Sandra ‘Sandy’ Malmquist, 73

New Haven Independent, August 11, 2021

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Sandra “Sandy” Malmquist, 73, founder and director of the CT Children’s Museum and Creating Kids Child Care Center, died on August 9 in her New Haven home after nearly 50 years of loving work nurturing hundreds of children, their families, and their providers. The cause of death was ovarian cancer.

After an unhappy one semester at UConn, Sandy began a series of temporary clerical jobs in New Haven. In 1969 she was placed at the Legal Aid Bureau in New Haven. A “flower child,” according to one of the lawyers, Sandy was amazed to discover that people could be evicted from their apartments. Sandy, embracing the work, was among the fastest and most precise on the typewriter, including typing briefs for the Black Panther wiretap suit, which ultimately included 2,000 plaintiffs including her future father-in-law (Morris Wessel), who was the pediatrician for some of the Black Panther babies. A number of legal aid lawyers offered to pay to send her to law school, but Sandy was destined for greater things.

With the birth of her son, Max, in 1971, Sandy discovered the world of group child care that was to become her life’s calling. While providing care at a parent cooperative on State Street and later at a center she started at then Quinnipiac College, Sandy immersed herself in the study of child-rearing in cultures across the world. Always with a focus on understanding children and their socialization, Sandy ultimately earned a BA at Goddard College, a Master’s in anthropology at Wesleyan University, and began graduate anthropology work at New York’s The New School.

According to a 2013 Yale Daily News story, Sandy “refused to think of daycare as simply a space where the children of working women went during the day. Sandy wanted to question the traditional ways of caring for children, to re-imagine child care from the child’s perspective. ‘Our goal,’ she wrote in 1979, ‘is to work with kids to help them create themselves.’”

In 1999, the founding director of the CT Children’s Museum at 22 Wall Street in New Haven retired and turned that building and its child care center over to Sandy. The Creating Kids board became the board of non-profit Connecticut Children’s Museum, Creating Kids shifted to that location, and Sandy began working to reopen the then-shuttered museum to the community.

A series of visioning sessions culminated in the reopening of the museum in January of 2001 as a multiple intelligences-inspired, arts and literacy-based, inclusive children’s museum. An Americans with Disabilities Act Coalition reviewer describes it as “the most exceptionally disability-aware [children’s] arts institution this evaluator has ever surveyed. In all areas – structural access, effective communication and general non-discrimination – the Museum excels in making accessibility a routine part of its operation.”

Sandy is survived by her partner, Paul Wessel, their two children, Max and Molly, two grandchildren, Liam and Agi, and her brother, Thomas Heilman.