Sunday, April 09, 2006

Dixie Henrikson, RIP

And speaking of older women.... obituaries like this are turning up a lot lately. This brief notice is from the LA Times today (9 April, p. B15):
Dixie Henrikson, 84; Co-Founder of Agency for Retarded Children
Dixie Henrikson, 84, who co-founded the nonprofit agency Activities for Retarded Children, died of lung cancer Tuesday at her home in Valley Village, said her son, Michael. In 1969, Henrikson became frustrated about the lack of activities available for her developmentally disabled daughter, and with another mother formed an organization to address the problem. Henrikson became executive director and Mary Schallert the associate director of the center, which the women formally incorporated in 1975. Together they organized field trips, athletic competitions and dances for children and adults in North Hollywood, and provided a place where the members could socialize. "A lot of people think Easter and Christmas parties are enough for these kids, and that two functions a year is plenty. But these kids have the same needs as any teenagers, and other teenagers don't say, 'Oh, I've been out this month, so I think I'll stay home now,'" Henrikson told The Times in 1986. Henrikson also conducted the group's English Hand Bell Choir, which performed at United Way functions and holiday celebrations in Los Angeles over the years, including Christmas Eve at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
The generation of parents who had developmentally disabled children after WWII, but before the IDEA, included mothers and fathers who worked hard to create programs and opportunities for their kids. Some of those parents were founders of the ARC and other national organizations; some, like Henrikson, got together with another mother and made something local like their North Hollywood project (complete with bell choir). Someone should be catching these folks for oral histories before they're gone--their work was important, and their stories deserve recording.

For further reading:

Barbara Bair, "The Parents' Council and Social Change in Rhode Island, 1951-1970," Rhode Island History 40(November 1981): 144-159.

Katherine Castles, "'Nice, Average Americans': Postwar Parents' Groups and the Defense of the Normal Family," in Steven Noll and James W. Trent Jr., eds., Mental Retardation in America: A Historical Reader (NYU Press 2004).

Kathleen W. Jones, "Education for Children with Mental Retardation: Parent Activism, Public Policy, and Family Ideology in the 1950s," in Steven Noll and James W. Trent Jr., eds., Mental Retardation in America: A Historical Reader (NYU Press 2004).

No comments: