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Women’s History Month: Loretta J. Ross

Loretta J. Ross is an academic and activist who co-created the theory of Reproductive Justice, which recognizes the integral intersectionality of reproductive rights and racial justice. The theory, developed in the mid-1990s, lead to an ongoing national movement to uplift the needs of the most marginalized individuals, families and communities — particularly women of color. […]

Loretta J. Ross is an academic and activist who co-created the theory of Reproductive Justice, which recognizes the integral intersectionality of reproductive rights and racial justice. The theory, developed in the mid-1990s, lead to an ongoing national movement to uplift the needs of the most marginalized individuals, families and communities — particularly women of color. […]

Loretta J. Ross is an academic and activist who co-created the theory of Reproductive Justice, which recognizes the integral intersectionality of reproductive rights and racial justice.

The theory, developed in the mid-1990s, lead to an ongoing national movement to uplift the needs of the most marginalized individuals, families and communities — particularly women of color.

Ross’ activism began when she was tear-gassed at a demonstration as a first-year student at Howard University in 1970. As a teenager, she was involved in anti-apartheid and anti-gentrification activism in Washington, D.C.

As part of a 50-year history in social justice activism until her retirement from community organizing in 2012, Ross served as the National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective from 2005-2012.

She founded the National Center for Human Rights Education, launched the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s, and was the national program director of the National Black Women’s Health Project.

As the third Executive Director of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, Ross was also one of the first Black women to direct a rape crisis center in the 1970s, launching her career by pioneering work on violence against women.

Ross has co-written three books on reproductive justice:

  • Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice in 2004
  • Reproductive Justice: An Introduction in March 2017
  • Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique in October 2017

Ross is a rape survivor, forced to raise a child born of incest, and also a survivor of sterilization abuse at age 23.

With a community organizing and advocacy career that began at the age of 16, Ross continues to serve as an inspiration of how to survive, thrive and lead despite the traumas that disproportionately affect low-income women of color.

“Reproductive Justice is built on the foundation of human rights. The framework of ‘Reproductive Justice’ requires that the most vulnerable populations be kept in the center of our lens, not at the margins.”—Loretta J. Ross

References & Further Reading:

  • Speak Out, Voices Changing Lives: Lorretta J. Ross
  • Loretta Ross, Wikipedia
  • Loretta J. Ross Official Website
  • Eugenicists Never Retreat, They Just Regroup: Sterilization and Reproductive Oppression in Prisons; Loretta Ross, Rewire News, 2014
  • Smith College, Libraries: Loretta J. Ross Papers

Follow us each Wednesday in March as we celebrate Women’s History Month.


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