Rhoda B. Eskwith, who advocated social change to benefit those who were physically challenged, died Wednesday of heart failure at Sinai Hospital. She was 71.
Stricken with multiple sclerosis while in her early 30s, she waged a campaign from her wheelchair to improve employment opportunities, transportation and housing for the disabled and was a familiar presence in Annapolis.
"What impressed me," said Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, "was what a tremendous inspiration she was to others. She didn't sit back and feel sorry for herself. Extremely persuasive, she enriched the quality of life for the physically challenged and helped make them productive citizens. Thank goodness there are people like Rhoda."
Philip C. Holmes, chief executive officer of the League for the Handicapped, where she was a board member, said, "She paved the way for thousands of the disabled to advocate for themselves, to lobby for legislation. She refused to take no for an answer on these issues and was successful in getting the attention of legislators."
"She championed handicapped rights, street-corner accessibility, mobility ramps, handicapped-equipped public restrooms and equal employment opportunities," said her son, Tom Goldbergh of Lutherville.
She was a life member of the League Serving People with Physical Disabilities, where she established an adult literacy program for handicapped adults.
She was chairman of the Baltimore City Committee on Employment of the Handicapped and on the advisory board of the State Office for Coordination of Services to the Handicapped. She also was a reader for the Radio Reading Service for the Blind.
In 1977, she co-wrote with Linda Christiansen "Ready/Set/Go," a guidebook of restaurants, theaters, and other attractions that were handicapped accessible. It earned her the Mayor's Citation from then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
"She loved traveling, going to the theater and participating in events," Mr. Goldbergh said.
In her long career she received many awards, including Woman of the Year from the National Council of Jewish Women and the Award of Merit from the Governor's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped.
Born and reared in Brooklyn, N.Y., she earned her bachelor's degree in 1944 from the University of Maryland and a master's degree from Columbia University. After working in advertising and for a New York radio station directing War Bond drives, she moved to Maryland, settling in Northwest Baltimore and raising her family.
Services were to be held at 9 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 6010 Reisterstown Road, with interment in Beth Israel Cemetery in Woodbridge, N.J.
In addition to her son, survivors include two daughters, Linda Kaplan of Monsey, N.Y., and Peggi Honig of Washington; and five grandsons.
Memorial contributions may be made to US Against MS, 201 W. Padonia Road, Timonium 21093; or the League for the Handicapped, Adult Literacy Program, 1111 E. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore 21239.