The items in this online exhibition evoke the stories of American women through the ages.
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Mildred Jefferson’s US Senate campaign hat, and photo with Phyllis Schlafly, 1998

Photos by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute

Photos by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute


Among her many firsts, Mildred Jefferson (1927–2010) was the first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and the first woman employed as a surgeon by Boston University Medical Center. Her involvement in the right-to-life movement began in the 1970s. Among the groups she helped to establish and to lead were Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the Right to Life Crusade, Inc., and the Value of Life Committee.

Her commitment to the antiabortion movement led to her political activism in the Republican Party. A self-described Lincoln Republican, she campaigned for pro-life candidates and thrice ran—unsuccessfully—to represent Massachusetts in the US Senate. This hat is from one of those bids for office. In the photograph from 1998 (below), Jefferson poses with Phyllis Schlafly.

Mildred Jefferson Papers, Schlesinger Library

Catalog record:


Learn more:

See the Schlesinger Library's research guide on Republican and politically conservative women.

Learn more about Mildred Jefferson.

Read “Phyllis Schlafly: A Conservative Voice at the Schlesinger Library.”

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Heather Min