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Sat Aug 3, 2013, 12:14 PM

a biography of the day-maggie kuhn ( activist, founder gray panthers)

Maggie Kuhn
Born August 3, 1905
Buffalo, New York
Died April 22, 1995 (aged 89)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation Elder rights activist
Known for Founding the Gray Panthers

Maggie Kuhn (August 3, 1905 April 22, 1995) was an American activist known for founding the Gray Panthers movement in August 1970, after being forced into retirement by the Presbyterian Church. The Gray Panthers became known for advocating nursing home reform and fighting ageism, claiming that "old people and women constitute America's biggest untapped and undervalued human energy source." She also dedicated her life to fighting for human rights, social and economic justice, global peace, integration, and an understanding of mental health issues. For decades she combined her activism with caring for her disabled mother and a brother who suffered from mental illness.
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In the 1930s and 1940s, Kuhn taught at the YWCA, where she educated women about unionizing, women's issues, and social issues. She caused controversy by starting a human sexuality class in which she discussed such topics as the mechanics of sex, birth control, sexual pleasure, pregnancy, and the difficulties of remaining single in a culture where marriage is the norm. She encouraged women to really study their own lives and their world. She once wrote to companies for samples of their products and incited a discussion of the products, "truth in advertising," the profits made from cosmetics and drugs, the conditions under which they were made, and the role of women as "purchasing agents."

. . . . .

Kuhn raised controversy by openly discussing the sexuality of older people, and shocked the public with her assertion that older women, who outlive men by an average of 8 years, could develop sexual relationships with younger men or each other.

She also took a stance on Social Security, arguing that politicians had created an intergenerational war over federal funds in order to divert public attention from the real budgetary issues: overspending on the military and extravagant tax breaks for the rich.
Kuhn criticized housing schemes for the elderly, calling them "glorified playpens". While admitting that they helped to keep seniors safe, she contended that they also segregated the elderly from mainstream society. During her years as a Gray Panther activist, she lived in her own home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She shared that home with younger adults, who received a break on rent in exchange for their help with chores and their companionship. Kuhn founded the Shared Housing Resources Center.[1]
Kuhn wrote her autobiography, No Stone Unturned, in 1991. Four years later, she died of cardiac arrest in Philadelphia at the age of 89.


Maggie Kuhn
At age 65, when many people prepare for quiet years, Maggie Kuhn embarked on the greatest adventure and most important work of her life. In 1970, forced to retire from her career with the Presbyterian Church at age 65, Kuhn and a group of her friends in similar circumstances organized and founded an organization which became the Gray Panthers. The organization was created to work on issues of concern to the elderly, such as pension rights and age discrimination, but also to concern itself with larger public issues, such as the Vietnam War and other social concerns. At the core of the Gray Panthers' message was that older people needed to seize control of their lives and be in the active world working for issues in which they believed. Kuhn's candor, charisma and lively approach to the needs and problems of the old drew major media attention, and the group was successfully launched, coming to represent in the public mind that power and energy that the elderly can represent. Kuhn fought off efforts by everyone from politicians to the managers of nursing homes to treat the elderly like amusing children, instead insisting on a place at the table and voice in decision-making that affected the lives of the old. Kuhn's advice to activists interested in creating social change shows the strength of her convictions: "Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind - even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants. And do your homework." Kuhn, who continued to play a role in the Gray Panthers until her death at age 89, is considered by many to have started nothing less than a contemporary cultural revolution, both in terms of redefining the meaning of age and through her insistence on "young and old together." She and the Panthers have been directly instrumental in enacting significant national reforms, including nursing home reform, ending forced retirement provisions, and combatting fraud against the elderly in health care. She is the author of several books and an autobiography.


Maggie GrowlsThe Film

MAGGIE GROWLS is a documentary film portrait by Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater of the amazing, canny, lusty, charming and unstoppable Maggie Kuhn (1905-1995), who founded the Gray Panthers in 1970 after being forced to retire from a job she loved. Her outrage and determination fueled a political chain reaction that forever changed the lives of older Americans, repealing mandatory retirement laws and proving that "old" is not a dirty word. Out of what political activist Ralph Nader called "the most significant retirement in modern American history," Maggie created one of the most potent social movements of the century - one that was committed to justice, peace and fairness to all, regardless of age.

Maggie Kuhn was never afraid to march to her own beat and fight for what she believed. Born in Buffalo in 1905, she was a passionate social activist right from the start. Maggie entered the workplace in 1926, with a job at the YWCA in Cleveland, organizing poor and working women. In 1950, she began a 20-year stint in the Social Education and Action Office of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. It was a job she adored, one that kept her in the forefront of the social activist movement for decades. When she turned 65 and was forced to give up the career she loved, Maggie decided that she would not fade away quietly. Saying "don't agonize, organize," and reminding them that they had nothing to lose, she galvanized a group of friends and colleagues who had also been put prematurely out to pasture and launched the career for which she is renowned: as founder and leader of the Gray Panthers.

Maggie's second career unfolded in television appearances with Johnny Carson; on Capitol Hill, chiding senators and congressmen; and on the picket line, fighting injustice for all people, wherever she could. She also spoke fondly of her many love affairs and close friendships. Maggie's insistence on talking publicly about sex, which often made her listeners squirm, lead to a serious re-thinking about what growing old was all about. As Maggie said, "Sex and learning end only when rigor mortis sets in."

In an era replete with "movements," the media quickly latched onto Maggie. Looking like the stereotypical sweet little old lady, when Maggie spoke, people listened. With a disarming mixture of humor, shock value and common sense, Maggie deftly used her high visibility to combat media stereotypes that denigrated the elderly and went on to champion universal health care, nursing home reform, shared housing and consumer protection. MAGGIE GROWLS looks at the forces that shaped the movement as well as its leader, using Maggie's life as a lens through which to examine the intertwined issues of social reform and aging in America.


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Reply a biography of the day-maggie kuhn ( activist, founder gray panthers) (Original post)
niyad Aug 2013 OP
life long demo Aug 2013 #1
niyad Aug 2013 #2

Response to niyad (Original post)

Sat Aug 3, 2013, 01:05 PM

1. Dear, dear Maggie

Showed us the way!

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Response to life long demo (Reply #1)

Sat Aug 3, 2013, 06:07 PM

2. she will always be one of my sheroes. and so much more than just the gray panthers (as if that

were not enough!!)

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