Friday, August 3, 2018

Elizabeth Vorenberg, 1931 - 2018

            A few months after my book, Wounded Innocents, was published in 1990, I received a handwritten letter from Betty Vorenberg.  I’d known Betty when I was a reporter in Massachusetts in 1980 and ’81 and she was Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Advocacy Center, the state’s leading child advocacy organization. 

            In her letter, Betty asked if I had any interest in trying to form an organization around the principles in my book.  I said yes.  Betty did the rest.

            So all of us were deeply saddened to learn of her death at the age of 87.

            As NCCPR President Martin Guggenheim said:

There wouldn’t have been NCCPR without Betty. She organized the first gathering of about six people in her home in Cambridge in 1990 and helped us talk through the importance of trying to influence the public through the media. We’ve been trying ever since.

            After that initial meeting in her home came a larger, formal conference at Harvard Law School.  Then she used her contacts and her reputation as one of the nation’s foremost child advocates to do the seemingly impossible: persuade a foundation interested in civil liberties to take an interest in child welfare, and a foundation interested in child welfare to take an interest in civil liberties.

            Betty was NCCPR’s first president and always our guiding spirit.  As Prof. Guggenheim said:

Betty was a genuine champion of our cause. We will miss her dearly. She believed in NCCPR with all her heart.

            NCCPR is only a small part of Betty Vorenberg’s legacy. She served as an Assistant Commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare during the Dukakis administration.  She was a member of the National Board of the ACLU, and President of the ACLU of Massachusetts.  You can read more about her here.