Thanks to one woman’s courage, tenacity and compassion, Hattie Larlham has become a proven leader in the care and treatment of children and adults with severe development disabilities. That one woman, our founder, Hattie Lena Gadd Larlham, had a dream that all people with developmental disabilities would be able to receive the highest quality of care possible. Today, Hattie Larlham continues that dream by providing that level of care to more than 1,500 children and adults with developmental disabilities throughout Ohio.
Mrs. Larlham, born in 1914, grew up in Reader, West Virginia. After graduating from the Youngstown Hospital Association School of Nursing, she began working as a nurse in a special care unit of an Ohio hospital. As a registered nurse, Mrs. Larlham became frustrated with the lack of assistance programs for children with disabilities.
In 1961, Larlham witnessed a neighbor’s family disintegrate from the intensive, 24-hour care their baby daughter with inoperable hydrocephalus required. Larlham, her husband and three children decided to take the child into their home and provide the care she needed.
Larlham soon earned a reputation for caring for children with disabilities and at one point had more than 10 children living in her three-bedroom farmhouse. In 1963, with more than 100 children on the waiting list, Larlham established the Hattie Larlham Foundation, Inc. Shortly thereafter, the Hattie Larlham Foundation built a facility capable of housing 50 people with disabilities.
To further her cause at a national level, Larlham served as an advisor on disability issues for the administrations of U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Because of her life’s work and legacy, Larlham was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1980 and received the Ohio Private Residential Association’s Lifetime Achievement award in 1994. She was also one of 200 women featured by author Jacqueline Jones Royster in the book Profiles of Ohio Women 1803-2003 (Ohio University Press, 2003), celebrating the accomplishments of Ohio women whose work has been at the forefront of their profession and whose lives have impacted communities in Ohio and around the world.
Larlham passed away February 28, 1996. In accordance with her final wishes, she is buried at the Hattie Larlham Center for Children with Disabilities where a memorial walk commemorates her dedication.
To learn more about the life and work of Mrs. Hattie Larlham, purchase her autobiography, Dear Children, from the online store.