Scenes From the City: Rachel Trees of P Squared


Writing and photography by Abby McGuire.

Women of Cincy is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to giving a voice to people of all beliefs. We encourage our readers to have open minds, make informed decisions, and be engaged in their community.

Over the past few months, my perception of myself has shifted into that of a tree root, growing and thriving in the soil of Cincinnati. By nurturing one meaningful connection of friendship, I’ve come to realize the boundless other relationships that can then take root and blossom. By laying down roots and investing in relationships, the fertile soil that is Cincinnati allows me to grow and reach people like Rachel Trees.

A friend of a friend is a common connection, but the women in this city are quick to lessen our degrees of separation. The difference in how we share the wealth this city has to offer with one another creates acceptance, without a doubt. And for that, I am eternally grateful. 


Rachel is a perfect example of an unquestioning truster. Here I am in her living room, a friend of a friend, holding her bird Arlo as she offers me brie. I should have known we had crossed the threshold of friendship. Over a casual beer months ago, she immediately accepted my divulgence of being a Gemini sun sign, and I am still warmed by the gesture. The first beaming quality I noticed was her unapologetic nature to be whatever she wanted to be and to tell others to adopt the same mindset. It’s intoxicating.

Rachel exudes self-worth; she doesn’t answer any of my questions without the strength she has chosen for herself. 

She says growing up in the small town of Avon, Indiana, didn’t provide much culture for her, and she didn’t miss a beat in choosing a fuller life.  She laughs, remembering the one gas station and “any fast-food chain you could want” defining her hometown. She brushes over her run-ins with guitar and writing for her high school newspaper. Floating feathers draw my attention to an amp in the dining room. It was supposed to get her closer to being a second coming of Stevie Ray Vaughn ten years ago. 

“I knew that if I was going to have anything, I would have to do it for myself,” she said. I feel understood and not so alone in trying to find my own self.

Her hands reach for everything. I see no lack of interest or drive for something new that will help her neighbors, as Rachel tells me her life story. She isn’t intimidated by dipping her toes in whatever draws her attention, and for that, she is bold.

Rachel went on to Indiana University to study journalism, with a concentration in French and a minor in music studies. Convinced she would go into arts writing, her schooling positioned her to understand it might not be a possibility with the recession and the indication that newspapers were on their way to extinction. She and I mull over our 18-year-old selves making these decisions like we knew what was best for our future.


After college, she moved to Cincinnati; a decision made easy after spending summers in the city. She loved the opportunities it could afford her just being in the “ecosystem of the Seven Hills,” as she puts it. She hated her first job here, quickly realizing it had nothing to do with sharing who she was with the world. Ask her what her job is now, and she will tell you it defines nothing about her; I take in this comment like a breath of fresh air. 

“I knew that if I was going to have anything, I would have to do it for myself,” she said. I feel understood and not so alone in trying to find my own self. 

After her move, Rachel decided to make a ripple in Cincinnati for herself, taking up volunteer work to both make friends and get involved. Rachel attended her first Proud Partners of Planned Parenthood (P Squared) meeting in 2013. Soon enough, she accepted a secretary role that allowed her to be more rooted in the movement for reproductive rights and proper healthcare, affording agency for the women of Cincinnati. She tells me about the excitement they felt raising a couple thousand dollars for Planned Parenthood that particular year. She later felt overwhelmed in her now co-chair position, raising nearly $20,000 this past year through events and generous donors. With this, P Squared has become the largest volunteer support group for Planned Parenthood in Southwest Ohio. All the while, she simply feels lucky to be around such a force of women.


She tells me most of the money comes from working women who take each other’s access to health seriously, having needed treatment themselves or wanting the option to be there for anyone in need. Baristas, servers, teachers, and the like – all coming together to demand resources.

Throwing themed dance parties, selling christmas trees, and supporting drag shows all help P Squared chip away at the devastation Ohio women are experiencing as their basic healthcare needs continue to be denied. Rachel tells me her purpose in all of this can be defined as existing as a woman, and knowing that her neighbors deserve all of the resources that are available when we ask for what we want. 

Rachel goes on to tell me about the turmoil Planned Parenthood is going through with legislature, and how this means we must arm ourselves with knowledge. No more shame in choosing for ourselves, or being weaponized, but instead taking on the selfless role of being a woman looking out for other women.


It is plain for her: unbridled action for our rights to agency over our bodies without them becoming a battleground. In hearing this, if I had nodded in agreement any more, I would have become dizzy and on the floor, mid inspiring conversation.

She explains that nothing in our current culture is sustainable when the truth can diminish it, especially when it comes to our right to a life we choose for ourselves. Rachel wears these ideas like the midcentury silk gowns she loves: confidently, without a stain from anyone against her.


I recognize how endlessly Rachel sacrifices for anyone she sees. Taking on roles brings her closer to her goals for our city, like how she works as an abortion doula. Rachel strives to reduce the number of hoops we have to jump through and to ensure our city reflects the people who live here. Finally, we decide over frozen mango, that when everyone has a story, action needs to happen. And I wouldn’t want anyone else to spearhead such a movement.

I see, after talking with Rachel, that it starts with choosing a place to be a part of; wanting to grow strong in whatever soil exists already, with the dream of future progress. When I dig deeper into this town, I find what we have is lush. But to maintain it, we must help nourish each other with the resources available to tackle the tasks at hand. Asking for more, reaching out to one another, and finding connections – only then do we come closer to grasping what we always had access to without having to apologize.

Community Mix is our monthly hodge-podge of content from the voices of a hodge-podge of beautiful Cincinnatians. This is Scenes from the City, where the poetic mind that is Abby McGuire uncovers Cincinnati's hidden gems. Got suggestions? Email Abby.