Begin New Search
Refine Last Search
Cemetery Lookup
Add Burial Records
Help with Find A Grave

Top Contributors
Success Stories
Community Forums
Find A Grave Store

Log In
Sponsor This Memorial! Advertisement
Rosemary Ferguson Dybwad
Learn about upgrading this memorial...
Birth: May 12, 1910
Lagrange County
Indiana, USA
Death: Nov. 3, 1992
Middlesex County
Massachusetts, USA

Rosemary Dybwad Champion of Self-Advocacy Dies

The world has lost a friend, Rosemary Ferguson Dybwad.

Rosemary, wife of Gunnar Dybwald, died of cancer on November 3, 1992 in Watertown, Massachusetts. A resident of Wellesly, she was 82 years young.

Her official title was senior research associate at the Heller Graduate School at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Her unofficial title, as bestowed by Robert Perske, was "International Network Leader. "

Rosemary was born in Howe, Indiana. She graduated from the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, in 1931, and then became an exchange fellow at the University of Leipzig, Germany from 1931 to 1933; where she met Gunnar, and married him on 21 Jan 1934. Her early work dealt with women's prisons and juvenile delinquency, but beginning in 1958, she worked exclusively in the field of mental retardation (Today known as developmental and intellectual disabilities).

From 1964-1967, Rosemary and Gunnar directed the mental retardation project of the International Union of Child Welfare in Geneva, Switzerland, which was the beginning of their journeys to most countries throughout the world.

From 1966 to 1978, she served as a board member and later first vice president of the International League of Societies for Persons with Mental Handicaps. Her greatest contribution at the international level was collecting, editing, and publishing of the International Directory of Mental Retardation Resources, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1971, 1979, and 1989). It was her work on the international scene that inspired the creation of the Rosemary F. Dybwad International Awards, a program begun in 1963 by The Arc.

A collection of her speeches and writings was recently published in Perspectives on a Parent Movement: The Revolt of Parents of Children with Intellectual Limitations, published by Brookline Books, 1990. Her thoughts preceded what we now know of today as "self-advocacy, " "parent-to-parent efforts", "parent-professional partnerships," "supported employment," "transition from school to work, " and "age-appropriate activities." Her frequent observation about early intervention was, "Why does it come so late?" Or, about people with developmental and intellectual disabilities--that they are NOT "children forever!"

There are many fond memories of Rosemary. Some will remember her with the placard at Belcher town that said "Don't think that we don't think!" Others, like Bob Perske, will remember his observation: "Believe it or not, Gunnar's office was tidy! Not so with Rosemary's." Perske then related how Boston Today Journalist, Steve McFadden described her office in 1978: Her office is a quagmire of data. The chairs are smothered in studies, and the walls fairly groan from the accumulated weight of a total bookcase environment. She sits before burly heaps of printed matter, literally walled in by towering stacks of information from around the world. She labors placidly, her blue eyes taciturn pools of understanding as she imperturbably scans another document. Then, there's the intense memory of those who attended her presentation at the close of the four-state self-advocacy conference in Stanford, Connecticut.

In special tribute to her life, the Rosemary Ferguson Dybwad International Fellowship Trust has been established.

Contact: The Rosemary F. Dybwad International Fellowship Trust, Inc., 18113 Town Center Drive, Olwey, Niaryland 20832. 301/598-3568.

Rosemary was the daughter of Rev. John Bohn Ferguson and Margaret Lawrence Williams; sister of James Williams Ferguson, Robert McGregor Ferguson, Alfred Riggs Ferguson & John Lawrence Ferguson.

She is survived by a son, Peter J. Dybwad, of Berkeley, Calif.; a daughter, Susan M. Bell of Nashville, TN; five grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.


Gunnar and Rosemary Dybwad's collection of books, articles and journals formed the nucleus of the collection that became the Samuel G. Howe Library, Fernald Center, 200 Trapelo Rd, Waltham, MA.

Over many decades their work in the area of civil rights furthered the cause of people with developmental disabilities throughout the world. Together they helped found the International League of Societies for the Mentally Handicapped, now known as Inclusion International.

Gunnar was named the Executive Director of the Child Study Association of America in 1951 and of the Association for Retarded Children (now called the Arc) from 1957 until 1963 and President of the International League of Societies for Persons with Mental Handicap (1978-1982). He also was a Special Assistant on Mental Retardation to President Kennedy and a consultant to the President's Committee on Mental Retardation. Dr. Dybwad has played a major role in several court cases, in particular PARC v. Pennsylvania and the Pennhurst State School case. In 1967 he became a professor of human development at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and in 1977 he became professor emeritus. After, Rosemary's passing, He continued to advise the disability rights movement and was closely associated with self-advocates, to whom he is the "The Grandfather" of the rights to education and community life.
Family links: 
  Gunnar Dybwad (1909 - 2001)
Cremated, Other.
Created by: FullOBlarney
Record added: Mar 07, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 66625569
Rosemary <i>Ferguson</i> Dybwad
Added by: FullOBlarney
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

- FullOBlarney
 Added: Jun. 27, 2011

- FullOBlarney
 Added: Mar. 8, 2011

Privacy Statement and Terms of Service UPDATED