Sherry Matulis

On this date in 1931, Sherry Matulis was “born an atheist (aren’t we all?),” she mused, in the small town of Nevada, Iowa. “You couldn’t go out to play hopscotch or kick-the-can without tripping over a church or two. (Or a tavern. The churches had a reciprocal arrangement, I think),” she wrote in a column for The Feminist Connection. “But tripping over all those churches wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was all that time spent inside them — skipping over the facts of reality.” (Oct. 24, 1981, speech to the FFRF national convention in Louisville, Ky.)

At age 20 she was surprised to find herself in the first Miss Universe contest, selected by photographs submitted by her husband. As the “village atheist” in Peoria, Ill., Matulis ran small businesses for many years and had five children. A poet and writer, she became a national spokesperson for abortion rights in the 1980s, when she wrote about her life-threatening experience in seeking an illegal abortion in Peoria in 1954. She was invited to speak about her experiences before a U.S. Senate subcommittee chaired by Orrin Hatch in 1981 and testified before several state legislatures.

A firm atheist, she appeared on many radio and national TV programs. Her articles, stories and poetry have been published in such periodicals as Redbook, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Questar, Analog, Freethought Today and The Rationalist. She received many awards for her work to protect abortion rights, including from the American Humanist Association and the National Organization for Women. (D. 2014)

Freedom From Religion Foundation