For Martha

At MAC’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of the signing of Chapter 766, Bob Crabtree, Martha Ziegler, Larry Kotin, and Connie Rizoli

At MAC’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of the signing of Chapter 766, Bob Crabtree, Martha Ziegler, Larry Kotin, and Connie Rizoli

News came this past weekend that Martha Ziegler has passed. No matter that Martha lived a long and robust 84 years, the loss is, as our friend Julia Landau at the Mass. Advocates for Children put it, “stunning” – to think that our world will now be without her “vibrancy, passion, and vision.”

Martha was a major civil rights leader for children with disabilities. She arrived in Massachusetts in the early 1970’s, thinking, as she loved to say, that she would now be able to set aside the advocacy work she had done in Pennsylvania and devote her energies fully to family and friends, only to find herself immediately and completely immersed in organizing a coalition to help carry a new special education reform initiative – “Chapter 766” – into law.

As she saw it, the victory Martha and her coalition celebrated in the signing of Chapter 766 was not enough by any means. She well understood that without an ongoing reliable organization to educate and train parents and professionals over the long haul and to monitor and advance the promises of our special education reform act, it would be all too easy for the law to become dead letter.  She turned her energies accordingly toward the creation of what became the Federation for Children with Special Needs – an agency that all who work in our field know as the gold standard of parent training and advocacy.   Along with that, she dedicated countless hours to advancing the principles and many of the solutions built into Chapter 766 at the federal level, developing bonds with leaders in Congress that contributed greatly to the eventual enactment of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or “IDEA”).

Some years ago, when my now-retired partner, Larry Kotin, and I stood as co-recipients of the Martha Ziegler Founder’s Award from the Federation, I turned to Martha during my remarks and said: “Without your enormous energy and indomitable spirit, your great humor, your organizing skill among warring factions, and your pragmatic political savvy in 1972, Chapter 766 might never have come into being, and without your formation and leadership of this great organization for so many years, there would quite certainly have been no Federation for Children With Special Needs.”

There is so much more to say to and about Martha as advocates in our field begin to mourn her loss. As for me, I feel the loss not only of a powerful and sophisticated colleague in advocacy, but of a true and loving friend for more than forty years. Rest in peace, old friend.

Robert Crabtree is a partner in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.

4 thoughts on “For Martha

  1. We never knew Martha Ziegler, but our family is among the beneficiaries of her work. Like so many people whose vision expands beyond just personal horizons, her legacy extends to those who she never met and even to those who may not realize just how she touched their lives for the better. It is a pebble thrown into a still pond, and the ripples keep expanding.

    Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves

  2. Thank you for reminding us about her profound impact and the hope she has given to countless families who struggle with disabled children. And thank you, Bob Crabtree for reminding us.
    Jayne Fisher

  3. I write this in memory of Martha Haynes Ziegler. She was a truly great woman, without whom millions of parents would not have or know of the protections of a Free and Appropriate Public Education for their children with disabilities. Without her, there would have been no Urban PRIDE or dozens of other Community Parent Resource Centers serving families of children with disabilities in underserved communities from Boston to American Samoa. It has been the honor of my life to have had the opportunity to work with her and learn from her, and I will continue to strive to live up and continue her legacy and work which is the highest honor that can be afforded to one life.
    I will miss her.
    “If I can help somebody as I travel along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody that they are traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”

  4. I write this in memory of Martha Haynes Ziegler. She was a truly great woman, without whom millions of parents would not have or know of the protections of a Free and Appropriate Public Education for their children with disabilities. Without her, there would have been no Urban PRIDE or dozens of other Community Parent Resource Centers serving families of children with disabilities in underserved communities from Boston to American Samoa. It has been the honor of my life to have had the opportunity to work with her and learn from her, and I will continue to strive to live up and continue her legacy and work which is the highest honor that can be afforded to one life.
    I will miss her.
    “If I can help somebody as I travel along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody that they are traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”

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