"Speak your mind even if your voice shakes." -- Maggie Kuhn
Today in Mighty Girl history, Maggie Kuhn, social activist and founder of the Gray Panthers, was born in 1905. After being forced into retirement on her 65th birthday, Kuhn banded together with other retirees to form the Gray Panthers in 1970. The social action group focused on issues affecting older Americans including eliminating mandatory retirement ages, nursing home reform, and fighting ageism, as well as other pressing social issues such as poverty, peace and civil liberties.
Born in Buffalo, New York, Kuhn was engaged in social activism throughout her life. In the 1930s and 40s, she taught classes to women on a variety of issues and caused controversy by addressing topics related to human sexuality including the mechanics of birth control, sex, and pregnancy. During the 1950s and 60s, she worked for the Presbyterian Church and her visits to Presbyterian retirement homes first sparked her interest in issues affecting the elderly.
Through her work with the Gray Panthers, she countered the then-popular "disengagement theory," which argued old age involves a necessary separation from society, and often criticized nursing homes, calling them "glorified playpens." To provide an alternative model for elderly living, Kuhn founded the National Shared Housing Resource Center to help connect people interested in shared housing arrangements. Kuhn herself shared her home in Philadelphia with younger adults who paid lower rent in exchange for their help with chores and their companionship. She passed away at the age of 89 in 1995.