Born April 5, 1913, Elizabeth Monroe Boggs had a distinguished academic career in theoretical chemistry and mathematics, graduating with the highest honors from Bryn Mawr College and Cambridge University. With the birth of her son David in 1945, that all changed. As David an intellectual disability, Elizabeth saw her calling as an advocate for people with disabilities, working to advance public policy. She was one of the founders of the National Association for Retarded Children, now known as The Arc.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Elizabeth to serve on the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation and Task Force on the Law. (Kennedy’s younger sister, Rosemary, was born with an intellectual disability.) This was followed in 1966 by the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Elizabeth would go on to work with the International League of Societies for the Mentally Handicapped. Now known as Inclusion International, this U.N. agency has a presence in 115 countries. It was there that, in 1971, she would be the main author of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons, which is based on many earlier human rights declarations, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
In 1988, Elizabeth co-chaired the Task Force on Rights and Empowerment of People with Disabilities with Justin Dart, Jr. This Congressional committee would lead to the creation and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). (We discussed the importance of the ADA last year, on its July 26 anniversary.)
Over her long and illustrious career as a disability-rights advocate and activist, Elizabeth would go on to receive numerous prestigious honors and awards. It is also worth noting that Elizabeth Boggs served on the Advancing Opportunities Board of Directors. After her passing in 1996, her legacy has preserved at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities is a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, an organization with which we work closely. Advancing Opportunities also does considerable advocacy work on behalf of people with all disabilities throughout New Jersey.
Elizabeth Boggs Disability Advocacy