Happy Birthday, Maggie!
August is Maggie Kuhn month. Maggie founded the Gray Panthers in 1970 and fought for the rights of elders all her life, even before she became an elder herself. She was affronted by the lack of respect with which the young treated the old. She once said, “The ultimate indignity is to be given a bedpan by a stranger who calls you by your first name.”
Old age is a time of liberation, Maggie believed. She said, “It’s the time for the mind and spirit to flourish. The body may be tired, but you can always reach out to new ideas and new ways of thinking.”
On her 80th birthday, she announced that she intended to make at least one outrageous statement a week. In her late 80’s, she changed it to one a day. “You get people’s attention that way, she said. “You get energized, you can make an impact, and it’s just fun.”
Although she never married, Maggie always enjoyed the company of men. She believed in an active, guilt-free sex life. At the age of 75, she was still having romantic affairs, generally with younger men.
Maggie stood up for herself, other elders, and disenfranchised people in general without seeming to flinch. She once admitted that it wasn’t always easy, though. She counseled others to “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind—even if your voice shakes.”
Maggie Kuhn died peacefully at her home in Philadelphia at age 89.