Remembering Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Isabelle Charlotte Weinstein Goldenson
Last week, hundreds of people attended the wake of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was instrumental in founding the Special Olympics. Shriver, who passed away August 11, 2009, leaves behind a legacy of activism for the rights and dignity of the mentally disabled.
In reading the coverage of Shriver's passing, I couldn't help but notice the parallels between her story and the story of Isabelle Charlotte Weinstein Goldenson, a disability rights activist and co-founder of United Cerebral Palsy, who passed away in 2005.
Both Shriver and Goldenson came from affluent families of influence. I don't need to tell you about the Kennedys, except to say that Eunice Shriver was one. She was also a Shriver, and mother-in-law to "Governator" Schwarzenegger. Isabelle Charlotte Weinstein Goldenson's family was also affluent and well positioned: the Jewish Kennedy's of New York, one might say. Her family produced renowned musicians, painters, sculptors, and the first Jewish Poet Laureate in the United States as well as the first Jewish architect to win the Prix de Rome.
Shriver and Goldenson shared the experience of having a close relative with disabilities. For Shriver, it was her sister; for Goldenson, her daughter Cookie. Like Shriver, Goldenson made ending discrimination against the disabled her life's work. She co-founded United Cerebral Palsy to provide the highest quality health care, education, employment, housing, and technology resources for people with cerebral palsy and other disibilities, such as mental retardation, autism, learning disabilities, and other brain conditions.
Goldenson's accomplishments also include a movement in 1973 to amend Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the groundbreaking predecessor to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her "unique" ideas included things like enlarging restroom cubicles, putting ramps in public buildings, and creating designated handicapped parking. She leveraged her husband's connections into a meeting with NASA scientists to find practical applications of space technology for the disabled. Her daughter Loreen Arbus remembers her saying, "If we can propel rocket ships to the moon, why can't we use some of that same technology to help the disabled move more easily on earth?"
Loreen Arbus describes her mother as "an extraordinary force." It is important to remember both Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Isabelle Charlotte Weinstein Goldenson; remarkable women who leveraged their power and privilege to help those who had none.
To learn more about Isabelle Charlotte Weinstein Goldenson, please visit We Remember.