Loretta J. Ross papers
Scope and Contents
Dates of Materials
- 1956 - 2014
- Ross, Loretta J. (Person)
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical / Historical
Loretta attended integrated schools - Army schools through second grade, then public schools. She was double-promoted in elementary grades and was an honors student in high school. When Loretta was 11-years-old, a stranger beat and raped her. At age 15 she was the victim of incest by a distant relative; she gave birth to a son, Howard, in April, 1969. Because she chose to keep her child, she lost a scholarship to Radcliffe College.
Soon after enrolling at Howard University in 1970, Ross became involved in black nationalist politics and tenant organizing in Washington, D.C. She joined the D.C. Study Group, a Marxist-Leninist discussion group, and the South Africa Support Project. She became a founder of the National Black United Front and an officer of the City Wide Housing Coalition (1974-80). The murder of her friend and political colleague Yulanda Ward in November 1980, which she considers a political assassination, was a turning point in her life.
Sterilized by use of the Dalkon Shield at the age of 23, Ross found her way to reproductive rights and anti-violence activism. She became one of the first women to win a suit against A.H. Robins, manufacturer of the device. In 1979 she became director of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, the only center at the time run primarily by and for women of color. In that capacity she organized the first National Conference on Third World Women and Violence in 1980. While serving as Director of Women of Color Programs for the National Organization for Women (1985-89), she organized women of color delegations for the pro-choice marches NOW sponsored in 1986 and 1989, and organized the first national conference on Women of Color and Reproductive Rights in 1987. In response to the Supreme Court's Webster decision in 1989, Ross co-coordinated production of the pathbreaking statement "We Remember: African American Women Are For Reproductive Freedom." As Program Director for the National Black Women's Health Project (1989-90), she coordinated the first national conference of African American women for reproductive rights. From 1980 to 1988, she was a member of the D.C. Commission on Women.
From 1991 to 1995, Ross was National Program Research Director for the Center for Democratic Renewal (formerly the National Anti-Klan Network), where she directed projects on right-wing organizations in South Africa, Klan and neo-Nazi involvement in anti-abortion violence, and human rights education in the U.S. In 1996 she created the National Center for Human Rights Education, a training and resource center for grassroots activists aimed at applying a human rights analysis to injustices in the U.S.
Active internationally, Ross is a founding member of the International Council of African Women and of the Network of East-West Women. She has been a regular participant in International Women and Health Meetings and helped organize the delegation of 1100 African American women to the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1984. She attended United Nations Women's Conferences in Copenhagen, Nairobi, and Beijing.
Ross has served on numerous boards (including National Women's Health Network, SisterLove Women's AIDS Project, Men Stopping Violence) and testifies on women's health and civil rights issues before Congress and the UN as well as via such national media as the Donahue Show and Pacifica News Service. She publishes on the history of abortion in the black community and is co-author of Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice (2004). Ross is completing a bachelor's degree at Agnes Scott College.
Ross was co-director for women of color for the April 2004 March for Women's Lives. In January 2005, she became National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, a growing network of Native American, Latina, African American, Asian American and other women of color groups. SisterSong's mission is to connect reproductive rights to human rights. SisterSong promotes reproductive justice through a combination of the Self-Help approach to internalized oppression and the human rights approach to structural inequity.
The recipient of an honorary degree from Smith College in 2013, Ross has been a visiting professor at Smith, where she has organized two community-wide conferences on Calling In the Calling Out Culture.
For more biographical information see Loretta Ross' oral history, part of the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project.
34.5 linear feet (70 boxes)
87 Gigabytes (35 digital video files)
- SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS AND PHOTOGRAPHS, 1956-2004
- SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE, 1956-2005
- SERIES III. WRITINGS AND SPEECHES, 1956-2005
- SERIES IV. ORGANIZATION FILES , 1938-2002
- SERIES V. CONFERENCES AND EVENTS, 1986-2003
- SERIES VI. SUBJECT FILES , 1961-1997
- SERIES VII. AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS, 1983-2001
- SERIES VIII. MEMORABILIA, 1982-94
- SERIES IX. PERIODICALS, 1978-1999
- OVERSIZE MATERIALS
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Additional audiovisual content was received in digital form and is not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.
- Abortion -- Political aspects -- United States
- Abortion -- Political aspects -- United States
- African American women
- African American women
- African American women -- Health and hygiene
- African American women -- Social conditions
- African American women health reformers
- African Americans -- Civil rights
- Anti-rape movement
- Appointment books
- Birth control -- Law and legislation
- Business cards
- Center for Democratic Renewal (Atlanta, GA)
- Feminists -- United States
- Grant proposals
- Health care reform
- Human rights -- United States
- International cooperation
- Mailing lists
- National Black Women's Health Project
- National Center for Human Rights Education
- National Women's Health Network
- Rape Crisis Center (Washington, D.C.)
- Reproductive health
- Reproductive health -- Developing countries
- Reproductive justice
- Reproductive rights
- Ross, Loretta J.
- Women in development -- International cooperation
- Women in higher education
- Women's health services
- Women, Black
- Finding aid to Loretta J. Ross papers
- Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
- Finding aid prepared by Susan Boone, Revised by Tanya Pearson, 2014; Revised by Ellice Yasner Amanna, 2020
- 2013; 2020
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
- 2017-07-26T17:48:13-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
- 2018-08-14: Digital video added to AV series
- 2020-03-31: Accessions, description added and finding aid updated to current standards
Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository
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