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Loretta June Ross
|Born||August 16, 1953|
|Occupation||Academician, feminist, reproductive justice activist|
|Organization||SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective|
Loretta J. Ross is an African American academic, feminist, and activist who advocates for reproductive justice, especially among women of color. As an activist, Ross has written on reproductive justice activism and the history of African American women.
Early life and education
Ross was born in Temple, Texas on August 16, 1953. Being the second daughter out of her eight siblings, Ross was raised within a large and conventional blended family. Her father, who immigrated from Jamaica, was an Army weapons specialist and drill sergeant. He retired from the military in 1963, worked for the Post Office, and held odd jobs to support his family. Her mother was a housewife and owned a music store.
For her primary education, Ross attended integrated schools. She went to Army school through second grade and transferred to public schools afterwards. Ross' grades were high and she received honors during her school years. In 1964, at age 11, Ross became a survivor of sexual assault, where she was beaten and raped by a stranger. In 1968, at the age of 15, Ross was raped by her distant cousin, became pregnant, and gave birth to a son. Ross lost her scholarship from Radcliffe College when she decided to keep her son instead of sending him away for adoption.
In 1970, Ross attended Howard University for her tertiary education. During her undergraduate career there, she became actively involved in black nationalist politics  and civil rights movements, such as black women feminism ideologies and racial issues. In 1976, at age 23, Ross experienced sterilization abuse when she was sterilized with Dalkon Shield, a type of intrauterine device that was marketed despite found to be defective, potentially causing major negative health threats to its users, especially inflicting harm on African American and poor communities. Ross was among the first women of color to win the suit case against the manufacturer of Dalkon Shield, A.H. Robins. This incident has influenced Ross tremendously. Because of this experience, she found her passion advocating for reproductive justice and racial politics. She engaged in black nationalist politics, tenant organizing, a Marxist-Leninist discussion group called the D.C. Study Group, and the South Africa Support Project. In November 1980, the murder of her close friend and political ally, Yulanda Ward, became the turning point in Ross' life as an activist. Ross has referred to this murder as a political assassination.
In 2007, Ross completed her bachelor's degree at Agnes Scott College. Under the direction of professor Elizabeth Hackett, Ross wrote Just Choices: Women of Color, Reproductive Health and Human Rights, her capstone Women's Studies independent study project at Agnes Scott. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Women's Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 2018, she was hired by Arizona State University to teach a 400-level course on Reproductive Justice, a topic on which she has co-authored three books.
Feminism and activism
Driven by her personal experience as a survivor of sexual assault, in 1979, Ross became the third Executive Director of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, the first rape crisis center that was primarily run by and geared toward providing resources for women of color.
In August 1980, Ross, accompanied by others from the DC Rape Crisis Center, organized the First National Conference on Third World Women and Violence in Washington, DC. This was the first conference that brought together women from different racial backgrounds, unifying the participants towards achieving the goal of cultivating a new, holistic network for people of color, both women and men, to advocate for anti-violence activism.
In 1985, the National Organization for Women (NOW) hired Ross to be the director of the Women of Color Programs to both improve participation by women of color in NOW, create coalitions with organizations focused on issues affecting women of color, and to respond to criticism by women of color who felt mainstream feminist organizations were ignoring issues of race and class.
In 1997, with Luz Rodriguez and 14 others, Ross co-founded SisterSong, which aims to build an effective network between individuals in advocating improvements within institutional policies that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities. Ross served as the National Coordinator for the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective from 2005 until 2012.
Ross was one of the African American women who first coined the term "reproductive justice", with the aim to frame the pursuit of reproductive justice using the social justice framework. In 2002, Ross was one of the interviewees featured in the Global Feminism Project archive, which is a project organized under the University of Michigan, compiling interviews of feminist icons from many different countries.
Ross acted as National Co-Director for women of color of Washington, D.C.'s March for Women's Lives on April 25, 2004. She was the Founder and Executive Director of Atlanta, Georgia's National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE) from 1996–2004.
Ross has published books on reproductive justice, as well as many articles on African American women and abortion. In 2004, Ross co-authored Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice, a book that uncovers the unrevealed history of the activism of women of color in organizing for reproductive justice. Ross contributed her insights in a chapter entitled "The Color of Choice" in Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology, which was published in 2016. Currently, Ross is working on her soon-to-be published book entitled Black Abortion that will focus on reproductive rights issues.
Ross served as a visiting Associate Professor in the Women’s Studies department at Hampshire College. She taught a course “White Supremacy in the age of Trump” for the academic year 2017-2018. Ross is a consultant for Smith College, where she is expanding the Sophia Smith Collection, which includes her personal archives. She is currently a Visiting Clinical Professor at Arizona State University in the School of Social Transformation teaching a 400-level course on Reproductive Justice.
Alongside Rickie Solinger, Ross co-authored Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, which details the field of reproductive justice, particularly in regards to experiences involving women of color and through a human rights analytical lens. Her most recent book, Radical Reproductive Justice was published by Feminist Press in 2017 and co-edited by Lynn Roberts, Erika Derkas, Whitney Peoples, and Pamela Bridgewater-Toure, discusses over two decades of works of SisterSong Women of Color Health Collective.
Ross has appeared on the following North American television series and networks: CNN, BET, "Lead Story," "Good Morning America," "The Donahue Show," "Democracy Now," and "The Charlie Rose Show", Oprah Winfrey Radio, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times.
Awards and honours
In 2003, Ross was awarded with an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law degree from Arcadia University. She received a second honorary doctorate degree from Smith College in 2013. Loretta Ross also won the following awards: Black Women’s Health Imperative, Community Health Activist Award (2008), Delta Sigma Theta, Pinnacle Leadership Award (2008), International Black Women’s Congress, Oni Award (2010) Women Helping Women, Revolutionary Award (2011) Foundation for Black Women's Wellness Legacy Award (2015), National Women's Health Network Barbara Seaman Award for Activism in Women's Health (2015) and the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Network, Vicky Award (2017).
- Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice, 2004.
- "The Color of Choice," Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology, 2016.
- Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, 2017.
- Radical Reproductive Justice, 2017.
- "Biographical Note on Loretta Ross". Sofia Smith Collection.
- "Voices of Feminism Oral History Project: Narrators | Smith College Libraries". www.smith.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
- "Loretta J. Ross Papers, 1956–2005". Five College Archives & Manuscript Collections.
- "United States | Global Feminisms at the University of Michigan". globalfeminisms.umich.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
- Kolata, Gina (1987-12-06). "The Sad Legacy of the Dalkon Shield". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
- Ross, Loretta (2001). "Just Choices: women of color, Reproductive Health and Human Rights".
- "Ross, Loretta J. | SpeakOut". www.speakoutnow.org. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
- "DCRCC | Welcome to DCRCC". dcrcc.org. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
- "Lessons in Self-Defense: Gender Violence, Racial Criminalization, and Anti-carceral Feminism". Retrieved 2018-03-06.
- Nelson, Jennifer (Fall 2010). ""All this that has happened to me shouldn't happen to nobody else": Loretta Ross and the Women of Color Reproductive Freedom Movement of the 1980s". Journal of Women's History. 22 (3): 136–160. doi:10.1353/jowh.2010.0579. PMID 20857595.
- "Home – SisterSong, Inc". SisterSong, Inc. Retrieved 2018-03-06.
- Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections. "Loretta Ross".
- "LorettaRoss.com – Biography". LorettaRoss.com. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
- Silliman, Jael; Fried, Marlene Gerber; Ross, Loretta; Gutiérrez, Elena (2016). Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice. Haymarket Books. ISBN 978-1-60846-664-1.
- "Loretta Ross". www.hampshire.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
- "Oral Histories | Smith College Libraries". www.smith.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
- "Ross, Loretta J. | SpeakOut". www.speakoutnow.org. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
- "Radical Reproductive Justice". Feminist Press. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
- "Speaker Profile: LORETTA ROSS". Netroots Nation.