While we’re celebrating our own families today, I’d like to take a moment and wish a Happy Mother’s Day to a specific group of strangers – the Moms who came before us. No matter how old our children with Down syndrome are, there are those to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.
The mothers of the fourteen children represented in the landmark case, Pennsylvania Association of Retarded Children (PARC) vs The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1971). Their advocacy helped make it possible for all children with intellectual and developmental disabilities to receive a public education.
Moms like Mrs. Donald G. Wyman and 54 others in the “Mothers of Young Mongoloids” who fought for increased funding for NIH research in 1969. They started a letter writing campaign and managed to get 4,000 letters sent to Congress.
Women like Eve Shakespeare who believed what society told her, that institutionalization offered the best future for her daughter with Down syndrome, but took the time to bond with her as a young child. How devastating must that battle in her mind have been?
Strong women like Mildred Krentel who, unsatisfied with the status quo, took a chance and bought a 35-room mansion and set about creating a more home-like setting for her daughter and others like her. Melmark is still in operation today, providing services for 1,000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
And women like Romy Wyllie who took the time to write about her own personal experiences raising a child with Down syndrome. Her son, Andrew, was born in 1959 and passed away at the age of 52. Their story is filled with details and records that give readers a glimpse of history on The Road. [We’re currently discussing that history in The Road Story Club.]
And our thoughts today also include mothers like Patti Saylor and Stephanie Smith Lee, who continue to advocate for our children, even after they lost one of their own.
These are but a few of the pioneers that helped us get where we are today. There are countless others. We may not know their names, but we know that without them, our lives would be quite different.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Ds Moms, past and present!
You’ve helped pave The Road We’ve Shared!