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Lessons from our Mothers

Tell your story and help us build momentum as we approach a potential vote on safer chemicals in the U.S. Senate. Let us know how you honor the lessons of YOUR mother. Find out how to participate at the end of this post.

By Cindy Luppi, New England Director, Clean Water Action

April is here and for many, the top thing on our minds is the early days of spring—whether we can shelve our winter coats, maybe how close we are to Opening Day.

For me, April always reminds me of my grandmother, Aubine. She was born in early April, over 100 years ago in a small town in northern Maine. When I think of her, I think of the popcorn balls she would make for the holidays…of the walks we took together…of being on drying duty as she washed the dishes after a family dinner.


She taught my sisters and me many things over the years, but the single over-riding lesson was crystal clear: you take on the hard jobs, and you don’t shy away from the things that most need doing. That’s how she lived her life, from start to finish—including working as a young girl with her family to carve a fishing camp out of the Maine wilderness. That lesson reinforces my commitment to keep on pressing for the updates to our laws that will protect us all from exposure to toxic chemicals. This campaign has been tough at times.

It has effectively united a diverse cross section of the U.S. public from health groups to forward-thinking businesses to environmental justice advocates, all pressing for a bill introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg, the Safe Chemicals Act. Whenever we collectively take a step forward, though, it sometimes seems like the chemical industry is relentless in battling back. We help release new peer-reviewed studies that reveal solid evidence that toxic chemicals are damaging our health; the chemical industry lobbyists claim the research is unpersuasive. We deliver over 100,000 petition signatures from concerned families across the country urging reforms; partisan legislators turn a blind eye because they don’t want to give the Environmental Protection Agency the tools they need to assess the safety of chemicals.

Here in Massachusetts, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow (Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition members) has been mobilizing for nearly a decade to advance reforms as well.

Some days it can seem like it’s simply taking too long or that our efforts aren’t making enough headway. On those days, when it would be easier to throw in the towel out of sheer frustration, my grandmother’s lessons eventually kick in and I can reconnect with my core motivation to stand up for disease prevention and for the smarter laws that will protect our health.

How about you? What lessons do you draw on from your mother or grandmother that you apply to this campaign? SAFER States and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families would like to know! In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re launching a project called “Lessons from our Mothers” that we’ll continue through the rest of April and May. We’re asking you to tell your story—what did your mother teach you that you draw on in the effort to pass the Safe Chemicals Act or local reforms in your state? Did she teach you that persistence counts? Or that you go to the wall to protect your children? That the burden of cancer or other chronic diseases exacts too high a price and should be prevented wherever possible? That you stand up to bullies?

By the way, do you wonder how my grandmother’s story played out? She and her family not only established their fishing camp but it was so successful that she and her siblings were sent to college on the proceeds–something very rare in rural Maine in the early 1920’s. I have no doubt that our collective efforts to pass the Safe Chemicals Act nationally and the Safer Alternatives Bill here in Massachusetts will ultimately be just as successful.

Tell your story and help us build momentum as we approach a potential vote on safer chemicals in the U.S. Senate. To participate, simply submit an op-ed to your local paper or post a blog to your organization’s website, and let us know how you honor the lessons of YOUR mother. Send us a copy and we’ll re-post a number of your stories here. To submit: send your story, short bio, name as you’d like it to appear and photograph (at least 250px width by 250px height) to [email protected].