The Women’s Law Project is 44 years old, and Shirley Silverman has been a volunteer here for half of the WLP’s life. Today, she is retiring, and we celebrate her accomplishments and offer her our gratitude.
For more than two decades, the Women’s Law Project has been fortunate to have retired women serve as anchors for our Telephone Counseling Service. Shirley led the way, recruiting other retired women with her passion and enthusiasm for helping the women of Philadelphia. Shirley brought a wealth of experience and wisdom to her work at the WLP and has been an inspiration to generations of younger volunteers.
In her role as a telephone counselor at the Women’s Law Project, Shirley Silverman has listened, educated, and empowered women and men who called the WLP for help. At the beginning, Shirley volunteered as a helper to WLP’s administrative assistant, but it wasn’t long before she knew she wanted to do more. Eager to become a telephone counselor, she was so enthusiastic about her experience that she soon recruited two friends to join her. Now in her mid-80’s, Shirley has used her accumulated wisdom and zest for helping others to guide nearly 3,000 callers; she has been unfailingly generous with her time, frequently following up with callers to be sure they understand their options and feel supported as they move forward. We estimate that she has spent over 6,000 hours assisting women.
When asked what she enjoys most about being a telephone counselor, Shirley responded simply, “the people.” She gives the WLP kudos for “utilizing volunteers, especially young, bright women.” She raves about the “family” she has made among the volunteers and staff of the WLP and how working with them has made her feel “proud to be here.” Through her volunteer work at the WLP, Shirley has found some interactions with callers to be “upsetting, sometimes astounding, but ultimately rewarding.” She is shocked by some of the stories she has heard about the mistreatment of women by men, but she believes she has made a difference in the lives of these women by lending an ear, giving out educational information, and empowering them to take a stand and to know their rights.
Shirley was born and raised in Philadelphia and studied at Temple University. During the Korean War, Shirley took a hiatus from her education to marry and raise her three children, but she returned to Temple to earn her degree and continued on to Trenton State earning a master’s degree in Speech and Language Therapy. After completing her graduate degree, Shirley accepted a job as a speech therapist in several North Philadelphia public schools, where she worked with low-income elementary, middle, and high school children. In 1994, after nineteen years in the Philadelphia school district, Shirley retired. In addition to her three children, she has six grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Shirley is a member of discussion groups in the building where she lives. One group focuses on local, national, and international politics, while the other group focuses on movies and film. She enjoys reading and going to the theater in her spare time.
We are eternally grateful to Shirley for her years of faithful service, and will miss seeing and talking with her in the office.
Thank you Shirley, for all of your hard work, and we wish you nothing but the best.
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.
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