Maggie Kuhn was born today in 1905 in Buffalo, NY. She founded the group, The Gray Panthers and spoke out for rights of senior citizens and other issues. I remember seeing her at Anti-War marches in the early 70s. What a spitfire she was! The Black Panthers was the influential factor for naming her group! “Kuhn emulated the strident, confrontational protest tactics of the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, demanding that the nation give its older citizens an active role and an equal voice in society. In 1971, for example, she led a column of 1,000 protesters who circled the White House to demand access to a presidential conference on aging.”–Patrick J. Kiger, AARP, 5/2013
Maggie Kuhn was an activist way before founding The Gray Panthers; during her college days she organized a League of Women Voters chapter on campus; “during World War II she worked with the United Service Organization, helping to improve conditions for the women who were recruited to take men’s places in defense plants. After the war, she joined the national office of the United Presbyterian Church in New York, where she became involved in fighting racial segregation and poverty and pushed for affordable housing.”-Patrick J. Kiger, AARP, 5/2013
Maggie was forced to retire from her position at the United Presbyterian Church because she was 65 and that didn’t sit right with her and she refused to go away quietly. Thanks to Maggie and the work of The Gray Panthers, there is no longer a mandatory retirement age; it was done away with by Congress in 1986.
Kuhn worked for equal rights for all races, equal rights for the elderly and brought the elderly and the young together through a program that helped retirees or older citizens with their daily living expenses by renting out rooms in their homes. “The National Shared Housing Resource Center connects people with information about home-sharing programs in their local communities. The arrangements typically involve homeowners offering rooms for rent, or occasionally, in exchange for services. Gray Panther founder Maggie Kuhn, who lived in a large Philadelphia house she shared with several others, established the NSHRC in 1981.”-Sonya Stinson, 8/2012, Bankrate.com
When Maggie Kuhn died in 1965, The Honorable Ron Wyden of Oregon talked about her in the House of Representatives on June 7th, 1995 and ended his eulogy with: “Maggie Kuhn led a life of unselfish service to others. She felt that the greatest sin was to waste time and to waste human potential. She lived her life to the fullest. Millions of Americans, young and old, have been touched by her work. Maggie Kuhn was once asked how she would like to be remembered. She recited her favorite epitaph: “Here lies so-and-so, under the only stone she left unturned.” Maggie Kuhn, a true American hero, will be much missed.”