The following story is part of a new GateHouse Missouri series, “Shattered Ceilings,” featuring women in professional positions of power and responsibility in Mid-Missouri, such as mayors, police chiefs, medical professionals, business owners and more.
Lyda Krewson became a single mom in a matter of seconds. Krewson, a Moberly High School graduate, never thought she would be faced with taking care of her two small children on her own, but that’s the reality she faced after her former husband Jeff Krewson was shot and killed during a carjacking in front of their family.
“I could support my kids,” Krewson said. “I mean, this sounds crazy, but in that way I was lucky, you know. I had a great job. I had a good skill set, and I had experience. I could do it.”
The couple had been married for seven years when the incident occured in 1995 outside of their home in West St. Louis. Shortly after, Krewson got involved in local government eager to reduce gun violence. Now, she is the mayor of St. Louis.
“Everybody has loss in their life,” Krewson said. “It's not all the same kind of lost that I had, but that doesn't mean that it's not just as important. Loss is really part of life, and we all deal with it differently.”
Growing up in a rural community, Krewson says she understands the conservative culture surrounding guns, but she worries about the prevalence of gun violence in St. Louis.
At the time of her husband’s death, Krewson was the chief financial consultant for an international architecture design firm where she met Jeff. Three years later, she quit the profession to pursue politics.
In 2017, she became the first female mayor of St. Louis. Graduating from Moberly High School in 1970, she had initially wanted to be a schoolteacher. “That was the job that was pretty open to most “girls” at that time,” Krewson said.
Krewson wanted to always be able to support herself. Many more women were joining the workforce in the mid-1960s, accounting for a two-thirds increase in total employment in the ’60’s, according to the U.S. bureau of labor statistics. The increased accessibility of contraception played a major role in what has been characterized as the second wave of feminism, Krewson said. State and local laws banning the use of contraception were overturned in 1965 after the Planned Parenthood of Connecticut won a precedent setting U.S. Supreme Court victory.
“Oh, the climate for women changed tremendously [after then],” Krewson recalls. “Birth control gave women choices they never had before.”
Krewson’s mother became a banker in Moberly when her family moved from Illinois in 1968. Krewson was 15 and attended Moberly High School the first year the schooled opened. She remembers the sprawling green fields and the school choosing the Spartan as their mascot.
Her father was a steel salesman who died in a car accident when Krewson was 19.
“He was very influential for me,” Krewson said. “He taught me long division on some Sunday night.”
Krewson attended night school while she worked in a psychiatric ward in St. Louis to get her accounting degree, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college.
Krewson noticed there weren’t many other women in accounting but wasn’t discouraged, seeing it as a way to stand out in the field.
“That was the beginning of time when women went into accounting,” Krewson said. “There were only a couple of women who had ever gone to work there [at the firm] before then. So it was a great opportunity.”
St. Louis continues to grapple with the crisis of gun violence. The number of children killed by guns so far this year has increased by nearly three times since 2018, St. Louis Public Radio reported.
In August, Krewson urged Missouri lawmakers to change a state law allowing anyone to carry a gun without restrictions. She calls her efforts to limit easy access to guns a “very unsuccessful endeavor.”
Still, Krewson plans to continue advocating for a safer environment in St. Louis for her remaining two years in office, and after, she hopes to make history again by being the first woman to be reelected as mayor.
“If you look back at my life, you would say, yeah, I'm a feminist,” Krewson said. “What that means to me is gender doesn't matter. You can do whatever you're capable of doing.”
Krewson will run as the incumbent for mayor in April 2021.