Clara Bell Duvall, whom the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project honors, died in Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh at the age of 34, leaving five children, ages 6 months to 12 years, and a bewildered husband. The year was 1929. Had our mother died from anything other than illegal abortion, her death would have been less traumatic. The tragic and unnecessary death of my mother fractured our family.
When I learned, at age 16, how we had lost our mother, my life took an immediate turn. I determined that my mother's fate would never become my own. As a young married woman I learned how to prevent pregnancy and began a life-long commitment as an activist for the health and rights of women. My dedication was buoyed by the hope that my mother's fate would not be repeated by other women.
It was a meeting twenty years ago with Honorable Babette Josephs when I revealed how my mother died that the Clara Bell Duvall Education Fund came to be. It was my belief that this most personal, most private matter of a woman's bodily integrity was not a matter of politics or business. It is a matter of education. In this spirit the Duvall Fund began. The early promise—that education could transform lives—has been more than fulfilled.
Yet our work is not over. Without education about the past and a vision for the future, young women and men cannot know the fragility of the system of reproductive rights and health. These young people represent our future, and we have much to learn from listening to their viewpoints. That is why I am so proud that the Duvall Fund provides avenues for teens, interns, volunteers, and medical students to become leaders and advocates for women's health. We depend on them to lead us into a new era.
- Linn Duvall Harwell, Founder and Honorary Chair
Linn has received many awards for her passionate devotion to reproductive health. Some of her awards include:
From her letter to Ms. Anna Quindlen, novelist and former NYT columnist—
"The psychological damage done to our family by the nature of our mother's death reverberates to our youngest generation."
From Linn's speech at the March for Women's Lives in Washington, DC, April 2004—
"Government assaults on reproductive rights must not stand. The well-being of America's families depends on women's health. Too many children in America were left motherless before abortion became legal. We must not let my family's tragedy be repeated. I have devoted my life to ensuring that ALL women, especially poor women, may have the reproductive health care they need. My foundation, the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union works every day for this great purpose."
From Linn's speech at the 25th Anniversary of Roe V Wade at NARAL-NH in January 2008—
"We must not be faced with making a choice to survive an unwanted pregnancy or survive an unsafe abortion. This is the very decision my mother had to make."
Message from Linn to Duvall members, June 1991—
"I will always be lonely for my mother—for the mother who wasn't there to share my teen years, my happy marriage, my own four beautiful children. And the knowledge that legal abortion would have preserved her life fills me with sorrow and resolve never to give up the fight for reproductive rights."