Moms and Dads Make Laws and History

These parents knew things had to change -- and refused to take no for an answer.

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1821: School for Girls

Courtesy of Emma Willard School

1821: School for Girls

Women's-rights advocate and mom of one Emma Willard opens the Troy Female Seminary (now the Emma Willard School) in Troy, New York. It's the first school in the United States to offer girls and education equal to that for boys.

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1903: No Work, More Play

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1903: No Work, More Play

Labor rights activist and mom of four "Mother" Mary Harris Jones leads striking children from the textile mills of Kensington, Pennsylvania, to President Theodore Roosevelt's home on Long Island, New York. They carry banners saying "We want time to play!" and "We want to go to school!"

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1948: Rights for All Kids

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1948: Rights for All Kids

As the most influential member of the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights, former First Lady and mother of six Eleanor Roosevelt cheers when the General Assembly adopts The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among its features: giving rights to kids born to single moms.

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1951: Anti-Segregation Ruling

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1951: Anti-Segregation Ruling

Oliver Brown tries unsuccessfully to enroll his 7-year-old daughter, Linda, in a white school in Topeka, Kansas. In 1954, the Supreme Court rules that it is unconstitutional to segregate children in schools.

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1972: A Mother's Pride

Courtesy of PFLAG National

1972: A Mother's Pride

Jeanne Manford marches with her adult son in what is now called the New York City Gay Pride Parade. She holds the first formal meeting of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) the following year.

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1975: Battling Guns

Courtesy of Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

1975: Battling Guns

After his 23-year-old son is fatally shot, Nelson "Pete" Shields III becomes the spokesperson for Handgun Control Inc. and turns the organization into the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the most prominent gun-control lobby in the country.

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1978: Superfund's Supermom

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1978: Superfund's Supermom

Lois Gibbs finds out that not only is her 7-year-old son's elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York, built on a toxic waste dump but her entire Love Canal neighborhood is too. With no experience in activism, Gibbs lobbies for the creation of the Superfund, a federal act passed in 1980 and designed to locate and clean up toxic-waste sites throughout the United States.

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1980: Mad (and Effective)

Courtesy of Candace Lightner/MADD

1980: Mad (and Effective)

Candace Lightner founds Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in her den four days after one of her 13-year-old twin daughters is killed by a drunk driver in Fair Oaks, California.

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1988: AIDS Activist

Courtesy of Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

1988: AIDS Activist

Hollywood wife of Paul Michael Glaser, Elizabeth Glaser, who contracted HIV from a blood infusion while giving birth to her daughter in 1981, launches the Pediatric AIDS Foundation with two friends.

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1991: Taking on Toxins

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1991: Taking on Toxins

After daughter Colette dies of a rare cancer, Nancy and Jim Chuda, of Connecticut, start Healthy Child, Healthy World. It becomes a global leader in educating the public about environmental hazards.

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2006: Moms Act Up

Susan Rosner Photography

2006: Moms Act Up

MoveOn.org cofounder and president Joan Blades and journalist Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner start MomsRising, a grassroots network of mothers lobbying for laws making it easier to raise kids.

Originally published in the May 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

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