Brief Biography of Eleanor Owen

The Early Years.

    Eleanor was born in 1921 in Brooklyn, New York. The family moved to the small town of Balmville in upstate New York where Eleanor attended elementary school in a three-room school house. She was allowed to skip some grade levels due her high achievement. When Eleanor passed a nursing school entrance exam at the end of high school, she was not allowed to attend nursing school because she was not yet 17 years old.

    She became a news reporter for a small newspaper near Balmville and later moved to Greenwich Village, New York.

Eleanor Owen

The Washington State Years.

    In 1955, Eleanor and her husband moved from New York to Seattle to relocate for his job with Boeing. She has never left. She has been a relentless, caring, and clear-headed force for health and human services legislation in Olympia since at least the early 1970s.

    Eleanor's accomplishments include:


      • Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare from University of Washington.

      • Masters in Education from the University of Washington.

      • Teacher of Anthropology and Drama at Lakeside School, Washington.

      • Associate Professor at University of Washington School of Drama.

      Community and Human Services

      • Drafted current language in RCW 71.05 to include "grave disability due to mental illness" as criteria for a 72 hour evaluation for Involuntary Treatment.

      • 1978 -- Founder, Washington Advocates for the Mentally Ill (WAMI) -- WAMI Web site.

      • 1978 - 2001 -- Served as Executive Director of WAMI, expanding its membership from eight to its current status as the largest affiliate of NAMI in the country.

      • 1979 -- Co-founder, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) -- NAMI Web site.

      • 1997 -- Established model program at Hofmann House demonstrating that individuals in recovery from mental illness can learn home construction skills such that they remodeled a home for and by themselves. The five residents, formerly completely dependent upon their families or the publicly funded system are now working part-time, living independently, going to school and contributing volunteer time to benefit their community. Hofman House Web site.

      • 1980 -- Winner Jefferson Award for Outstanding Community Service.

      • 1980 - 2001: Published and edited each of the 11 editions of "Connections, a Self-Help and Resource Guide for Individuals With Mental Illness, Their Families and Social Service Professionals."

      • 1984 - 1990: Member and Chair of King County Mental Health Advisory Board.

      • 1996 - Present: President, Mental Health Association of Washington.

      • 1997 - Present: Co-founder and member of Coalition for Insurance Parity.

      • 1998 - Present: Member, Executive Committee, DSHS Title XIX Advisory Committee.

      • October 4, 1999 -- Lifetime Achievement Award, Mental Health Exemplary Service Awards. Web site for Lifetime Achievement Award from Ron Sims.

      • 2000 -- Winner, Most Outstanding Member, NAMI (membership, 220,000).

      • July 12, 2002 -- Proclaimed "Eleanor Owen Day" by Ron Sims. Link to one-page PDF file of news report about Eleanor Owen Day.

      • Current -- Member, King County Mental Health Advisory Board (KCMHAB), Co-Chair Legislative Advocacy Committee of the KCMHAB. King County Mental Health Board Web site.

        Over the years, Eleanor has served on numerous other local, state and national committees.


      • Widowed, two children. Daughter living in Florida. Son, in recovery from schizophrenia, stable, working and living independently.