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.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.