Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Right To Property: The Edith Macefield Case Study

"Everyone has the right to own property. Anything that belongs to a person can't be taken away from him or her unless there's a fair reason."

For the next several posts, I'll be featuring case studies that illustrate an article from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that children and adults find interesting and illuminating. 

The goal is to identify examples that I can use with my 4th grade class. 

I used to work at the Walgreens in Ballard, Seattle in the winter of 2002. I worked the graveyard shift as a stock boy and cashier. Maybe it was because of the time of the day that I was hanging out in Ballard, but to me it seemed kind of run down, and kind of full of a lot of working class alcoholics. 
Google's Street View of That Walgreens Today

Around 2005, long after I left, Ballard was in the midsts of unprecedented development and growth. Condominiums started springing up, and a developer wanted to make shopping center on an industrial block where Edith Macefield lived. The developer offered about 7 times the value of Edith's house so they could tear it down and build their shopping center, but Mrs. Macefield refused. So the developers decided to build their shopping center around her.

It made national news

Edith Macefield's house surrounded by the shopping mall

Edith Macefield passed away in 2008 when she was 86 years old, but the podcast 99% Invisible featured her situation in an episode called Holdout.

What's interesting about this case of property besides that Mrs. Macefield didn't want to sell, is that if it wasn't for Barry Martin, the shopping center project's superintendent, she might have been forced to anyway. He began a relationship with Mrs. Macefield during the construction of the shopping center. He ran errands for her, and made himself available to her at all hours of the night. He believes that if he wasn't watching out for her, the powers that be would have put her in a state run facility. 

Edith Macefield became a kind of symbol to our right to property. There's even a tattoo in honor of her, her stubborness, and this right:

The rest of the body is a flesh-colored shopping mall

This case study doesn't cover eminent domain, which I guess is covered in the "unless there's a fair reason" portion of the right to property. But it would also be interesting to see if 4th graders believe that eminent domain is a fair enough reason to take someone's property away. 

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