Martha H. Ziegler, Educational-Rights Champion for Children with Disabilities, Dies

We are sad to convey the news that Martha H. Ziegler died early Saturday morning Sept 13, 2014 at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her death follows a serious fall in April and a series of health complications that kept her in the hospital or in rehabilitative care since that time. She was 84 years old.

Martha gained national recognition as a leader and activist in the fight to secure educational rights for children with disabilities–this, at a time in our country when millions of children were legally excluded from school and parents were urged to institutionalize their children. Working in Massachusetts with a coalition of professional organizations seeking to end this exclusion, Martha spearheaded a coalition of parent-led organizations. With her leadership, parents across the country worked in partnership with professionals to secure crucial educational rights for all children with disabilities. Today, generations who have benefitted from Martha’s work are living previously unimaginable lives as valued members of their communities. Martha’s passion for educational rights for children with disabilities was a natural progression of her passion for social justice and her civil rights activism through the sixties. Martha recalled watching her school-aged daughter Mary Ann, who has autism, stand at the window and watch her younger brother, Fred, head to school every morning. Participating in the Martin Luther King March on Washington a few years earlier drove home the need to organize to end this kind of exclusion also. “Don’t mourn, organize” became one of our mottos.

Across this country, mothers and fathers of children with disabilities, adults with disabilities, and many professionals knew and loved Martha. Not only as a great leader, but also as a loving mother and as a true and personal friend to so many. She is beloved for her outstanding accomplishments, indeed, but also for her wit, her humor, her love of her family and friends, and her love of life — beginning with lunch!

Funeral: A church service will be held at Church of Our Redeemer, on Thursday, Oct 2, 2014 at 11:00am. Her daughter, Mary Ann, sings in the choir there.

The church, in the center of Lexington, is at 6 Merriam St, Lexington, MA and is accessible. Thee will be a reception at the church following the service.

Memorial Gathering: A memorial gathering and celebration of Martha’s life and work will be planned for a future date.

Donations in honor of Martha may be sent to the Federation for Children with Special Needs, 529 Main St, Suite 1102, Boston, MA 02129.

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