Anne Nicol Gaylor

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Gaylor, Anne Nicol (25 November 1926 - )

Gaylor, nee Nicol, was born on a farm near Tomah, Wisconsin. Her mother, Lucie Sowle Nicol, who died when Anne was 2, was descended from George Sowle, a passenger on the Mayflower (an apprentice, not a Pilgrim). On her father's side of the family she is a second-generation freethinker.

Reading by the age of 4, and soon out-reading her one-room schoolhouse's small library, Anne was grateful to freethinker Andrew Carnegie (who shares her birthday) for endowing the Tomah Public Library.

Graduating from high school at 16, she worked for her college room and board as a waitress and received her degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1949.

She married Paul Gaylor in 1949 and continued to work through four pregnancies. She sold her successful business in 1966, the first private employment agency in Madison, Wis., and became editor of the Middleton Times Tribune, turning it into an award-winning weekly.

After writing the first editorial in the state calling for legalized abortion in 1967, she began receiving calls from desperate women and turned to volunteer activism.

Among her feminist activities, Anne founded the ZPG Abortion Referral Service in 1970 and, over the next 5 years, made more than 20,000 referrals for birth control, abortion, and sterilization. In 1972, she co-founded the Women's Medical Fund charity to help low-income women pay for abortions. She has run that charity as a volunteer for 32 years and helped more than 14,000 women.

Her Abortion is a Blessing was published in 1975. "There were many groups working for women's rights," she realized, "but none of them dealt with the root cause of women's oppression - religion."

In 1976, she founded with her daughter Annie Laurie, the Freedom From Religion Foundation in order to promote freethought and the separation of state and church. After a string of successful legal and media actions, she was asked to go national with the Foundation in 1978, and she served as its elected president for 28 years. She took the Foundation from a 3-member, dining-room cause operation to a group with more than 5,000 members, a national office, newspaper, other publications, and many successful state/church lawsuits. She now is president emerita but works as a consultant for the Foundation.

One of her mostly widely-quoted aphorisms: "Nothing fails like prayer." Also, she has remarked, "There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Her husband, Paul J. Gaylor (called "Jody") died 5 May 2011. They were married for 61 years.

{FFRF; HNS2; WAS, 22 Mar 1998; WWS}