Disability rights activist, thinker, writer and poet Laura Hershey died Friday Nov. 26, 2010, after a short illness. Although perhaps best known to New Mobility readers as one of the primary organizers against the MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon’s use of pity as a fundraising tactic, she also was an organizer for Not Dead Yet and ADAPT from both groups’ earliest days. She was also involved in other social justice causes, such as gay and lesbian rights.
In addition to her work as an activist, Hershey, who had spinal muscular atrophy, was a renowned poet and writer. This year she was named as a 2010 Lambda Fellow in Poetry. Her poetry is anthologized in collections ranging from those focusing on social justice, such as Fire in the Soul: 100 Poems for Human Rights, to literary journals, such as Trillium Literary Journal. Additionally, she has published over 100 articles and essays in such diverse publications as New Mobility, Ms. Magazineand U.S. News & World Report. She held a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles and an honorary doctorate from Colorado College.
“She was an intelligent, funny, active writer, activist and mother,” Hershey’s partner, Robin Stephens, said Saturday to the Denver Post.“She was a genius who lived with disability and lived well.”
Hershey and Stephens are the adoptive mothers of Shannon, 14, and they shared a home in Denver, Colo. There will be a tribute page to Hershey at www.LauraHershey.com beginning Tuesday, Nov. 30.