Voss, Rev. B. Margaret
By Jennifer Morrison (MI-Stories.com)
SOUL of Philanthropy
Margaret (Bunny) Voss grew up on the East Coast during the Great Depression, a time when her family struggled economically. She moved to Chicago to attend college and then graduated from seminary there. She married Lawrence Voss who also graduated from seminary in Chicago. The couple moved several times to pursue their church careers, then settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There Margaret became active in the community, organizing and promoting efforts that supported women and the elderly.
Margaret Voss was born to Daniel and Ninaetta Brown in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. She was nicknamed “Bunny” in school because she was quick on the basketball court. She married the Reverend Lawrence Voss on May 13, 1944. They met in Chicago where she attended college and he was at seminary. She received her Master of Divinity from Hartford Seminary in 1945. She continued her education to earn advanced degrees in counseling and education. She began her career as minister of education at Center Church in Hartford. The couple moved several times for jobs. Upon moving to Grand Rapids, Margaret took a variety of jobs, including teaching at Davenport University. She was promoted to administrative positions at the University, then filed for sex and age discrimination against them in 1988, settling for an undisclosed amount. She became the first woman ordained in the Congregational Church in Michigan in 1981, and she opened a psychotherapy practice. She also became a spokesperson on issues related to aging and the elderly. Ms. Voss served on the board of many organizations related to women, history, and the community.
As a woman ordained as a minister, Ms. Voss broke many barriers for women in the church and education. As an advocate for the rights of women and the elderly, Voss refused to accept limitations for herself. She has supported many organizations that help others. Margaret recognized the value of philanthropy when she was a young girl growing up in the Depression.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
Voss has been an active advocate for women and the elderly in West Michigan. Voss was the first woman member and first woman president of Torch Club. She was a founding member and the first woman chairperson of the Economics Club. She served as president of the YWCA. She was a founding member of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council. She helped to develop the Women’s Resource Center, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, and the Great Lakes Center for Sages. She was first woman chair of the governing board at Fountain Street Church.
Key Related Ideas
Like many born during the Great Depression, Margaret Voss grew up in a family struggling with economic hardship. She attended college and seminary in Chicago at a time when few women entered the clergy. She had a professional career both in and out of religious institutions, sometimes breaking barriers for women and the elderly. She volunteered her time helping other individuals and organizations.
Important People Related to the Topic
- Gordon Olson: Gordon Olson has been a Grand Rapids city historian and has been very involved in Grand Rapids history projects. He has served on the board of the National Council on Public History and has been president of the Historical Society of Michigan. He worked with Margaret Voss on the Women’s History Council.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- Torch Club: The Torch Club is an international association of local clubs in which respected persons practicing recognized professions enjoy the cultural interchange of knowledge. http://www.torch.org/
- Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) exists to provide business and economic training to women in transition. http://www.growbusiness.org/
- Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council: The Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council is dedicated to educating the community and celebrating the legacies of local women, preserving knowledge of their past, and inspiring visions for their future. www.ggrwhc.org
- The mission of the Women’s Resource Center is to improve women’s workplace and economic opportunities. http://grwrc.org
- Fountain Street Church is a nondenominational, liberal church in downtown Grand Rapids. http://www.fountainstreet.org/
- YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids: Get the latest news and a schedule of events for the downtown YMCA. http://www.grymca.org/ddhunting/
Related Web Sites
- The Economics Club: The Economic Club of Grand Rapids is an association of individuals interested in, and contributing to, the growing economic health of the Grand Rapids metropolitan area. Men and women from every sphere of activity are invited to hear the views of outstanding, nationally-known speakers who address our regular meetings. http://www.econclub.net/
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Bloom, Cathie. “With Us Today: B. Margaret Voss.” The Grand Rapids Press, May. 19, 1994, p. D5.
Clipping file and oral history in the SOUL of Philanthropy collection in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library
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