Ann Gaylor

Founder of the FFRF, Ann Gaylor Passed Away

Ann Gaylor

Anne Gaylor, prominent atheist and abortion rights activist, died June 14 from the complications she suffered after a fall in her apartment. She was 88.

Anne Gaylor, a business woman from Madison, Wisconsin, became a national voice in the arenas of atheism, abortion rights, and the separation of church and state. In 1976, after it became apparent to her that religion was the opponent in most of her battles, she founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation with her daughter, Annie Laurie.  Today, the FFRF has more than 23,000 members, 17 staff members, making it the largest organization to champion the causes of atheists, agnostics, humanists and secularists in the US.  Anne Gaylor referred to these people as “freethinkers.”

Her strong and biting commentary often surprised people given her soft voice and small stature.  She put her views on display nationally, including on the television shows of Oprah Winfrey and Larry King, to name a few. Anne Gaylor considered the FFRF her greatest legacy, giving people a place to air their grievances against the church.  Among the foundation’s victories are halting the use of invocations and benedictions at the University of Wisconsin’s commencement ceremonies. Also in 1976, Gaylor co-founded the Women’s Medical Fund, which has since paid for over 20,000 abortions for women in poverty.

Of course, Anne Gaylor was not without critics.  The leaders of both Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Life spoke out against her, calling Gaylor’s support of abortion, “a stark example of misguided compassion.” But Gaylor did not back down, and instead defended her stance, “In the kind of world I want to live in, all children would be wanted.”

The secularists in America have lost one of their greatest leaders in Anne Gaylor.  Her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said her mother requested no memorial service and her body was cremated.  Perhaps the tombstone inscription she penned said it best:  “Feminist.  Activist.  Freethinker.”


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