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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.