A page from founder Janet Taggart’s scrapbook of Northwest Center’s dedication ceremony on September 14, 1965.
One of Northwest Center’s first students, Debra Walruff, with Naval officers on the day the center was dedicated. Our first facility was formerly owned by the U.S. Navy.
A group of students and teachers from one of Northwest Center’s earliest classes.
Did you know that Northwest Center was founded by four Seattle moms? That those women went on to write the very first laws in the nation to guarantee an education to children with disabilities? That starting way back in the 1960s, the “basement schools” that were the precursor to Northwest Center were pioneering therapy concepts similar to Temple Grandin’s “squeeze machine,” and in 1980 we were already running a completely inclusive early learning center? Northwest Center celebrates its 55th anniversary on September 14. Here we take a look back at the groundbreaking work that four amazing women achieved.
One of those women, Janet Taggart, recently shared her thoughts with us on video that you can watch here. Janet’s daughter Naida, who passed away in 2018, inspired her to work on behalf of all children. Not only was Naida barred from attending local schools as a child, she was turned away from Sunday school and even doctor’s offices. Janet tells that story and many others—including how an insightful instructor had the idea to wrap Naida in a blanket to help her gain a sense of her surroundings—in this 2015 interview: “We Did What We Had to Do.”
Janet Taggart with her daughter Naida in the early 1960s.
Naida Taggart on the cover of the first Northwest Center brochure shortly after the school’s founding in 1965.
Janet and Naida Taggart at home in the early 2000s.
Founding mother Cecile Lindquist was a powerhouse in her own right. She joined the fight for disability rights when her cousin Tommy, who had Down syndrome, was turned away from school. Cecile worked in inclusive education for her entire career, and continued working on behalf of disability rights for her entire life until she passed away in 2019. Read about Cecile’s legacy (and view a video interview with her and Janet) here, and a longer interview from 2015 here.
Cecile Lindquist in 2015.
Cecile Lindquist, back left, reunited with several founders and parents from Northwest Center in 2015. With her are Evelyn Chapman, seated front, and standing L to R Janet Taggart and early NWC mom Sally Puff.
A musical moment in Northwest Center’s inclusive early learning classes is shown in this Seattle Post-Intelligencer photo from 1980.
Another amazing woman was Evelyn Chapman, who passed away in 2016. One story sums up Evelyn’s fearlessness—and the tenacity of every one of our founders:
After Evelyn helped found Northwest Center, a place where her son Coolidge could finally go to school, she was infuriated when Northwest Center’s first director began to reject kids deemed “too difficult to serve.” The women who founded Northwest Center had to lobby the board members if they wanted to overrule the director, but they were not official staff members—they had no access to NWC’s office and no way to contact the board (in 1966, the only option was using the phone). That didn’t stop Evelyn. She grabbed a lock cutter and, with her baby daughter in tow, went to NWC offices after hours, broke into the director’s office, and stole the list of board members’ contact information. Then our founding mothers contacted all the board members to lobby them to replace the director. (They succeeded!) Read a 2015 interview with Evelyn here.
A clip from a 1968 Seattle Times article on Evelyn Chapman’s continued advocacy on behalf of children with disabilities—she spoke highly of the Seattle Parks programs’ inclusion throughout her life.
1974 photo of Evelyn Chapman appeared in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Evelyn Chapman hosted a reunion lunch for Northwest Center founders at her home in 2015.
The fourth of our amazing founders was Katie Dolan, who passed away in 2006. Katie was a Seattle icon before she became a fierce advocate for kids with disabilities like her son: she was a model, actress, and host of the shows “Women’s World” and “Eye on Seattle” on KIRO-TV. She used her formidable smarts and charm to change the laws to include kids like her son in schools. Together with Janet Taggart, she formed the organization The Troubleshooters, where they worked to ensure that children and adults with disabilities received deserved benefits and services, and which inspired legislation that established Protection and Advocacy agencies in every state in the U.S. Learn more about Katie here: A Force and a Friend.
Katie Dolan is shown in Northwest Center’s Troubleshooters office—she and Janet Taggart founded the Troubleshooters as the first Protection and Advocacy agency in the U.S.
The headline on this clip from a 1976 newspaper article about Katie Dolan sums up her fierce spirit.
Katie and Duane Dolan at a luncheon honoring our founders in the early 2000s.
In this 1971 photo, Governor Dan Evans signs House Bill 90, “Education for All,” flanked by the people who wrote and lobbied it into existence: Janet Taggart, Katie Dolan, Cecile Lindquist, Evelyn Chapman, and law student George Breck (fellow law student Bill Dussault, part of the Education for All team, not pictured).
Of course, the story of how our founders wrote and passed that first law is also nothing short of amazing. Our founders banded together, used the avenues that were available to women at that time, and took it upon themselves to write laws when no one else would: “It Took Citizens Who Cared”: How Northwest Center Changed the World.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Janet Taggart, Cecile Lindquist, Evelyn Chapman, and Katie Dolan started a revolution for the inclusion of children and adults with disabilities at home, school, and in the community. Fifty-five years later, Northwest Center is proud to carry on their legacy. Join us, because this is one revolution that can never afford to slow down.
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.