Carnegie Mellon University

Lenora Gant headshot

Lenora Gant

Adviser: Lisa Tetrault
Major: Drama; Social and Political History

Elder Care and the Role of Women

Beginning with the enactment of the Social Security Program in 1935, elderly Americans have had a tenuous relationship with government provided social services. These discrepancies in support from the government have created an unnecessary burden on family and caregivers, most notably women, and more specifically women who are lower income and women of color. We are living through an era where senior care is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and one of the best ways to understand the current crisis in senior healthcare is to look towards the previous decisions and social structures that have resulted in this situation. I plan to study the ways in which the burdens of caregiving for elderly family members has negatively impacted families, and possibly impacted entire generations, due to the legislative decisions of local and national lawmakers; and the ways these findings can be applied to our current healthcare climate.


The past year and a half have been a time in my life that can largely be defined as a time of self discovery. Like many people, my reality was shaken with the start of the pandemic, and I had to rebuild my world anew. For the majority of my first year, I felt a bit like I was unmoored, and it wasn’t until my sophomore year that I started to find my own personal passions. I was just beginning to discover these interests when I ended up deciding to take a year off at the close of my Sophomore year, due to the pandemic’s impact on my life.  While I could not have predicted it, this time gave me the opportunity to look inward in a time of self discovery, to learn about my own interests outside of the school environment, and I was able to discover several new hobbies and activities that will be with me through the rest of my life. It was through this time off that I learned how to crochet, knit, and cross stitch. Had someone asked me 2 years ago about my hobbies, I wouldn’t have had an answer, but now I find myself with more hobbies than I have time for, and it’s added a layer to my life I didn’t know I was missing.

In the current school year, I’ve been able to apply my new interests in crafting, and combine them with my preexisting interests in political action to spurn new and exciting ideas, leading to my latest research paper for Intro to Historical Research and Writing, on the subject of knitting as it relates to various feminist movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. I prefer to work on projects that I am truly passionate about, or that I have a personal connection to, so writing about feminism and knitting was a perfect topic for me. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on an anti-fracking campaign with the organization North Braddock Residents For Our Future, which has given me the opportunity to really engage with Pittsburgh’s politics and residents, something I’ve found invaluable. I’ve always considered myself a highly political and very passionate person, especially as it relates to politics and human rights, so assisting with that project has been a worthwhile venture for me.

As I move into this research project, I have a deeply personal and vested interest in the subject matter I’ve chosen. I was only 20 when my father first started showing signs of Alzheimer's, and as the youngest child in a blended single parent household, I became the primary caretaker for several years. Enduring this, and continuing to live through it with the support of my older siblings, has spurred an interest in the institution of elder caregiving in America, to better understand what has caused the roadblocks that exist, but also what can be done so that others won’t have to experience what my family has. Throughout my life, I’ve always tried to make sense of bad things happening around me through my work, so it felt like a perfect fit to continue this pattern and better understand the complexities of my own situation through history’s stories.