LeeAnn Walters of Flint, Michigan, is the latest in a long line of whistle-blowing, activist moms who have sparked outrage, social and policy changes and righted crucial wrongs.
Walters, 37, started noticing that everyone in her family was losing their hair. Then one of her 3-year-old twins stopped growing. Another child had stomach pains so bad she took him to the hospital, according to a recap in Mother Jones.
Writes MJ's Juia Lurie, "The family, as you have probably guessed, was suffering from the effects of lead in Flint's water supply — contamination that will have long-term, irreversible neurological consequences on the city's children. The exposure has quietly devastated Flint since April 2014, when, in an effort to cut costs, a state-appointed emergency manager switched the city's water source from Detroit's water system over to the Flint River."
The article notes that, "It is in no small part thanks to Walters, a no-nonsense stay-at-home mom with a husband in the Navy, that the Flint situation is now a full-blown national scandal complete with a class-action lawsuit, a federal investigation, National Guard troops, and many people—including Bernie Sanders — calling for the resignation of Gov. Rick Snyder. "Without [Walters] we would be nowhere," Mona Hanna-Attisha, the head of pediatrics at Flint's Hurley Medical Center, told me. "She's the crux of all of this."
Flint now has a new mayor, Karen Weaver, as of two months ago. As CNN explained the crisis, "Lead poisoning is dangerous for anyone — the related woes include skin lesions, hair loss, vision loss, memory loss, depression and anxiety, according to a class-action lawsuit — but Weaver seems equally worried about the future. Research shows lead exposure can affect a developing child's IQ, resulting in learning disabilities. Weaver worries that Flint will need an influx of funding in the future to deal with mental health issues and "an increase in the juvenile justice system."
Recently, one of the guests on the Diane Rehm show referred to Walters as a "hero mom." Said Marc Edwards, a professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech, "We became involved because of a hero mom who had young twins, and the growth of one of them was being essentially stunted. And she figured out on her own that lead and water was high in her house, she was city sampling, and also figured out that the State Department of Environmental Quality was not following federal law regarding corrosion control or adding a chemical to the water to keep lead on the pipes and out of the water."
Think Mothers Against Drunk Driving or Love Canal, for example.
Last Mother's Day, the Deseret News published a feature called "Motherhood and the power for good," which highlighted the story of MADD founder Candace Lightner. Her teenage daughter was killed by a repeat-offender drunk driver. The group helped drive an increase in the legal drinking age, among other policy changes.
Marsha Maxwell wrote of moms active in securing the right of women to vote, moms organized to influence politicians on key issues, moms fighting for healthier school lunches, more breathable air and more.
The Center for Public Integrity in 2013 profiled Lois Gibbs, president of the Love Canal Homeowners Association back in 1978, in conjunction with the famed Love Canal environmental disaster.
"Long before Erin Brockovich became a movie, Gibbs helped secure an environmental victory of greater heft. Love Canal’s war against the toxins under its feet prompted the federal government to create the Superfund cleanup program and earned Gibbs the Goldman Environmental Prize," wrote Ronnie Greene.
Moms continue to organize and some even put the name on their causes, like this sampling: Mothers Against Police Brutality, Mothers Against Methamphetamine, Mothers Against Medical Error, Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence, Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse, and Milwaukee Renaissance, which is Mothers Against Gun Violence.
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