Our Founder: Maggie Kuhn
"A healthy community is one in which the elderly protect, care for, love and assist the younger ones to provide continuity and hope." ~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 authored several books and an autobiography.
Source: National Women's Hall of Fame
"[What] I dream of and yearn for is that the Gray Panthers will continue to be on the cutting edge of social change, and that the young and old together will continue to work for a just, humane and peaceful world."
NYTimes: Maggie Kuhn, the activist and founder of the Gray Panthers, an American advocacy organization for the elderly, born on this day in Buffalo in 1905.
On August 3, 2018, the New York Times celebrated the birth of Maggie Kuhn, founder of Gray Panthers. Appropriately so. The passion, effectiveness and advocacy of Maggie Kuhn’s life is needed today. Gray Panthers confronts ageism and confronts the wrong-headed developments in the world. Today, we face the onslaught of hatred, lack of compassion, and the destruction of all that is good in the USA. Gray Panthers fights back.
And, we should follow the example of Maggie Kuhn –
“Power should not be concentrated in the hands of so few, and powerlessness in the hands of so many.” Maggie Kuhn
Maggie Kuhn, Gray Panther, in Vermont. Archival video
Gray Panthers founder Maggie Kuhn addresses Vermont seniors and members of what is now called the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE) in this archival video shot in 1991 at the Vermont Statehouse.
Original producer Kenric Kite has pulled the program out of the archive vault and added new graphics. Maggie Kuhn is introduced by then-Lt. Governor of Vermont Howard Dean, who later that year became governor upon the sudden death of Gov. Richard Snelling.
Women Make History: Maggie Kuhn and the Gray Panthers
Hogg Foundation Blog