After winning three National Off-Road Bicycle Association championships and routinely beating 90 percent of the male competition, Jacquie Phelan (right) got sick of the mountain biking's aggressive image and decided she just wanted to have fun with the girls. In 1984 she formed the Women's Mountain Bike & Tea Society (WOMBATS), which now has a membership of 500 women riders of all ages and athletic levels. The group aims to mentor women and help them gain confidence.
To find out more about Phelan's rides, log on to www.wombats.org.
2. Peace x Peace
After watching American bombs strike Afghanistan in 2001, Patricia Smith Melton (second left), a Virginia playwright, invited a number of influential women to discuss a route to peace. In January 2002, after a three-day roundtable, Melton had a 600-page transcript of their thoughts on equal rights, education, inclusion, and restorative justice.
Melton launched Peace x Peace, an organization and Web site dedicated to connecting circles of women.
For more information on Peace x Peace, log on to www.peacexpeace.org.
3. Suite Dreams Project
Three years ago, working mothers Kay Ponicall and Kris Appleby of Detroit launched the Suite Dreams Project to create fantasy bedrooms for sick children.
"Imagine being a child who has to spend 18 hours a day alone in a bed recovering from a major surgery. Painting their room with a mural of spaceships or their favorite cartoon characters might perk up their spirits and relieve some of the stress of recovery."
To contribute to Suite Dreams, log on to suitedreamsproject.org.
4. Brain Exchange
BJ Gallagher started the Los Angeles branch of Brain Exchange after attending a meeting near Oakland, Calif. She enlisted the help of founders Anita Goldstein and Susan Goldstein, and now her branch tackles everything from career troubles to the ins and outs of redecorating a room.
The Brain Exchange isn't group therapy. Rather, women pose specific questions, such as "How do I move my business closer to the beach?" or "How do I become better at career networking?" The brainiacs throw out suggestions.
For information, log on to thebrainexchange.com.
5. 34 Million Friends of UNFPA
Lois Abraham got mad. So did Jane Roberts. They didn't know each other, but both were outraged when President Bush cut $34 million dollars from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides reproductive healthcare and information in developing countries.
Introduced to each other by UNFPA, Abraham and Roberts today spend up to eight hours a day sending letters and e-mails to friends and women's organizations explaining the consequences of the cuts.
To contribute, contact 34millionfriends.org.
6. Women Transcending Boundaries
After Sept. 11, Betsy Wiggins of Syracuse, N.Y., wanted to reach out to Muslim women. An Imam at a nearby mosque gave Wiggins the phone number of Danya Wellmon, a Muslim leader who speaks for the women in that community.
Over a meal of couscous, curry, and baklava, 18 women—Muslims, Jews, Christians and Buddhists—introduced themselves and exposed each other to their beliefs.
Two years later, more than 300 women have attended WTB meetings.
To support Women Transcending Boundaries, log onto www.wtb.org.
7. The Scrabble Club
The Philadelphia-based gamers started 18 years ago, when criminologist Jane Siegel decided that she missed playing games with friends. "I felt like there was too much work and not enough fun."
The pursuit of the seven-letter word has kept the five friends together-though they admit that their meetings have become more about babble than Scrabble.
"We don't follow the social expectations of our mothers' bridge club," says Pettengill. "We curse and bitch and moan and opinionate without worrying that someone isn't going to approve."
8. Girls on the Road
As Roberta Graves, a mother of four, approached her 40th birthday, she thought the best present would be a getaway with the girls.
She persuaded five pals to ditch husbands and kids to bike 40 miles a day in the 105-degree heat of Vietnam. They conquered the challenge and have since continued their worldly trips. There are only three rules: no husbands, no kids, and a destination they've never visited before.
9. MIT Professors
In the mid-1990s, MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins and 11 other female colleagues researched whether MIT overlooked its women professors. They discovered that some female professors were paid up to 30 percent less than their male counterparts, had less space for research than men, and had less control in university decision-making.
In 1999 the group presented its report to the president of MIT. MIT has since increased the number of female professors from 8 percent to 13 percent and added additional benefits to three female professors' pension plans.