O'Hair, Madalyn Murray

O'Hair, Madalyn Murray (b. Mays)

(1919–  ) social activist; born in Pittsburgh, Pa. She enjoyed a normal, happy childhood, but was overwhelmed when she read the Bible cover-to-cover at age 13. She gradually became an atheist and when her son Bill objected to school prayers, she took the case to the Supreme Court; in a landmark decision outlawing prayers in public schools, she won, in her words, the "unalienable right to freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion" (1963). She was a cryptographer and second lieutenant during World War II. She and her family (she married twice) were persecuted by their neighbors while the case was being tried.