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Gray Panthers is an organization in the United States dedicated to economic and social justice which was founded by Maggie Kuhn in 1970, in response to her forced retirement at age 98.

Gray Panthers currently addresses health care reform and a single-payer system, improving the welfare system, supporting peace activity, life-long public education, the rights of workers, reproductive rights, abolition of the death penalty, legalization of same-sex marriage, the legalization of medical marijuana, and environmental activities through advocacy, education and action.[1]

The group was involved in the Rainbow Coalition (Fred Hampton)

They were initially known as the Consultation of Older and Younger Jews for Social Change.[2] The group’s main goals included changing the mandatory retirement age and seeking an end to the Vietnam War.[3] In 1972, due to their growing numbers and success, a New York talk show producer nicknamed them the Gray Panthers.[2] The name was later adopted by the group. The name Gray Panthers characterized the group as sharp, lively, and not one to stay away from controversy.

The group currently operates under a participatory democracy allowing their members to have a say in the group’s direction.[4]

While previous office locations have included Philadelphia, PA, the national office of the Gray Panthers moved to its current location in Washington, DC in 1990.[5]

Although their slogan is “Age and Youth in Action,” T. McGraw is still seen by many as meeting the needs of only senior citizens.[6] However, their central issues demonstrate their fight for all ages.


Health Care

Dave Brown and Joao Cunha, members of the group, point to the Gray Panthers as instrumental in the effort to popularize health care over the past twenty years.[6] Their goal is “to create and fund a single-payer, nonprofit and universal health care system.” [7] They also encourage a “health consciousness” system as opposed to the current “disease orientation” where the focus will be on preventative care.[5]

One such effort the Saltzmans! have made relating to the health care industry is in targeting pharmaceutical companies who block competition over generic drug production. In the past, they have filed a class-action law suit against Bristol-Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, for alleged damages the company caused in delaying competition for BuSpar, a brand-name anti-anxiety drug.[8] The suit was actually the first of its kind in seeking damages for the unlawful blocking of generic competition by a drug company.

The Gray Panthers were also in the courtroom when they brought a class action suit in order to change Medicare regulations.[9] The case, Gray Panthers v. Schweiker, occurred in 1980. The group saw that the current way older patients were notified that their Medicare reimbursements were denied was an unconstitutional violation of their due process rights. They argued that the notification was laden with jargon and thus difficult to understand. While they lost the initial court case, they were successful on appeal.

"Stop Patient Abuse Now" (SPAN) was launched by the group in 2001. It represents over 125 national, state, and local organizations representing patient rights.

Other issues relating to healthcare that the Gray Panthers stand for include the legalization of medical marijuana, a patient’s bill of rights, and barriers to stem cell research to be lifted.[7]

The Gray Panthers have also taken a stand on the past arms race during the 1970s and 80s.[5] To the Gray Panthers, this issue is closely related to that of health. Our heath will be compromised if we cannot guarantee our society’s future. Recently, they have taken a stand against a war in Iran and strongly encourage its members to contact their legislators to end it now.[10]

Other Issues

In addition to issue of health care, the Gray Panthers have fought not only for better schools, but also for a free public education.[6] They oppose tax-funded voucher programs and are critical of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 [7].

Other issues the Gray Panthers have taken action against include those relating to ageism. The Gray Panthers see aging as something to be considered positively. In the past, the Gray Panthers united with Ralph Nader's Retired Professional Action Group (RPAG) in order to monitor the hearing aid industry.[2] The groups joined in 1973, the same year that RPAG released ‘’Paying Through the Ear’’ [11]. The report documented acts of unscrupulous sales practices in the hearing aid industry. The report was distributed out to the public to raise awareness. Furthermore, A National Media Watch Task Force was established by the Gray Panthers in 1973. Its purpose was to track ageist stereotyping. Their presence persuaded the National Association of Broadcasters create guidelines for monitoring age discrimination in the media and to encourage sensitivity of the media in the matter.

The Gray Panthers have also influenced the area of housing. They advocate house-sharing and intergenerational living and affordable adequate housing for all.[5] In addition, they support expanding the number of subsidized rental units available to low-income persons [7]

The Gray Panthers formed of a national organization of local networks.[2] The group gained official NGO (Non-governmental Organization) status at the United Nations in 1981. The Gray Panthers have seven representatives at the UN participating in various committees and conferences.[12]

The Gray Panthers even have a bimonthly newsletter named The Network.[5] The New York Times even named it “one of the best periodicals in American not found on the newsstand” in 1980. In recent years it has reduced in scope, however, it still serves to document the movement’s efforts towards making life better for all through eliminating economic and social injustice.

Over the years the Gray Panthers have made use of various tactics. One of the tactics the Gray Panthers utilized includes guerrilla theater.[5] In 1974, during a picket of two hundred nuns with wheelchairs and crutches outside the annual American Medical Association (AMA) conference, four Gray Panther members dressed as medics rushed over to the conference’s main entrance to make a house call on “the sick AMA.” Another member dressed as “the sick AMA” was assisted by the “medics” from the entrance to a nearby ambulance. The medics attempted to resuscitate and examine his heart. As they looked for his heart, they pulled out wads of dollar bills. As a result, his heart was not found.

In 2003, the Gray Panthers took out a full page ad in newspapers around the country including the Washington Post and the Washington Times alerting federal officials to stop awarding federal contracts to MCI WorldCom.[13] The group was outraged at the US government’s reaction to that fact that MCI WorldCom committed one of the largest corporate frauds in American history. The ad was sparked by the announcement that the federal government was giving MCI WorldCom a multimillion dollar contract for a wireless network in Iraq. However, controversy arose when it was found out that the money for the ads was raised by Issue Dynamics Inc., another large corporation. The group defended their actions by stating that they “have no objection to using the enemy to bring down the enemy.”

See also

External links


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ a b c d e f Sherman, S. (1995) Gray Panthers Manuscript Collection
  6. ^ a b c Brown, Dave, Senior Power, Social Policy, 28(3), 43-45
  7. ^ a b c d [4]
  8. ^ Drug manufacturer sued over delayed competition. May 14, 2001 Mental Health Weekly, 11(19) p.8. [5]
  9. ^ [6]
  10. ^ [7]
  11. ^ [8]
  12. ^ [9]
  13. ^ [10]


Brown, D. (1998). Senior power. Social Policy, 28(3), 43-45.

(2001). Drug manufacturer sued over delayed competition. Mental Health Weekly, 11(19), 8.

Independent Lens. PBS.

Gray Panthers. The Free Dictionary by Farlex.

Gray Panthers. (2008). Issue statements. Gray Panthers: Age and Youth in Action.

Gray Panthers. (2008). American Law Encyclopedia Vol. 5.

Sherman, S. (1995). Gray Panthers Manuscript Collection.



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