Mildred Jefferson, the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and a nationally recognized leader of the anti-abortion movement, has died at age 84.
Anne Fox, the president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, says Jefferson died Friday in Cambridge. She says Jefferson recently became ill.
Jefferson helped establish the National Right to Life Committee. Communications director Derrick Jones says she was its at-large director when she died.
Jefferson was born in Pittsburg, Texas, in 1926, the daughter of a schoolteacher and a minister. She graduated from Texas College in Tyler earned a master’s degree from Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
Jefferson had also taught as an assistant clinical professor of surgery at Boston University Medical School. She was given honorary degrees by 28 schools. Dr. Jefferson, who was divorced, had no children.
“She probably was the greatest orator of our movement,” Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, told the New York Times. “In fact, take away the probably.”
In a 2003 profile in “The American Feminist,” an anti-abortion magazine, Dr. Jefferson said, “I am at once a physician, a citizen and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live.”