Biography of Maggie Kuhn
Maggie Kuhn (August 3, 1905 – April 22, 1995) was an American activist known for founding the Gray Panthers movement in August 1970, after being forced into retirement by the Presbyterian Church. The Gray Panthers became known for advocating nursing home reform and fighting ageism, claiming that "old people and women constitute America's biggest untapped and undervalued human energy source." She also dedicated her life to fighting for human rights, social and economic justice, global peace, integration, and an understanding of mental health issues. For decades she combined her activism with caring for her disabled mother and a brother who suffered from mental illness.
Maggie Kuhn was born in Buffalo, New York. Her childhood was spent in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as Memphis, Tennessee.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Kuhn taught at the YWCA, where she educated women about unionizing, women's issues, and social issues. She caused controversy by starting a human sexuality class in which she discussed such topics as the mechanics of sex, birth control, sexual pleasure, pregnancy, and the difficulties of remaining single in a culture where marriage is the norm. She encouraged women to really study their own lives and their world. She once wrote to companies for samples of their products and incited a discussion of the products, "truth in advertising," the profits made from cosmetics and drugs, the conditions under which they were made, and the role of women as "purchasing agents."
During World War II, she became program director for the YWCA-USO, which was a controversial career choice due to her opposition to the war. In spite of this, she continued to advocate a progressive stance on issues such as desegregation, urban housing, McCarthyism, the Cold War, and nuclear arms.