Our Team

Dionne Bensonsmith (she, her, hers) is a  co-founder and co-director of Mothers on the Frontline. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.  A former basketball player, she earned her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame where she played for the legendary Muffet McGraw.   Dionne has four children, one girl and three boys, one of whom has autism and a mood disorder. Her experiences navigating the mental health system and advocating on behalf of her son has led her to become involved with children’s mental health advocacy. Her research specialties include public policy, race and gender politics, health and social policy, and reproductive health. A recipient of fellowships from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Pew Foundation, Cornell University, and Syracuse University, Dionne’s work in the areas of diversity and public policy has been recognized by the University of Michigan and the Ford Foundation. She is currently living in Southern California where she teaches classes on politics, gender, race, transnational feminism, and public policy at the Claremont Colleges.  She is one of the principle investigators of the Women of Color Reproductive Health Study.  When she is not working, blogging or involved in the myriad activities associated with parenting four active children, she enjoys reading, taking long walks, and is a novice practitioner of meditation and yoga.

Tammy Nyden (she, her, hers) is a co-founder & co-director of Mothers on the Frontline; a philosophy professor at Grinnell College; a children’s mental health advocate, and a single white working mother raising two white teenage sons. Her eldest, who is autistic, has bipolar disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, and other complex medical needs. A caregiver in some form for most of her adult life, she worked as a nursing assistant for six years through high school and college and has been mothering for over 17 years. She has experienced divorce and widowhood while raising a special needs child and knows how to keep several balls in the air while the sky is falling. She has received awards for her state and local children’s mental health advocacy, including the 2014 Advocate of the Year from Iowans with Disabilities in Action and the 2016 Iowa City Human Rights Commission’s Isabel Turner Award. Her early scholarship on Spinoza and the history & philosophy of science has been supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, The American Philosophical Society, the Scalinger Institute at Leiden University, The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Iowa, and the Fulbright Foundation. However, her experiences as a mother and advocate in stigmatized spaces has moved her scholarship in the direction of epistemic injustice, care ethics, and applications of Spinoza’s philosophy as correctives for the many Cartesian ghosts haunting the halls of stigma and oppression. She brings this work to her teaching on the School to Prison Pipeline and Storywork as a form of resistance. She engages in meditation, gardening and writing to center herself in a spinning world.

photo of Angela Riccio

Angela Riccio (she, her, hers).  Angela is the mother of two inspiring children, a black son with ADHD and dyslexia and a white daughter with complex medical needs.  She is the matriarch of her blended, interracial family and has been a long time advocate for the health and well-being of children and families.   Formerly a single parent who experienced homelessness she keenly understands the importance of the social, political and economic issues of motherhood and used that experience as a Parent-Facilitator for teenage parents with Greater DuPage MYM (now Teen Parent Connection.)  As a single parent she put herself through paralegal school, while also working a full and part-time job, to create a better life for her and her son. That education provided her with the opportunity to fight for worker and immigrant rights in her roles at the Chicago District Council of Carpenters. Shortly after marrying and having their daughter she and her husband founded Accelerate Progress, a charitable organization dedicated to helping terminally and seriously ill patients access compassionate use drugs and speed the process of drug approval at the FDA.  Her strongly held beliefs that all children have the right to access education that meets their unique and/or neurodivergent needs regardless of socioeconomic, racial or other statuses led her to accept a position as a Founding Board Member of the Willow Oak Montessori Public Charter School.  She also sat on the Board of the Pittsboro Montessori Preschool and Willow Oak Montessori Foundation.  She helped guide the school on creating safe policies and practices for children with life-threatening food allergies and increasing their diversity outreach.
Through her own life and family journey, Angela has experience in dealing with a range of mental health related issues, including depression, anxiety and  PTSD as distinct illnesses, as well as comorbidities to physical illness.   She approaches each situation from a place of compassion, and believes every individual should have access to the professional care and support they need.  In her free time Angela is an avid cook and baker with certifications in the Pastry Arts.  Cooking for and feeding people is, for her, a meditative and healing practice.  She also enjoys gardening, curating her personal library, walks in the forests and beaches near her Seattle home and time spent with her husband, children, and their two dogs and cats.