Chapter 5
The Gray Panthers in New York City
(1972–85)

Four months after Maggie Kuhn’s first 1970 meeting a handful of Consultation participants met to consider forming a local New York City unit. Among them were “group of six” members Helen Baker and Eleanor French, both Manhattan residents, and Presbyterian minister Cameron Hall from Long Island. The issues discussed reflected what was on the minds of these early Gray Panthers: the Vietnam War, government repression of the Black Panthers, and the fall congressional elections. Over the next two years Baker and Hall devoted their involvement to the Consultation steering committee (French died in 1971), and no further step was taken toward forming a network in New York.


Bagger, Bragger, and Gersmehl

Shortly before her May 1972 Denver press conference Maggie contacted Hope Bagger, eighty-one, who in March had convinced her assemblymember, Franz Leichter, to introduce a bill banning mandatory retirement in New York State. A union organizer in Detroit during the 1930s, Bagger moved to New York in 1934 with her naval officer husband and worked as a schoolteacher and then in the manpower industry until failing eyesight led her to stop at age eighty. “I had noted how hard it was for older people to get or keep jobs and I determined to work on that problem as a volunteer as soon as I retired.”1 During their telephone conversation Maggie learned that Hope had contacted members of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging to urge a federal ban on mandatory retirement. The two women arranged to meet in Manhattan later that month.

Before their meeting the New York Times story on Maggie’s Denver press conference appeared. Two days later another New Yorker, Lydia Bragger, wrote Maggie, “After reading the article I fairly shouted—Amen, Right-

-94-

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