Eunice Mary Kennedy (1921-2009) was born in Brookline, Mass., USA, the fifth of nine children of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy. After graduating from college, she worked for the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., and later became a social worker at the Penitentiary for Women in Alderson, West Va. She later moved to Chicao, Ill., where she worked with the House of the Good Shepherd and the Chicago Juvenile Court.
Starting in the 1950s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver pushed for research and programs that would benefit people with intellectual disabilities. She was the driving force behind President John F. Kennedy’s White House panel on people with intellectual disabilities. For this neglected population, Shriver said, “the years of indifference and neglect, the years of callous cynicsm and entrenched prejudice are drawing to a close. The years of research and experiment…are upon us now with all their promise and challenge.”
She continued this pioneering work as director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. In 1962, she began an experimental camp in her backyard for young people with intellectual disabilities, which continued throughout the 1960s. Her work eventually grew into the Special Olympics Movement, which launched at the first Special Olympics International Games on July 20, 1968.