Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Passing of Viola Lennon, A Founding Mother

It is with great sadness that we have learned that Viola Lennon, co-Founder of La Leche League International and co-author of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, passed away peacefully in the Chicago area on Friday, January 22. Service and memorial details will be made available as soon as possible on the LLLI web page.

Viola Lennon was born in 1923. She credits her mother with having the strongest influence on her philosophy of breastfeeding and mothering, saying, “My mother portrayed breastfeeding as an enjoyable experience that brings you close to your baby.”

In 1951, Viola married William (Bill) Lennon with whom she had ten children. Edwina Froehlich, Viola’s friend from college, invited her to a meeting at the home of Mary White’s home in 1956, and she quickly joined the others.

In 1972, Viola took on the important role of Chairman of the LLLI Board of Directors, a position she held for five years. During this time, she helped guide the LLLI Board in the formalization of the policies and procedures for running this growing organization, as well as in defining the organizational philosophy and principles. When LLLI’s finances took a downturn in 1984, Viola spearheaded our “Second Founding” and later became the Director of the LLLI Funding Development Department, a position she held for many years. Vi developed close personal relationships with many generous donors who supported LLLI’s efforts financially and contributed in many ways to the success of the organization.

When she left her staff position as Funding Development Director, she dedicated her time and effort to the expansion of the Alumnae Association, becoming one of its strongest proponents.

Viola says, “Breastfeeding… led me to self-discovery and to a greater appreciation of the full humanity of the babies who were entrusted to me. Each woman needs to trust her own instincts, her own feelings, and her own sense of what will work for her with each baby. Women in the 1950s had forgotten the wisdom of previous generations in relation to breastfeeding. Mothers who tried to breastfeed on their own were almost always destined to fail.” She laughs when she adds, "The neighbors sent their children to watch me breastfeed because they knew the children would not see it anywhere else!”