Alyce Faye Wattleton (1943- )

Alyce Wattleton
Alyce Wattleton
Courtesy Columbia University, Fair use image

Alyce Faye Wattleton, born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 8, 1943, became both the youngest person and the first African American president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a post she held from 1978 to 1992.  As only the second woman president of the organization (founder Alice Sanger was the first), Wattleton fought for women’s reproductive rights by expanding the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its birth control services.

Wattleton’s mother was a traveling preacher and her father a construction worker.  Wattleton moved frequently as a child and in 1959 she graduated at age 16 from Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca, Texas. In 1964 Wattleton completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at Ohio State University. Three years later she received her Masters degree in Maternal and Infant Care, and became a certified midwife through courses she completed at Columbia University in New York.

Alyce Faye Wattleton started her career in medicine by educating younger nurses on birth delivery and the labor process, but she is most known and respected for her work and involvement in the national pro-choice movement. At a time when abortion was a new, hot-button issue, when few leaders in America would even dare utter words about the idea of women being able to terminate their pregnancies, Wattleton fought against the norm for women’s right to have an abortion. In wanting more than just the option of abortion, she fought for women’s freedom, freedom of choice, of their bodies, and their rights in their own reproduction.

Wattleton was the first African American woman honored by the Congressional Black Caucus. She was cited for her work on women’s reproductive rights issues.  Wattleton has received over a dozen honorary doctorate degrees and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Currently, Wattleton is serving on the Sarient Pharmaceuticals Board of Directors for Columbia University. She’s also a member of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Eisenhower Fellowships Program, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Foundation.