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The Center on Colfax

Loretta Ross (b. 1953)

  • Helped coin the term “women of color” Director of the DC Rape Crisis Center

  • Organized the first National Conference on Third World Women and Violence

  • Author of the book “We Remember: African American Women are for Reproductive Freedom”

  • Founded Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

Loretta Ross grew up in a military family in the 1950s and 1960s. At the age of eleven she was raped, and again at age 14 by a cousin. She could not get a legal abortion in 1969 and gave birth to her son Howard deciding not to put him up for adoption. She had a second child at age 16 during her first relationship but was able to get an abortion in Washington D.C. She was rejected from Radcliffe college after her child was discovered
yet attended Howard University in 1970. In 1976, she experienced sterility after using the Dalkon Shield, which proved to have major defects for its users, causing a pelvic inflammation for six months, eventually leading to a coma.

In 1977, she helped coin the term “women of Color,” and in 1979 became the director of the DC Rape Crisis Center geared towards women of color, eventually organizing the First National Conference on Third World Women and Violence in Washington DC in 1980. She was eventually hired by the National Organization for Women (NOW) to develop relationships with
women of color, organizing a conference on Women of Color Reproductive Rights in 1987. She authored “We Remember: African American Women Are for
Reproductive Freedom” in 1989, emphasizing the right of reproductive choice for women
of color, connecting the history of anti-Black racism to anti-choice. In the 1990s she directed work in hate group monitoring with the Center for Democratic Renewal. She later founded Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, as well as linking reproductive issues to issues or racism, formulated in the concept of “reproductive justice.”