Disability, Mothers, and Organization: Accidental Activists, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Disability, Mothers, and Organization

Accidental Activists, 1st Edition

By Melanie Panitch


234 pages

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This book examines how and why mothers with disabled children became activists. Leading campaigns to close institutions and secure human rights, these women learned to mother as activists, struggling in their homes and communities against the debilitating and demoralizing effects of exclusion. Activist mothers recognized the importance of becoming advocates for change beyond their own families and contributed to building an organization to place their issues on a more public scale. In highlighting this under-examined movement, this book contributes to the scholarship on Disability Studies, Women's Students, Sociology, and Social Movement Studies.


"How do ordinary people become activists? How do women marginalized as volunteers become political leaders? How did middle-class Canadian mothers change the professional practices and public laws impacting their disabled children? Skillfully combining methods and insights from women’s studies and disability studies to deepen our understanding of women’s and disabled people’s history, Melanie Panitch’s instructive monograph tells us how."

Paul K. Longmore

Professor, Department of History

San Francisco State University

"In the best traditions of feminist scholarship, Melanie Panitch uncovers the inspiring history of mothers in the battle for equality for people with disabilities. Disability, Mothers and Organization: Accidental Activists shows the reader in an accessible and enjoyable narrative the important role that mothers of disabled children played in the fight for equality facing not only the discrimination and stereotyping of their children but also of themselves as women. Bravo for this important new contribution to women’s and disability studies."

Judy Rebick

CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy

Ryerson University

"Panitch captures the spirit behind two movements that changed the lives ofcountless people with intellectual disabilities in Canada - deinstitutionalization and human rights -- and shows how mothers made the difference. Her book illustrates how three women bucked traditional expectations for being 'good mothers' and became national leaders and heroes. Poignant, instructive and inspirational."

Diane Richler, CM


Inclusion International

Table of Contents

1. Accidental Activists and the Canadian Association for Community Living 2. Categories and Constructs: The Mothering Role and Activist Mothering 3. Founding the Organization 4. The Activist Mothers 5. The Campaign to Close Institutions 6. The Campaign to Secure Human Rights 7. Listening in Stereo to Activist Mothers 8. The Imprint of Activist Mothers

About the Author

Melanie Panitch is Director of the School of Disability Studies and Co-Director of the Ryerson RBC Foundation Institute for Disability Studies Research and Education at Ryerson University.

About the Series

New Approaches in Sociology

Studies in Social Inequality, Social Change, and Social Justice

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / Parenting / Motherhood
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies