Gray Panthers on the prowl
Maggin Kuhn

Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind -- even if your voice shakes.
-- maggie kuhn, founder

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Gray Panthers' Founding

In August of 1970, Maggie Kuhn convened a group of five friends, all of whom were retiring from national religious and social work organizations. This first "Network" of friends gathered to look at the common problems faced by retirees — loss of income, loss of contact with associates and loss of one of our society's most distinguishing social roles, one's job. They also discovered a new kind of freedom in their retirement — the freedom to speak personally and passionately about what they believed in, such as their collective opposition to the Vietnam War.

Gray Panthers' Growth

This new group began meeting and acting. Early on, a New York TV talk show producer nicknamed the group the Gray Panthers for the groups' lively, quick witted, controversial and action-oriented manner. The name stuck and was quickly adopted by the media, especially after Maggie's "unscheduled" speech in 1972. Maggie was asked to fill in at the last minute for someone unable to speak during the 181st General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in Denver. From that one speech, the Gray Panthers were born, with calls flooding in from around the nation to the Philadelphia based headquarters of the fledgling organization.

Gray Panthers Organize

Outgrowing their mid-Atlantic base, The Gray Panthers launched a national organization comprised of local "Networks," each of which had a leader, known as a "Convenor," relating back to the organization's founding of convening a network of one's friends and associates. Throughout the seventies and early eighties the Gray Panthers grew, as one of the few multi-issue, intergenerational organizations directly and publicly challenging the status quo from a progressive, even radical, point of view. In 1985, they opened their first public policy office in Washington, DC, and in 1990 centralized most functions there.


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