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Willie Mae Goodman Interview
Caption: In this interview, Willie Mae Goodman describes her activism fighting for her daughter Marguerite and other disabled children and adults.
Willie Mae Goodman decided to send her daughter Marguerite to the Willowbrook State School when Marguerite was four years old. Marguerite was born with developmental disabilities, and doctors argued that Willowbrook was an appropriate place for her. Conditions for Marguerite, and other children and adults at Willowbrook, were horrible. The facility drew national criticism from Senator Robert Kennedy, who described the facility as “not fit for animals,” as Mrs. Goodman recalls.
After this criticism, officials who ran Willowbrook decided to move some residents out, to relieve the overcrowding. They moved Marguerite and over 200 other disabled children from Willowbrook to the Gouverneur Hospital on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. While Marguerite was at Gouverneur Hospital, Willie Mae Goodman and other parents and activists kept fighting for the decent home and education that Marguerite deserved.1
For more on Goodman’s activism and that of others at Willowbrook, see Jorgé Matos Valldejuli, “The Racialized History of Disability Activism from ‘The Willowbrooks of this World,’” https://activisthistory.com/2019/11/04/the-racialized-history-of-disability-activism-from-the-willowbrooks-of-this-world1/ and Jorgé Matos Valldejuli, “‘Together we arrived and together we shall leave’: The Gouverneur Parents Association and the Politics of Race and Disability in Postwar New York,” Latino Studies 20, no. 4 (December 2022). ↩︎
Date: Jul 11, 2021
Creator: “Willowbrook Revisited,” Staten Island Community Television
Source: “Willowbrook Revisited,” Staten Island Community Television
Copyright: Used with permission
How to cite: “Willie Mae Goodman Interview,” in New York City Civil Rights History Project, Accessed: [Month Day, Year], https://nyccivilrightshistory.org/topics/black-latina-women/gouverneur-parents-association/willie-mae-goodman.
- What remarks from Willie Mae Goodman stand out to you? Why?