PROVIDENCE —The Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee (RIRTL) joins pro-lifers nationwide in mourning the death of pro-life pioneer Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson, who passed away at her home last Friday night at the age of 84.
A resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Jefferson was a frequent visitor to Rhode Island, most recently at the 40th Anniversary RIRTL Convention.
Born in east Texas, the only child of a Methodist minister and a school teacher, Dr. Jefferson was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard medical school, and the first woman surgical intern at Boston City Hospital. As a general surgeon with the former Boston University Medical Center and Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at Boston University Medical School, she was also the first woman admitted to membership in the Boston Surgical Society.
But it was for her nearly four-decade commitment to the pro-life movement that Dr. Jefferson is best-remembered. “I became a physician in order to help save lives,” she said. “I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the 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.”
Dr. Jefferson was among the founders of the National Right to Life Committee, upon which she served as chairman of the board and as president. She was a frequent spokesperson appearing in countless media outlets, lecturing at academic institutions, and speaking at right-to-life conventions, rallies, and banquets across the country. She was the recipient of awards and accolades too numerous to mention, including honorary degrees from twenty-eight colleges and universities, including Providence College.
But while Dr. Jefferson was well-known for her erudition, passion, and unrivaled eloquence, those who worked with her recall the tender spirit, warm smile, and delicate touch with which she encouraged and inspired workers and future workers in the pro-life movement.
Recalls former RIRTL Executive Director, Rita Parquette, “Dr. Jefferson knew she was smarter than 99% of the people she talked to, but she never, ever made you feel that way. She would always encourage you and explain things to you in a most loving and thoughtful manner.” Adds Jack Parquette, “Her grace, her genuine warmth and her smile made you feel like the most interesting person on the planet. She was truly a great one, and we were privileged to know her.”
Said RIRTL Chairperson, Diane Manning, “From the earliest days of our organization right up until her passing, Dr. Jefferson was always gracious in re-adjusting her schedule to accommodate whatever need we had. Her passing will leave a tremendous hole in the pro-life movement.”
Massachusetts Citizens for Life is organizing a memorial service to be held at Harvard sometime later in the month for pro-life advocates to attend. Please contact RI Right to Life for details.