Most Hated Women in America

How atheist campaigner Madalyn Murray O’Hair, played by Melissa Leo, became America’s most hated woman.
Netflix brings to life the story of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists in The Most Hated Woman in America. Oscar winner Melissa Leo will play the principal character.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair had an adventurous life. She was born, and lived, much before her more famous compatriot, Richard Dawkins. She earned a fair degree of notoriety due to her efforts to abolish Bible readings in schools. She founded American Atheists in 1963, with one of their main goals being fighting to keep church and state separate. O'Hair spent her life battling against the invasive nature of the church.

O'Hair was foul-mouthed, funny and abrasive. She told everyone, including the press, that her preferred choice of hobby is to think independently and drink beer. Describing herself as a militant feminist, she also described herself as an internationalist, integrationist, and an anarchist. She was criticized for being greedy towards money and a self-publicist.

In 1960, she brought a case against the Baltimore City Public School System stating it was unconstitutional to make her son participate in Bible readings in school. In 1963, she won the case with a Supreme Court decision that ended prayers in the classroom. This ruling was a landmark and O’Hair began to make regular appearances on television and radio.

O’Hair, her son, and her granddaughter mysteriously disappeared in 1995. She was last seen at her Austin, Texas home. Their bodies were not found until 2001; dismembered and hidden on a Texas ranch. They were killed by a former American Atheists employee.

For Leo, she has been on a much smaller crusade of her own trying to get the film made. Tommy O'Haver, the writer and director of the series, completed his script and two years later sent it to Leo, whose professional fame has been on the rise after Frozen River, the acclaimed 2008 indie film. Leo assisted O'Haver to push the film to Elizabeth Banks, the co-producer. Five years later, Netflix agreed to fund the 18-day shoot on a limited budget. The principal reason behind Leo's drive to make the film is the fact that America has already forgotten O’Hair's contribution simply because she was a woman.

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