Empower Missouri advocates for the well-being of all Missourians through civic leadership, education and research.

Empower Missouri envisions Missouri becoming a more just, equitable and democratic society that assures every person’s health, safety, security, independence, human rights, dignity and the opportunity to reach full potential.


Empower Missouri is a citizen membership organization founded in 1901. Organized in the Progressive Era, we started in St. Louis as the Missouri Conference on Corrections and Charities. We were mostly a statewide professional forum for philanthropists, government employees of human services agencies, and private charity professionals. For the first decade our activities consisted mostly of meeting once a year to discuss social problems and read papers.

Empower Missouri became a more activist organization in 1910, with our first legislative committee under the of leadership of Roger Baldwin, subsequent founder of the American Civil Liberties Union. We began advocating for changes in public policy to improve social conditions. Among our first major successes was the creation of the Widow’s Pension Program, a pilot project in Jackson County, Missouri, which spread around the country and became the model for the national Aid to Dependent Children Program passed in the Social Security Act of 1935.


Among our other major achievements in our first century:

  • Missouri Commission on Human Rights
  • Missouri Public Defender Commission
  • School Nutrition Program
  • Missouri Housing Trust Fund
  • Medicaid Expansions
  • Repeal of State Sales Tax on Food
  • Family Development Accounts
  • Missouri Foundation for Health
  • Corrections Department Reforms

So far in our second century as Missouri’s voice for social justice:

  • Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City
  • Mental Health Parity legislation
  • Quality Jobs Act (Enactment and Expansion)
  • State Minimum Wage Increase
  • Department of Corrections Reforms:
    • Visitation Policy Improvements
    • Sentencing Reforms
    • Waiver of First 90 Days of Intervention Fee
  • Prevented Major Increase in Electric Rates
  • Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance

Our guiding principles are:

Basic Needs.  All people in Missouri should have true access to quality healthcare, decent housing, adequate nutrition and appropriate education.  Our state should fully fund, fully implement and/or fully supplement, as appropriate, state and federal programs for health and mental health services, housing and homelessness services, food assistance programs, and all levels of public education.

Basic Fairness.  All people in Missouri should be treated with dignity and fairness, and share on a just basis in the responsibilities and benefits of the prosperity of our society.  Our state should emphasize restorative alternatives to our punitive corrections system, build a welcoming and inclusive 21st Century social climate free of hate and prejudice, fully support policies that empower people to overcome their economic circumstances, and require all to pay their fair share in support of the common good.