Hartford Times photograph by Ellery G. Kington (October 15, 1971)
Isabel Mendes Blake (1929-1992)
Welfare Rights, Education, and Legal Aid Activist
Isabel Mendes Blake was a Hartford-born activist fighting for welfare rights, education, and legal aid for communities in need for more than 30 years. She was described by friends and family as "stubborn, politically astute and kindhearted." Mrs. Blake, an Irving Street resident and welfare mother of 11, believed that state assistance was a right, not a privilege. In 1971, Mrs. Blake led thousands in a two week demonstration at the Capitol to protest welfare cuts. This included building a tent city on the Bushnell Park grounds right outside of the Capitol building. In the 1970s, Mrs. Blake was director of Welfare Outreach, a federally funded program, served on school committees, formed PTAs, and founded a statewide organization known as Welfare Mothers' Rights. She also worked as a resource counselor for the Upper Albany Community Organization and garnered several community service awards. Mrs. Blake ran Mayor Carrie Saxon-Perry's campaign headquarters. The Blake family created a scholarship at Hartford Public High School in her name. With a full, active and inspiring life, many of her children became educators and community leaders in their own right.
Isabel Mendes Blake - reflection in her passing
"Hartford activist recalled as kind, tough"
Hartford Courant article by Stan Simpson, Sept. 29, 1992
"Who could replace Isabel Blake?"
Hartford Courant, October 1, 1992
"2 Again Arrested in Welfare Protest"
Hartford Courant article by Barbara Carlson, Oct 22, 1971
"Welfare Activists Lose Motion to Dismiss Case"
Hartford Courant article by Barbara Carlson, April 29, 1972
"Activist in Need Refuses to Seek Help"
Hartford Courant article by Michael Vitez, March 31, 1983
"Wanted: a haven for the homeless"
Hartford Courant article by Mary Otto, April 12, 1992
"African Americans to march with pride"
Hartford Courant article by Helen Ubinas, Sept. 23, 1994