Betty Hubbard's Legacy*


Elizabeth (Betty) Hubbard, a long time advocate for the health needs of mothers and children and an original member of the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Advisory Task Force, died in 1989. In 1990, the MCH Advisory Task Force and the Minnesota Department of Health established the annual Betty Hubbard MCH Leadership Award in honor her work and her memory. This award of recognition is presented each year to individuals in Minnesota making significant contributions to Maternal and Child Health. The following provides information on Betty and her work.

Betty Hubbard's Legacy*:

Beginning in 1946, as the parent of a child with special needs, Betty served as a role model and leader for parents and providers. She was a guiding force in the parent advocacy movement for forty years "involved in projects that helped shape laws and rights that children and adults with disabilities and their families value today." Trained as a writer and social worker, Betty became the board secretary of the Minnesota Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC). In 1957 she tracked the special education bill through the legislature. "She started to get to know the 'heavy hitters' in special education in Minnesota and discovered she was a 'political animal'." Although the 1957 bill passed, there was much more work to be done. Recognizing that additional legislative mandates would cost more taxpayer money, the parent group was advised to "get in and fight", providing a mission and, therefore, a great boost to the membership. Betty was impressed with the concept of parent "empowerment - putting power into the hands of people who were feeling so powerless, so unable to change the course of their children's lives; wanting everything good for their children but finding themselves up against a blank wall....She and other parents challenged legislators to see for themselves what consigning people with disabilities to state hospitals 'from womb to tomb' really meant." The result of this hard work improved conditions at the Faribault facility, and, through lots more work with legislators, led to special education at Developmental Achievement Centers, and to a Minnesota law requiring equal educational opportunities for all children (preceding the federal law by four years).

Working with other advocates during the 1960's, Betty participated with other advocacy organization members in the formation of what became the Minnesota Coalition on Handicap Issues. This work "helped strengthen the resolve of the fledgling groups to get organized and incorporated, to never step on each others' toes, and to never testify against each others' bills."

In 1969, Betty joined the staff of the St. Paul Public Schools Special Education, working as an advocate "inside" the school system while continuing her "outside" advocacy work through ARC. She remained with the schools for 15 years.

In 1971, organizing advocacy for a bill mandating services for all children, Betty and her partners "mobilized parents across the state to contact their own legislators at home, describing their own family situations, and making their stories real". In addition, these parents, as well as teachers, social workers, and other school staff attended legislative hearings, assuring their visibility whenever the bill was on the agenda. The strategies were successful: the bill passed.

Betty also recognized the need for these volunteer advocates to have staff and organizational support to develop plans, staff subcommittees, etc., in order to make the best use of their resources. She helped train volunteers and advocacy organizations' staff, teaching them about special education funding formulas, organizing legislative and governmental affairs efforts, writing grants, being assertive, and making the most of what they are experts on - their children".

Betty was often heard to say, "our work has just begun. After we get something passed, we have to get it implemented. If we don't get it for everyone, it doesn't mean a thing."


* Developed from: The Pacesetter newsletter of the PACER Center, September 1989.

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