As Black History Month ends, a Texas community prepares to honor Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson, an African-American woman who fought tenaciously for the unborn.
Jefferson served as the president of the National Right to Life Committee, one of the largest pro-life groups in the United States, and was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School.
The News Journal reports on Feb. 22, a bust and plaque of Dr. Jefferson will be unveiled in Anderson Park in Carthage, Texas.
The report describes the monument as a bust of Dr. Jefferson “clad in a flat cap and stethoscope” set above a plaque that details her accomplishments.
The bust and plaque is one segment of a two-part project to honor Dr. Jefferson. After reading about her accomplishments in her obituary, local attorney Mike Parker said he felt compelled to dedicate a monument to her life in her hometown of Carthage, Texas, according to the Panola Watchman. Parker appointed artist and sculptor Bob Harness to design the bust, and received enthusiastic permission from Panola County’s Commissioner Court to erect the monument in Anderson Park.
In addition, Parker began a scholarship called “The Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson Memorial Scholarship” for Health Science students attending Panola College.
The scholarship’s website says, “Mildred dearly loved her medical profession, and it only fitting that whoever receives the scholarship be passionate about medicine just like Dr. Jefferson.”
After graduating summa cum laude from Texas College and earning a master’s degree from Tufts University, Dr. Jefferson made history by becoming the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Jefferson continued to make history as she became the first woman to be admitted into the Boston Surgical Society, and the first African-American surgical intern at Boston City Hospital. She also was the first woman to work at the Boston University Medical Center as a surgeon, according to the News Journal.
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Dr. Jefferson’s most significant achievement, however, was her battle for the unborn, even before the Roe v. Wade decision. In 1970, she and other physicians signed a petition opposing the American Medical Association’s stance on abortion. This action led Dr. Jefferson to found, first, the Value of Life Committee and, later, the Massachusetts Citizens for Life group, which grew to become the National Right to Life Committee. Dr. Jefferson served the NRLC in various capacities, and led the organization as its president from 1975 to 1978. She also served with other pro-life organizations, including the Right to Life Crusade and Black Americans for Life.
Dr. Jefferson died in 2010 at the age of 84, but her legacy continues. The plaque in Carthage’s monument will remind its visitors of her potent words: “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 life.”