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Our Times 3

Melanie Panitch

  • Motherhood Organizing

    Of the many social movements that have struggled for social justice and equality, the history of activism by mothers of disabled children has been sorely neglected. Ever since the 1950s, when Pearl S. Buck wrote The Child Who Never Grew (1950) and Dale Evans Rogers wrote Angel Unaware (1953) about their respective disabled daughters, women’s narratives have provided a documentary trail to that history. Given the social stigma attached to disability at the time, the impact of two prominent mothers claiming disability in their family cannot be underestimated. By “coming out,” they boosted the many parent-led charities that were beginning to form to advocate for certain disabling conditions. Despite the “official” reference to parents, it was primarily young mothers who founded and joined these groups. They looked for mutual support to challenge century-old institutional provisions and establish services in the community. Right from the beginning, it was mothers who led the way. These activist mothers likely never considered themselves activists at all; they were just doing what needed to be done. Yet, they organized in the domestic space women occupied – their homes and, primarily, their kitchens.

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