As we celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Women’s History Month this March, we are reminded of the powerful role women have played in the disability rights movement. From visionary founders to modern-day pioneers, the fight for the rights and inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) has been shaped by courageous women leading the charge.

Generations ago, visionary mothers like Ann Greenberg, Elizabeth Boggs, and Eleanor Elkins sparked a grassroots revolution and laid the foundation for The Arc nationwide.

  • Greenberg founded AHRC New York City after placing a classified ad to connect with others raising children with disabilities.
  • Boggs, parent of a son with a disability, helped found The Arc, served as our first national woman president, and counseled President John F. Kennedy on intellectual disabilities.
  • Elkins founded a mothers’ support group in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, that paved the way for The Arc of Bucks County. These women changed the face of our country by demanding that children with disabilities have equal access to education. Thanks to their advocacy, millions and millions of children with disabilities have received the education necessary to allow them to live the lives of their choosing.

Today, women continue driving our mission forward within chapters of The Arc around the country. At The Arc of the United States, we’ve been fortunate to learn from women like Marty Ford, whose four decades on The Arc’s top-notch federal policy team and leadership of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities has shaped the disability landscape today.

The disability rights movement owes an enormous debt to trailblazers like Eunice Shriver and Judy Heumann, pioneering leaders who dedicated their lives to shattering barriers and fighting for civil rights for all people with disabilities on the global stage. And day in and day out, the heart of our work lies with direct support professionals—87% of whom are women—who provide life-changing care that empowers people with IDD to thrive in their communities.

These examples merely hint at the bold women, well-known and unsung alike, whose courage, ingenuity, and grit brought us this far. As we continue building on their legacy, we are humbled to follow in their footsteps.

– Katy Neas, CEO & Laura J. Kennedy, Board President

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