January 3

There are 2 entries for this date: Betty Rollin Marcus Tullius Cicero (Quote)

    Marcus Tullius Cicero (Quote)

    Marcus Tullius Cicero (Quote)

    “Reason is the mistress and queen of all things.”

    — Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE), born on Jan. 3, 106. "Tusculanae disputationes." Cicero also authored "Of the Nature of the Gods."
    © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

    Betty Rollin

    Betty Rollin

    On this date in 1936, Betty Rollin — journalist, author and death-with-dignity advocate — was born in New York City to Ida and Leon Rollin. Her mother was a teacher who later worked for an executive at Horn & Hardart, which was known for its automat restaurant. Her father, a Russian Jewish immigrant, ran a plumbing business.

    Rollin grew up in Yonkers, graduating from Fieldston Ethical Culture School, an Ivy League prep school. She earned a bachelor’s in 1957 from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, where she studied drama and was a classmate of Yoko Ono, future wife of John Lennon.

    After working briefly in theater, she was an associate feature editor and staff writer for Vogue magazine and a senior editor for Look magazine, where she remained until Look ceased publication in 1971. She also wrote the first two of her seven books, “I Thee Wed” (1961), a collection of wedding vows, and “Mothers Are Funnier Than Children” (1964), a spoof of motherhood.

    Rollin worked for NBC News as a reporter from 1972-82, when she left for a two-year stint as a “Nightline” correspondent on ABC-TV. In 1975, when she was 39, she had the first of two mastectomies. She wrote about it in “First, You Cry” (1976). Mary Tyler Moore portrayed her in a 1978 TV drama with the same title.

    When her mother was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, Rollin and her husband, mathematician Harold “Ed” Edwards, found a sympathetic doctor who suggested a combination of drugs that would lead to Ida’s death in 1983. (Betty’s first marriage, to Arthur Herzog, had ended in divorce.)

    Rollin’s book “Last Wish” (1985), was a New York Times best-seller and recounted her part in helping her mother die with dignity. “Last Wish” was turned into a TV movie in 1992, with Patty Duke portraying Rollin and Maureen Stapleton playing her mother.

    Rollin returned to NBC, where she won an Emmy Award for a three-part series on “NBC Nightly News” in 1989 about the struggles of Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She had her second mastectomy in 1984.

    She had first become acquainted with FFRF as a PBS “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly” correspondent covering one of the “Glorious Fourth” gatherings put on near Talladega by FFRF’s Alabama chapter.

    In 2003 she spoke at FFRF’s national convention in Washington, D.C., where she said: “It’s not good policy to have people so desperate to die that they’re forced to ask their children or their mates to help them out of life. Such people are amateurs, and, to put it crudely, they often muck it up. That can be terrible, and even if the person dies, there can be psychological damage.” She also addressed the topic as a “Freethought Radio” guest in 2006, the year the show debuted.

    In her memoir, she wrote that her mother was upset to learn Rollin as a child no longer had religious beliefs. Her mother’s father was an Orthodox rabbi. “My mother blamed herself for not emphasizing religion enough and for not keeping a kosher house. (She couldn’t do that, she said, because the housekeeper was a German Catholic and didn’t know how. Even at the time, that struck me as a limp excuse.)”

    Rollin’s health declined after Edwards’ death in 2020 from colon cancer at age 84. She died by assisted suicide at the Pegasos Swiss Association at age 87, in Basel, Switzerland. (D. 2023)


    “I stopped believing in God at about the same time I stopped believing in Pinocchio, when I was about 8.”

    — "First, You Cry" (1976)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn; Brent Nicastro photo
    © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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