Ruth Proskauer Smith

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Biographical Information

Ruth Proskauer Smith, a longtime reproductive rights advocate who helped found what is now Naral Pro-Choice America, died in 2010. "In recent years, Mrs. Smith remained involved with Naral Pro-Choice New York, an affiliate of the national body. She was also active in the right-to-die movement, advocating that physician-assisted suicide be legally available to terminally ill people.

"Ruth Proskauer was born on Aug. 14, 1907, in Deal, N.J., and reared in Manhattan. Hers was a distinguished family: her father, Judge Joseph M. Proskauer, served on the New York State Supreme Court before becoming a partner in the law firm now known as Proskauer Rose. Her mother, the former Alice Naumburg, helped found the Euthanasia Society of America, a right-to-die group. As a young woman, Ruth received her first public-speaking lesson from Gov. Alfred E. Smith, to whom her father was a close adviser.

"Ruth Proskauer earned a bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe in 1929, followed by a master of fine arts from Radcliffe in 1932. She became a fieldworker for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts in the 1940s and was later its executive secretary. Afterward, she held high positions with several national reproductive rights organizations..." [1]

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  1. Ruth P. Smith, Abortion-Rights Pioneer, Dies at 102, NYT, accessed November 21, 2011.