Shaw earned a few scholarships and
was the first person in her family to attend college. ?(Neither of her parents had
finished high school.) At the University of Iowa she encountered and began to
analyze existing class barriers and their expression in academic institutions. ?
While in college she was involved in anti-war efforts and the women's
movement. ?She married (and ?later divorced) and had two sons, one in 1975
and one in 1977. She ?became an advocate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Transgender equality after she came out as a lesbian in 1978.
While her sons were growing up, she held a professional position at the
University of Iowa as a marketing and public relations director. ?During her
seventeen years at the University, she witnessed chronic and institutional
barriers to justice and even education itself as the academy pledged itself more
and more to be run "like a business." During this time she continued working
on several justice initiatives including race, sex, class, sexual orientation and
She left the University and Iowa City in 2001 and ultimately took a position as
the director of the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Center in New
York. ?She discovered the embedded abdication to greed and corruption she
had left in the academy was also rife in the now commodified social justice and
other nonprofit organizations.
She returned to Iowa City in 2004 aware that rather than effect change, that the
culture had changed her, and that her conscience and thinking had been
severely infected and damaged by it. ?She realized that the end of human
suffering would not come from clever strategies or marketing but from an
internal renewal of the soul's commitment to moral courage principles. ?She
began to independently study the teachings of nonviolence and peace by
teachers like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, jr., Mary Harris Jones, and
Gandhi. ?She began to practice and experiment with these teachings in all of
her dealings with others.
In 2005, she founded the School for Moral Courage as a place that would foster
these teachings as a basis for life and work. ?The purpose of the School is to
instill belief in sacrifice for change, giving for the sake of giving, doing the right
thing simply because it's the right thing to do, and that taking care of each
other is more important than profit or property or social status. ?The School
offers activities that provide another way of looking at social and cultural
paradigms and offers support to those in service actions that follow moral
courage principles. ?
Most recently Shaw traveled with other peace workers in the 2006 Living the
Dream project, a re-enactment of King's walk from Selma to Montgomery. ?The
walk ended at the annual call to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC at
Ft. Benning, GA. ?Shaw is also a writer and is currently working on an
anthology of the literature of contemporary peace and justice workers.
Shaw currently lives in a trailer park in Iowa City with her cat companions Frida
and Charley. She works with numerous antiwar and human rights initiatives in
the area as well as with a number of regional and national groups.
Shaw is also a social critic and writer. ?Some of her writing can be found at: