Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Giant, active, unreserved, outspoken, and direct -- are also adjectives that could be used to describe Dr. Jefferson's actions and activities on behalf of life -- especially the life of the unborn child.
The only child of Millard and Guthrie (Roberts) Jefferson, she was born in Pittsburg, Texas on April 4, 1926. She was raised in Carthage in the Lone Star State where her father served as a Methodist minister. She attended public schools in East Texas and was graduated from Texas College in Tyler earning her AB degree summa cum laude; before entering Harvard Medical School she earned an MS degree at Tufts University.
Her medical practice and career were both carried out in the Boston area as a general surgeon at BU Medical Center and subsequently as a professor at BU's Medical School.
Without fanfare and certainly not for the sake of fame, she took up the cause of the unborn and dramatically, ably, and with carefully crafted argument linked the anti-abortion movement to the abolitionist movement of the pre-Civil War United States.
A founder of the National Right to Life Movement, she served on more than 30 boards of Pro-Life committees around the country.
She loved to engage folks in dialogue and was an easily conversationalist, interested and interesting in topics beyond her adopted cause. Eminently at home in varied religious groups she moved "ecumenically" and "inter-religiously" as well as personally and professionally among and between people.
Seven years ago in a magazine interview she dramatically challenged American society "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,'' she stated.
The Massachusetts State Council of the Knights of Columbus singled her out for her pro life work honoring her with its prestigious Lantern Award in 1979.
A Memorial Service will be announced at a later date for Dr. Jefferson. She had no immediate survivors.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Some called her "Dr. J." not because she could throw down dunks like Julius Erving who played basketball for the Philadelphia 76ers, but because she had a Harvard medical degree, Jefferson was her last name, and she led an historic life devoted to the greatest social movement of our time. Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson, who died during Pro-Life Month, October 2010, at the age of 84, will forever be known for her eloquent defense of human life and for her constant encouragement of young people in the pro-life cause.
I first met Dr. Jefferson in the summer of 1978 as a college intern from Indiana lobbying Congress on behalf of the National Youth Pro-Life Coalition. The summer internship was based in the Washington, D.C. offices of the National Right to Life Committee, of which Dr. Jefferson was a co-founder and for which she was finishing up her last term as president. I remember slipping into her office to chat for several minutes, and being immediately taken by Mildred's uplifting enthusiasm. To my great fortune, our paths crossed many times thereafter.
Dr. Jefferson got to know my mother, a nurse who helped start a pregnancy counseling office in Fort Wayne, Indiana, called Nurses Concerned for Life. After I moved to Massachusetts to work for the Massachusetts Citizens for Life in 1983, Mildred became one of my bosses, so to speak, as a member of the MCFL Board of Directors, another organization that she helped create.
Thinking of Dr. Jefferson makes me recall the many other wonderful "first responders" that I started working with during my tenure at MCFL, many of whom had mobilized to the trenches even before Roe v. Wade was decided. Joining Dr. Jefferson as pro-life leaders in the Commonwealth in the early eighties were such luminaries as Dr. Joseph Stanton, Roy and Ann Scarpato, Phil and Carol Moran, Fran Hogan, Madeline McComish, Marianne and Henry Luthin, Anne Fox, Kathy Healey, John and Pat Day, Linda Kinsey, and Joe Reilly.
Seeing so many eloquent, committed individuals laboring together for a larger endeavor was a thrilling and experience for someone just out of school. Once, after attending a particularly passionate board meeting, I wrote in my journal that "A room full of prophets is a noisy place indeed!"
What Mildred taught me was that the truth has the manifold potential to be spoken with such power and beauty. She had the ability to say things in a way that not only moved the heart but enlightened the mind. And like so many other pro-lifers I know, one question drove her into persistent action: "What can I do today for the cause of life?"
The first wave of blog entries of her friends and admirers responding to the news of Dr. Jefferson's death related some of the stories of her past that I first heard from Mildred herself some 25 years ago. I was driving her home from a speech she had given somewhere in Massachusetts, and on an empty road lit by headlights and starlight, she told me about how as a child she tagged along with the local doctor making his house calls. He revived every patient they visited by pulling medicine from his black bag, and that impressed Mildred so much that she wanted to be a doctor too. It was much later when she learned that the doctor traveled to see only those patients that he knew he could help.
Mildred's calling to be a doctor and her training to be a healer prompted her to renounce a move in 1970 by the American Medical Association to soften its code of ethics on abortion. At one level this had to be a difficult stance to take for someone who had already earned the prestige that accompanies being the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. At another, deeper level, it would not be hard at all for someone adept at breaking the barriers of convention to go where truth asks one to go even if it is unpopular with one's peers. Principle outweighs popularity.
Her principles led Dr. Jefferson to devote her personal gifts to the pro-life movement. But perhaps the greatest legacy of Dr. J. was her commitment to inviting young people to join in the quest. What a privilege for me to have been welcomed in my younger days by Mildred and her allies to the cause of all causes, for without life no other cause is possible.
Someday, God willing, we will have laws that honor all human life, and we will live in a culture that nurtures the respect that every human being deserves. Mildred's death before that day has arrived is an occasion for sadness, for she did not see accomplished what she spent much of her life working towards. But her life, aimed as it was to achieving the better goal, has left its inerasable mark in the annals of achievement. So in her passing, there too is joy. It reminds us to celebrate the virtues she exhibited and the values she stood behind.
Daniel Avila is the Associate Director of Policy and Research for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
October 18, 2010
This week Feminists for Life honors the life of Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson, an accomplished surgeon and professor of surgery, a tireless advocate for women and children, who died Friday, October 15 at the age of 84. Feminists for Life named Dr. Jefferson a Remarkable Pro-Life Woman® in 2003.
Among her many achievements, Jefferson was the first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, the first woman to serve as a surgical intern at Boston City Hospital, and the first woman to be elected to membership in the Boston Surgical Society. Twenty-eight American colleges and universities have awarded Dr. Jefferson honorary degrees in recognition of her efforts in the field of medicine and her pursuit of social justice.
Dr. Jefferson said she "became a physician in order to help save lives." When reading her words, we cannot help being reminded of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree from an American medical school and first woman on the British medical register, whose career had a similar motive. Blackwell wrote, "The gross perversion and destruction of motherhood by the abortionist filled me with indignation, and awakened active antagonism. That the honorable term 'female physician' should be exclusively applied to those women who carried on this shocking trade seemed to me a horror. It was an utter degradation of what might and should become a noble position for women.... I finally determined to do what I could do 'to redeem the hells,' and especially the one form of hell thus forced upon my notice."
Regarding her own career, Jefferson asserted, "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."
Dr. Jefferson, who called the pro-life movement "second only to the abolitionist movement in the profound change it has brought about in American thinking," helped to found the National Right to Life Committee, which she served both as president and as a member of the board. She was a founding member, past president, and board member of the Value of Life Committee of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Citizens for Life, and headed the Right to Life Crusade.
Jefferson also encouraged pro-life college and university students to organize. "If I had my way," she said, "there would be a pro-life group on every college campus here in the United States and in its territories.... I hope that wherever you [students] have a department of women's studies or black studies that you will have a corresponding pro-life movement."
It was Dr. Mildred Jefferson who recommended that the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, part of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, seek Feminists for Life's archives for inclusion in their collection. The Schlesinger Library believes "that Feminists for Life [archives] will complement the existing feminist collections and add a powerful story of strong women and their efforts."
"It was always an honor when Dr. Jefferson would attend a campus lecture, or share FFL's message on her television show," said FFL President Serrin Foster, "And I was so pleased that she was able to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, Massachusetts, on February 14, 2010, the eve of Susan B. Anthony's 190th birthday. In so many ways Dr. Jefferson truly walked in the footsteps of the abolitionist and suffragist leader."
The board and staff of Feminists for Life extend their heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Mildred Jefferson. "Her legacy will live on in our pro-life feminist work on college campuses and beyond," Foster said.
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."
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
|From the Massachusetts Family Institute |
Last Friday, a giant tree fell in the forest of God's servants and the pro-life movement lost a dear friend and tireless advocate for the unborn. Dr. Mildred Jefferson was the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, the first woman to be a surgical intern at Boston City Hospital and the first woman admitted to membership in the Boston Surgical Society. She also was the recipient of honorary degrees from twenty-eight colleges and universities, but her biggest contribution was her leadership of the pro-life movement, locally and nationally. Dr Jefferson helped to establish the National Right to Life Committee and served three times as its president. At the time of her death, Dr. Jefferson was serving as President of the Right to Life Crusade, Director of NRLC, and Director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life.
Dr Jefferson asserted, "I became a physician in order to help save lives. 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 84. MCFL is planning a public memorial service at Harvard University for all to pay their respects. We will pass along those details when we receive them.
I met Dr. Jefferson 21 years ago. I was listening to Gene Burns on WRKO. The issue was abortion and Gene was a very "pro-choice" guy.
He took a call from a very articulate woman who just simply tore him apart. He was actually left speechless.
I recognized that it was Dr. Jefferson. I had seen her a few times on TV and remembered well her distinctive voice. I called MCFL to get her number so as to congratulate
her brilliant performance. Wouldn't you know, she got my number from them and called me and recruited me right on the spot.
I drove her to many events and meetings and made a great many friends through her over the years.
Sometimes she could be stubborn, but then you would watch her change people's minds to the pro-life position and your heart would melt.
Several years ago, I drove Dr. J and Adrienne Denney to Mount Holyoke College, where she engaged two professors on the "pro-choice" side. I was the only guy there.
I saw her change minds right there on the spot. Truly amazing, given the circumstances.
Bless her heart. She would tell me to arrive at a given time and was always "just a little behind in her preparations." In all those years she met me at the appointed time exactly once.
Leave it to Dr Jefferson. This one time, she left too early.
I know it's a cliché', but earnestly, We will never see anyone like her again. Never!
God Bless you doctor.
Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) -- Dr. Mildred Jefferson was known throughout pro-life circles for her tender spirit and encouraging the next generation of pro-life leaders to take up the mantle of the pro-life cause. Her ever-present-smile will be missed, as Jefferson passed away over the weekend, dying at her home peacefully on Friday night.
Jefferson is known as one of the founders of the National Right to Life Committee and was elected as vice-chairman of the board in June 1973. She subsequently served as chairman of the board and, from 1975-1978, served three consecutive terms as NRLC president.
That all came after a distinction few pro-life advocates know: Jefferson is the first black woman to graduate from Harvard medical school.
She also was the first woman to be a surgical intern at Boston City Hospital and the first woman admitted to membership in the Boston Surgical Society. Jefferson was the recipient of honorary degrees from twenty-eight colleges and universities.
"The right-to-life movement has lost a champion and a pioneer. And we have lost a dear friend," said Darla St. Martin, the co-director of the National Right to Life Committee, told LifeNews.com. "Mildred Jefferson was a valued colleague in our fight for the most vulnerable members of our society and she will be greatly missed."
"Mildred Jefferson used every forum available to educate America and encourage people of all ages to become active in the right-to-life movement," St. Martin added. "Her legacy will be the countless people -- most especially young people -- that she brought to the movement by her constant presence and tireless dedication to the cause of life."
St. Martin called Jefferson a "committed political activist and recipient of numerous accolades and honors" who "devoted her talents and her life to the right-to-life movement,'" adding that her "constant outreach to all pro-life people, regardless of background, was a hallmark of her activism."
Jefferson, as president of the national pro-life group, wrote in 1977, "The right-to-life cause is not the concern of only a special few but it should be the cause of all those who care about fairness and justice, love and compassion and liberty with law."
"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."
LifeNews.com received an outpouring of accolades and comments from people paying their respects to Jefferson.
"Mildred Jefferson was a constant inspiration to me," said Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. "In recent years, I especially enjoyed talking with her about the history of the movement and the strategies for the future. She always spoke about the movement with a fresh enthusiasm, vision, and readiness to carry out the work."
"Moreover, her passing should remind us of our duty to reflect on and record the history of our movement, and pass it on to the younger generations of pro-life activists," he said.
Dr. Michael New, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, put Jefferson's work into context.
"Pro-life activists today owe a great deal of gratitude to those who launched the modern pro-life movement back in the 1970s. During that decade, the abortion issue caused many people to get involved in politics for the very first time," he said. "However, even though there was plenty of enthusiasm and ambition, the pro-life movement often lacked financial backing and political experience."
"The pro-life movement has not always done a great job chronicling its own history, so many do not realize the difficult and painstaking work that Mildred Jefferson and others did in building institutions that continue to serve pro-lifers well to this day," he said.
After her Harvard Medical School graduation, Dr. Jefferson served as a general surgeon with the former Boston University Medical Center and Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at Boston University Medical School.
The pro-life group Massachusetts Citizens for Life is organizing a memorial service at Harvard sometime later in the month for pro-life advocates to attend.
From the Los Angeles Times - October 20, 2010
Mildred Jefferson dies at 84; leading anti-abortion activist
The first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, she helped establish the National Right to Life Committee, which includes 50 state groups and more than 3,000 local chapters nationwide.
"I'm opposed to abortion as a doctor and also because I know it is morally wrong." Mildred Jefferson told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. "An individual never has the private right to choose to kill for whatever reasons, be they whim, convenience or compulsion." (National Right to Life Committee)
Jefferson died Friday in Cambridge, Mass., said Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. No cause was given.
Jefferson was a leader in many anti-abortion organizations. In the late 1960s, she helped establish the National Right to Life Committee, which includes 50 state groups and more than 3,000 local chapters nationwide. Jefferson served three terms as the group's president from 1975 to 1978.
"I'm opposed to abortion as a doctor and also because I know it is morally wrong," Jefferson told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. "An individual never has the private right to choose to kill for whatever reasons, be they whim, convenience or compulsion. Because I know abortion is wrong, I will use every means available for free people in a free country to see that it is not perpetuated."
Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, called Jefferson an inspirational leader, "particularly during the 1970s when the movement was just beginning."
"She considered the right to life a very basic right just as she defended life as a doctor," St. Martin told The Times this week. "She simply believed that the movement should be for all people to defend all people."
Jefferson also was president of the Right to Life Crusade, director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life and was active in such organizations as the American Life League and Black Americans for Life.
"She was very influential," Fox said. "As a leader within the movement and a teacher and speaker, she had an impact on a lot of people."
St. Martin called Jefferson "an extraordinary orator who "transfixed people with her eloquent speeches."
Jefferson said Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, made doctors "killers for hire."
"It's too late for doctors to stay in that comfortable environment," she said in a 1975 appearance at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel that was covered by The Times. "Doctors must exert their rights and obligations or we will be the first slaves of the state and you will soon join us."
Jefferson was born in Pittsburg, Texas, in 1926, the only child of a schoolteacher and a minister. She graduated from Texas College in Tyler and earned a master's degree from Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
She graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1951 and worked as a doctor at Boston University Medical Center and an assistant clinical professor of surgery at Boston University's medical school. She also ran unsuccessfully several times as a Republican congressional and Senate candidate in Massachusetts.
Jefferson was divorced and had no immediate survivors.
From Baptist Press on Townhall.com
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (BP)--Mildred Jefferson, a founder of the National Right to Life Committee and the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, died Oct. 15 in Cambridge, Mass. She was 84.
"The right-to-life movement has lost a champion and a pioneer. And we have lost a dear friend," Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, said in a statement. "Mildred Jefferson was a valued colleague in our fight for the most vulnerable members of our society and she will be greatly missed."
In a profile of Jefferson in 2003, The American Feminist, a pro-life magazine, she was quoted as saying, "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."
Jefferson was born in east Texas as the only child of a Methodist minister and a schoolteacher, according to The Boston Globe, and she spent days riding around on the horse-drawn buggy of the local doctor as he made house calls.
After graduating from Texas College and Tufts University, Jefferson enrolled at Harvard and later became the first female doctor at Boston University Medical Center and a professor of surgery at the university's medical school.
In 1970, when the American Medical Association passed a resolution stating that members could ethically perform abortions if the procedure was legal in their states, Jefferson began her fight against abortion, believing that the Hippocratic Oath required her to oppose the procedure.
After cofounding National Right to Life, Jefferson was elected vice chairman of the board in 1973, the year Roe v. Wade gave her profession "an almost unlimited license to kill," she said. Jefferson subsequently served as chairman of the board for National Right to Life, and from 1975-78 she served three terms as the organization's president.
In the 1977 National Right to Life convention journal, Jefferson wrote, "We come together from all parts of our land.... We come rich and poor, proud and plain, religious and agnostic, politically committed and independent.... The right-to-life cause is not the concern of only a special few but it should be the cause of all those who care about fairness and justice, love and compassion and liberty with law."
Jefferson testified before Congress in 1981 in support of a bill that sought to declare that human life "shall be deemed to exist from conception," according to The New York Times. If the bill had passed, states would have been allowed to prosecute abortion as murder.
"With the obstetrician and mother becoming the worst enemy of the child and the pediatrician becoming the assassin for the family, the state must be enabled to protect the life of the child, born and unborn," Jefferson said at the hearing.
As an outspoken political voice, Jefferson ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1982, 1984 and 1990. At the time of her death, Jefferson was serving as an at-large director on the National Right to Life board of directors, and she was a popular speaker at right-to-life conventions, rallies and banquets.
The nation's largest pro-life group, National Right to Life has more than 3,000 local chapters nationwide.
"Mildred Jefferson used every forum available to educate America and encourage people of all ages to become active in the right-to-life movement," St. Martin of National Right to Life said. "Her legacy will be the countless people -- most especially young people -- that she brought to the movement by her constant presence and tireless dedication to the cause of life."
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.
Copyright (c) 2010 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net
Dr. Mildred Jefferson in 1975 (Associated Press)
Dr. Mildred Jefferson, a prominent, outspoken opponent of abortion and the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, died Friday at her home in Cambridge, Mass. She was 84.
Her death was confirmed by Anne Fox, the president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, one of many anti-abortion groups in which Dr. Jefferson played leadership roles.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, "gave my profession an almost unlimited license to kill," Dr. Jefferson testified before Congress in 1981.
Dr. Jefferson, a surgeon, was speaking in support of a bill, sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, and Representative Henry J. Hyde, Republican of Illinois, that sought to declare that human life "shall be deemed to exist from conception." Had it passed, it would have allowed states to prosecute abortion as murder.
"With the obstetrician and mother becoming the worst enemy of the child and the pediatrician becoming the assassin for the family," Dr. Jefferson continued to testify, "the state must be enabled to protect the life of the child, born and unborn."
By then Dr. Jefferson had served three terms, from 1975 to 1978, as president of the National Right to Life Committee, a federation of 50 state anti-abortion groups with more than 3,000 chapters nationwide. She had been one of the founders of the committee in the early 1970s. Besides also serving as director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Dr. Jefferson was a founding member of the board and a past president of the Value of Life Committee of Massachusetts and was active in Black Americans for Life.
It was in 1951 that Dr. Jefferson became the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, said David Cameron, a spokesman for the medical school. She later became a surgeon at Boston University Medical Center and a professor of surgery at the university's medical school.
Born in Pittsburg, Tex., in 1926, Mildred Fay Jefferson was the only child of Millard and Guthrie Jefferson. She earned a bachelor's degree from Texas College in Tyler, Tex., and a master's degree from Tufts before being accepted to Harvard Medical School. 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, said Monday. "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."
From the Boston Globe - Monday, October 18, 2010
Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and the first female surgical intern at Boston City Hospital, broke many race and gender barriers during her long career as a doctor. But it was when she turned to politics, emerging four decades ago as a eloquent leader of the antiabortion movement, that she began to win a following.
Dr. Jefferson died Friday at 84, according to Anne Fox, a close friend and the president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. The exact cause of death is unclear, but Fox said Dr. Jefferson's health had declined two weeks before her death.
"She was one of our founders and her philosophy profoundly affected the movement,'' said Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of the National Right to Life Committee. "She spoke to young, to old, to all religions, to all races, to all people.''
St. Martin first met Dr. Jefferson in the early 1970s, and she remembers when she realized the surgeon was also a powerful political presence. At a women's conference in St. Cloud, Minn., St. Martin was standing in an auditorium with hundreds of women. All of a sudden, she heard a crescendo of clapping and cheering. She looked across the cavernous room to see Dr. Jefferson stepping onto the floor.
Dr. Jefferson, a board member and former three-term president of the National Right to Life Committee, remained active in the movement until just a few weeks ago. She had called St. Martin earlier this year to discuss the group's oratory contest for young people. And on Oct. 7, she filmed her weekly interview show on the Boston Neighborhood Network, said Fox, who appeared with her.
Dr. Jefferson was small in stature — Fox believes she often wore hats so she would not disappear into a crowd — but she did not shrink from controversy. And she was not afraid to use blunt analogies to state her views. In a 2003 profile in the antiabortion magazine American Feminist, Dr. Jefferson said the antiabortion movement was "second only to the abolitionist movement'' in the way it changed American thinking.
"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,'' she told the magazine.
She graduated in 1951 and took an unusual step for a woman: applying for a surgical internship at Boston City Hospital. She later became the first female doctor at the former Boston University Medical Center.
"As the first woman surgical intern at Boston City Hospital, Dr. Jefferson was a trailblazer,'' said a statement from Dr. Karen Antman, dean of Boston University School of Medicine and provost of Boston University Medical Campus. "We are grateful for her contributions to our faculty and to the field of medicine. Dr. Jefferson served as a mentor and a role model to many.''
A profile of Dr. Jefferson in the 2004 book "African American Lives'' suggested that she became politically active in 1970, after the American Medical Association passed a resolution stating that members could ethically perform abortions if the procedure was legal in their states.
Dr. Jefferson, who believed that the Hippocratic oath required her to oppose the procedure, returned to Boston and began an unending fight against abortion, according to the book. She served as a prosecution witness against Dr. Kenneth Edelin, a Boston doctor charged with manslaughter for performing an abortion on a Roxbury teenager.
Several times, Dr. Jefferson ran unsuccessfully for political office, including as a Republican candidate for the US Senate in 1982, 1984, and 1990.
Dr. Jefferson broke many barriers yet didn't have a driver's license. "The story was that she was always thinking about so many interesting things that she wouldn't be paying attention to the road,'' Fox said.
A former skier, she stayed nimble into her 80s, wearing ankle weights when she walked around her Inman Square neighborhood. She dressed carefully — although she needed glasses, she did not like to wear them in public — and sported red, white, and blue to political conventions. She often met friends at the S&S Restaurant near her home, and became such good friends with the owners — Democrats — that when a family member died, she attended the funeral, said Richard Wheeler, a nephew of the owner.
A memorial service for Dr. Jefferson will be announced.
An only child, Dr. Jefferson was divorced and had no children; her closest relatives, Fox said, are the grandchildren of her cousins.