It was announced today that Nellie Gray passed away sometime this past weekend. Her body was found at her home 13 August 2012. She was 86. I suspect most people, even those in the Pro-life movement, have absolutely no idea who she was, even if they are familiar with what she founded, the annual March for Life
in Washington DC. In fact it would be fair to call her 1 of the pioneers in the Pro-life movement after the Roe v Wade
& Doe v Bolton
rulings in 1973 that openned the floodgates for abortion in the USA.
Nellie lived what she believed, that every life, born and preborn, aged and young, must be cherished and protected. No exception! No compromise!
Nellie was a native of Big Spring, Texas. During World War II she served as a corporal in the Women’s Army Corps. Her education included an undergraduate business degree, a master degree in economics, & ultimately a law degree. She worked for almost thirty years for the U.S. Government in the Departments of State & Labor.
As has often happenned with those involved in the Pro-life movement, she was a convert to the Roman Catholic Church. According to an interview
with the newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River The Anchor, she said she wasn't a Catholic as a child, but "I had elements of the Catholic faith in my life
." It was as a young woman that she encountered a priest who brought to light what the Catholic Church was about. He tutored her until she joined the church.
After the Supreme Court rulings in '73 she said, "I knew abortion was wrong, but I really didn't pay much attention to the
ruling. ... I didn't think anyone would take it seriously." She soon realized how seriously the ruling was being taken. She was thinking of retiring to start a private practice. But the ruling was tugging at her heartstrings. So when she did retire, she decided to dedicate her efforts as a volunteer in the Pro-life movement that was starting.
At the time she had no idea of what she was in for.
She explained how it happenned. "I received a call from the Knights of Columbus. I didn't even
know who they were, but they explained their stance against abortion and needed
a place to meet to discuss plans for a march. That place was my living room.
About 30 people gathered there and they asked if I could help get speakers for
the event since I knew Capitol Hill well.
What I couldn't get was a
master of ceremonies for the event. Politicians didn't want to get
involved in a march, and people at that time weren't interested in marches after
the civil rights movement and other things. That left the emcee job to me."
After the 1st March, which drew about 20,000 people, there was $400 left over. One of the Knights suggested another March the next year. She found herself the president of the new organization set up to put it on. The group established a set of life principles Set in the context of the Declaration of Independence. The life principles
demand equal care for the unborn child & the mother, with "no exceptions, no
Nellie was once described by Cardinal Sean O’Malley as the "the Joan of Arc of the Gospel of life", She has attended every March since then & seen it grow from 20,000 the 1st year to an estimated 400,000 this year. & while she was up on the stage for the pre-march rally, she didn't hog the spotlight. She gladly shared the stage with other Pro-life leaders. The March brought together Catholics, Orthodox, Protestant & Jewish leaders. Many other events have sprung up arround the event to enable various Pro-life groups to take advantage of the gathering. While the 1st gathering was avoided by politicians, much has changed in the years since. Pro-life politicians have regular+y spoken at the event. President Reagan addressed the Rally every year via telephone. So did President George W. Bush.
The outpouring of tributes has been huge. You can read many of them at the links below.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to meet Nellie. But I have had deep respect for all the efforts she did in order to save the lives of the unborn. A part of the efforts was to ensure & encourage the younger generation to become actively involved.
I am sure that someday a memorial will be errected in her honor. But the best memorial, & the one I am sure she would prefer to see, is the end to the "culture of death" including the end of abortion. In its place she would want to see a culture of life where every human life is valued from the moment of conception/fertilization until natural death. In fact, she would settle for nothing less.
Sadly she didn't live to see that day. But we can & must continue the fight that she so bravely led. & with the help of God, someday we will see that day arrive that she worked so hard to bring about.
Interestingly, at the same time Nellie Gray died, 1 of the leading Architects of the "Culture of Death" also passed away, Helen Gurley Brown at the age of 90. Taking over as editor of Cosmopolitan magazine after her book, Sex & the Single Girl became a best seller, she promoted a hedonistic lifestyle where vices were extolled as virtue. She promoted promiscuity, infidelity, adultery & abortion as good things. & we are seeing the fruit of that in our culture these days. While the media is extolling her as a feminist hero (& mostly ignoring the real feminine hero, Nellie Gray) she was anything but. Her life shows how hollow the lifestyle she extolled really was. For all she claimed, she was afraid of growing old & as much as possible, shut herself away from those who would see the ravages of time. While many people are praising her legacy as something great & positive for the culture, her real legacy will be one of death & destruction. & in time, that is the one that will be remembered, not the one she wanted & worked for.