“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes.” – Maggie Kuhn
I’ve come across this quote frequently these past couple of months, most recently from one of the social media pages of Cory Booker. I’ve always loved these words and decided to do a deeper dive into the person behind the quote and quickly found that Maggie Kuhn would make an excellent #WCW
Maggie is best known as the founder of the activist organization the Gray Panthers when she was legally mandated to retire at the age of 65. Maggie fought against Ageism on all fronts: the pushing out of capable people from the work force, “disengagement theory”(the idea that it was natural, and therefore encouraged, for the elderly to essentially “check out” of society while they waited to die), how hard it was for the older generation to get loans, etc.
Maggie and the Gray Panthers did not limit themselves to issues that directly related to the elderly. She strongly believed in the idea of Intersectionality in regards to activism YEARS before the term was coined. I’m going to cheat a bit and pull straight from Wikipedia: “(Intersectionality) is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Intersectionality is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities. These identities that can intersect include gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental disability, physical disability, mental illness, and physical illness as well as other forms of identity”. Maggie and the Gray Panthers took it a step further and became advocates for causes that were outside even their own identities, believing that discrimination on ANY front affects the population as a whole, even if it’s hard to see the direct correlation.
The Gray Panthers actively fought (and continue to fight) for LBGT rights, desegregation, anti-war efforts, urban housing issues, environmentalism, and health care. Maggie actively welcomed high school and college students into the Gray Panthers, believing that voices on both ends of the age scale were undervalued and stifled. She also advocated for shared housing, where old and young would live in mutually-beneficial companionship together. This idea is alive and well in the Netherlands as well as my wonderful Cleveland, OH (article is a little dated, I hope CIM is still rocking the idea)