Slideshow: Mothers-Turned-Activists

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Environmentalist Sandra Steingraber speaks passionately about how her desire to protect her own children from chemicals in the environment has been a primary factor propelling her to action. She’s one of a long line of mothers-turned-activists. Here are a few:

Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich (AP Photo/Gary Tramontina)

Erin Brockovich is perhaps the most famous mom-turned-activist, portrayed by Julia Roberts in the film that bears her name. The real life Erin Brockovich, like her movie version, was a law firm secretary and single mother of three. While filing papers for her boss, lawyer Ed Masry, she noticed medical records for two young girls suffering from autoimmune problems mixed in with documents for a real estate transaction. Pacific Gas & Electric, the company that provides natural gas and electricity to northern California, wanted to purchase the girls’ family’s home in the small town of Hinkley, Calif. Brockovich found this suspicious and, despite having no legal training, decided to investigate further. The people of Hinkley related well to her, and shared stories of health problems ranging from nosebleeds to cancer. PG&E, it turned out, had knowingly been leaking toxic Chromium 6 into the groundwater for 30 years. In 1996, with the help of Brockovich and Masry, the people of Hinkley won a $333 million settlement from PG&E — the largest settlement in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history.

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