Secular Woman Awards 2014

Photo of awards by Amy Davis Roth.


Secular Woman would like to recognize individuals, through our awards program, who have shown their commitment to embracing and living the mission and values of our organization in 2014.  We believe that the secular community thrives on the passion of people who enthusiastically contribute through their activism. The winners were chosen by a board vote from a pool of nominations submitted by our membership, with the exception of the President’s Award given directly by our president Kim Rippere. Awards were created by Amy Davis Roth of Surly Ramics.

President’s Award – Melody Hensley

Melody HensleyMelody Hensley has been an outspoken involved feminist leader in the atheist movement.  She has a long history within the atheist community including creating the first conference devoted to the oppressive nature of religion in women’s lives, gender equality in the secular movement, and to celebrate great contributions non-theist women have made to the secular movement.  

Via social media she is also open about her life, the challenges she has faced, and the response.  Her openness about her mental health has opened doors so that others feel more comfortable talking about their own mental health.  Additionally, her views have brought a flood of online harassment.  She has been open about that and about how this has impacted her life.

Her ability and desire to continue being a vocal online feminist atheist are truly something to be admired and respected.

Melody Hensley is the Executive Director of CFI–Washington, DC and organizer of the CFI sponsored Women in Secularism national conference. She is also a CFI Certified Secular Celebrant, legally able to officiate weddings without a religious exemption in Washington, DC.

In 2015 Ms. Hensley plans to grow the already vibrant Center for Inquiry–DC community, including such programs as African Americans for Humanism DC and CFI–DC Secular Women. These programs will direct more time to social justice and community service, working with other DC non-profits to fulfilling some the the District's greatest needs: HIV/AIDS prevention, homelessness, poverty, women's reproductive rights, street harassment, and more.

Secular Woman Member of the Year – M.A. Melby

MA MelbyIn 2014 Marian was integral in the drafting and circulation of the petition that Secular Woman sent to the Southern Poverty Law Center urging them to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group. On top of that, Marian is recognized for being an important secular, feminist voice on Twitter. She enters into many heated conversations (many centered around social justice) and always comes out on top without losing her temper or wavering from her funny and caustic stance.

Marian (M.A. Melby) Aanerud is a physics instructor in a health science program in Minnesota and also has an academic background in music. She writes at Transadvocate, Secular Woman Salon, and her personal blog Sinmantyx. She appears as an author in the anthology Atheist Voices of Minnesota. She often can be found on twitter.

Blog of the Year – Brute Reason by Miri Mogilevsky

Miri MogilevskyMiri's blog deals with some very tough subjects with a direct and wonderful voice that never seems to waver. With the myriad of topics covered at Brute Reason there is always a new bit of information to learn.

Miri is a writer and social work student in New York City. Her blog, Brute Reason, covers topics such as mental health, psychology, and social justice. She also contributes to the Daily Dot and rants on Tumblr. When not writing or studying, Miri volunteers for a sexual assault hotline and takes excessive photos of NYC. When she grows up, she wants to be a therapist and have a slightly nicer apartment.


Woman of the Year – Rebecca Watson

Rebecca WatsonRebecca Watson was chosen as Secular Woman of the Year for being a strong role model for secular women while continuing to provide quality, educational and entertaining content despite years of constant harassment. She has also provided a platform for many women to get their start as journalists and activists by giving them the opportunity to write for the Skepchick Network. Currently the Skepchick network has around 100 contributors from across the globe. Many of Rebecca’s talks and articles are focused on pseudoscience directed at women. Her voice has been paramount in helping women navigate information about health and sexuality.

Rebecca Watson is the founder of the Skepchick Network, a collection of sites focused on science and critical thinking with dozens of contributors spanning four languages. She has written for outlets such as Slate, Popular Science, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. She's also the host of Quiz-o-Tron, a rowdy, live quiz show that pits scientists against comedians. Asteroid 153289 Rebeccawatson is named after her (her real name being 153289).

Activist of the Year – Sarah Kaiser

Sarah KaiserSarah is a coordinator of the Freethought Books Project at CFI. From their site, “The Freethought Books Project provides donations of secular and freethinking literature to prisoners, inmates in mental hospitals, books to prisoners projects, and others in need. The project also connects inmates to volunteer pen pals, who correspond with secular humanist, atheist, and other inmates who are connected to the project.”  We feel that Sarah’s work in helping folks obtain the secular reading materials they crave is extremely valuable.  Many times in prisons the reading materials default to that of a religious majority.  Those who are incarcerated should have the right to continue their journey of exploring secular values and ideas. Sarah makes that happen and that is why she deserves to be recognized for this activist action.


Man of the Year – Muhammad Syed

Muhammad SyedAs co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America we chose Muhammad Syed as Man of the Year for his dedication to providing a space for ex-Muslims while ensuring the inclusion of ex-Muslim women in the organization as well as helping to expose discrimination women face in Islam.

Muhammad is a co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America, where he currently works as the Executive Director. He is a public speaker, writer, and community organizer. Muhammad has been a human rights activist for the past decade, and now focuses on promoting acceptance of secularism in Muslim communities as well as working on amplifying the voice of Ex-Muslims globally, as a conscientious voice for change. Muhammad is a software engineer by trade, and leverages his expertise for the technical needs of EXMNA.

Secular Woman Award Nominees Wanted

It’s that time of year again! Through the month of August Secular Woman will be collecting nominations for our annual Secular Woman Awards.

We have five categories: Secular Woman of the Year, Activist of the Year, Blog of the Year, Man of the Year, Member of the Year.

If you missed last year’s awards you should check out our 2013 winners, which include activists like Sikivu Hutchinson. Check out their accomplishments in the secular movement and then fill out this form* to nominate folks this year who are working hard embracing and living the mission and values of Secular Woman, and when you’re done encourage your friends to nominate too!

*We do ask that all nominees aside from the Man of the Year identify as women.

Secular Woman Membership Awards

Secular Woman would like to recognize individuals through our awards program who have shown their commitment to embracing and living the mission and values of our organization.  We believe that the secular community thrives on the passion of people who enthusiastically contribute through their activism. The winners were chosen by a board vote from a pool of nominations submitted by our membership, with the exception of the President’s Award given directly by our president Kim Rippere.

Woman of the Year
Sikivu Hutchinson
Sikivu HutchinsonSikivu Hutchinson was chosen as Woman of the year due to her being a radical humanist activist, educator, and writer who advocates for social justice within academic and atheist movement circles, while putting her theories into practice in her own community of Los Angeles. She is a beacon for secular women throughout the world. In 2013 she released her latest book: Godless Americana: Race & Religious Rebels.

She is an editor at and  She can also be found through her own website and through the organization  Also, be sure to check out her previous book, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars. Sikivu is also involved in the Women’s Leadership Project which is is a feminist service learning program designed to educate and train young middle and high school age women in South Los Angeles to take ownership of their school-communities.

Man of the Year
Ian CromwellThis award was given to Crommunist for his staunch, unwavering, vocal support of feminism, atheism, and social justice via his blog, twitter, and comments throughout the secular blogosphere. Crommunist supports the voices of women and works hard to educate those who tend to silence through maintaining the status quo.
Ian Cromwell (a.k.a. 'Crommunist') is a health researcher, musician, and blogger from Vancouver, Canada. Crommunist's chief area of interest is examining the relationships between religion, patriarchy, and white supremacy as a set of interconnected oppressive systems, and he explores the ways in which using the tools of skepticism can be used to understand the ways in which these systems operate. After spending 2 years at Freethought Blogs, Crommunist has returned to writing at his own platform at

Activist of the Year
Soraya Chemaly
Soraya ChemalySoraya's action this year taking on gender-based hate speech on Facebook was mindblowing.  Very quickly she was able to gather huge worldwide interest, take action, and come out successful. Due to her diligence Facebook released a statement regarding an overview and change of their hate/harmful speech policies. Soraya fights for women's rights, via her writing, being extremely active and effective with social media, and participating in conferences.
You can find Soraya writing for various outlets such as the Huffington Post, Salon, and AlterNet.  She is also active in social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr.

Blog of the Year
Almost Diamonds
Stephanie ZvanStephanie Zvan makes her voice heard through her blog Almost Diamonds. Her writing is consistently incredible: insightful, thorough, on point, and funny (when appropriate). Everything she writes is from an atheist, secular, intersectional feminist, and social justice perspective. This year has certainly been a busy one for social justice in the secular community. Stephanie’s posts tackle issues from multiple perspectives deconstructing and analyzing varied subject matter; her methodological and precise writing is educational, informative, and engaging.

Stephanie is a writer and analyst living in Minneapolis. She is the associate president of Minnesota Atheists and co-host of their radio show, Atheists Talk. As far as she knows, she's always been a feminist.

Member of the Year
Renée Perry
Renee PerryRenée has participated in so many ways in the growth and development of Secular Woman.  She has been an integral part of helping with our 501c3 application which will be felt for years to come in SW being established as a non-profit organization. Renée also provides a consistent voice in our Members Only discussion group and adds much wisdom to the conversation. In addition she has helped to craft the guidelines for that group.

Renée Perry is Director of Operations for Equality Federation, whose members are state-based LGBT advocacy organizations. Renée has been an atheist since she was 16 and became a skeptic through reading Martin Gardiner.

President’s Award
Mary Ellen Sikes
Mary Ellen SikesMary Ellen has been a quiet force in the secular movement for decades. As one of the founders of Secular Woman Mary Ellen helped to launch an incredible website; a large, detailed membership database; and a well thought out mission, vision, and value statements.  She was integral to the formation of SW in every way and continues to be a consistent advisor to SW and other secular groups. Mary Ellen is the definition of the unsung hero.

In addition to her work with Secular Woman, Mary Ellen was an ACLU litigant in a lawsuit involving tax bonds benefiting a Christian school that openly discriminates in hiring. She founded Central Virginia Secular Humanists and led the group for six years beginning in 1995 and, in addition, served as Vice President and President of the Washington Area Secular Humanists. She’s been an advisory board member to American United for Separation of Church and State since early 2000s. She has lent her incredible technology skills to Institute for Humanist Studies, Secular Coalition for America, and the Secular Student Alliance. Currently she is the president, founder and sole developer of the American Secular Census, the independent national registry of demographic and viewpoint data recorded by secular Americans.


Awards and photos of awards by Amy Davis Roth.