Nearly a hundred years ago, mothers were already sending mail to Washington, DC, to advocate for their children’s healthcare.
Public health and medical historian Emily K. Abel reviewed nearly 600 letters sent to either to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt or the Children’s Bureau in the 1930s; the letters are preserved in the US National Archives. While children and “a variety of relatives” wrote letters to the Roosevelts and the Children’s Bureau, the overwhelming majority of the missives came from mothers. Health concerns described in the letters included children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, heart conditions, and epilepsy.
“The conditions discussed in the letters are heavily biased toward chronic illnesses and disabilities,” Abel writes, “perhaps because mothers were unlikely to embark on the lengthy process of soliciting help from the federal government for problems that would be resolved relatively quickly.”
I am the youngest of four siblings. I live closest to our widowed mother, who is 84 and homebound. My siblings live out of state, so it has fallen...