Mary Frances Forrester
Mary Frances Forrester was born in 1938 in Wilmington, North Carolina. She grew up in Wilmington and attended Hanover High School, where she concentrated in fine arts. Her father worked for a railroad company and her mother was a nurse. She attended Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. During high school and college, she dated Jim Forrester, whom she eventually married. She grew up in a Southern Baptist church surrounded by socially conservative values, but she became more politically active once her husband ran for and became a county commissioner for Gaston County, North Carolina in 1982. He served for eight years, and then was a North Carolina State Senator from 1991 until his death in 2011. Mary Forrester served as his unofficial campaign manager, and helped him write speeches and form policies while he was in office. She became heavily involved in Concerned Women for America (CWA) during the late 1980s, and she organized the North Carolina chapter out of her home and church. Through grassroots organizing, she became a CWA leader and advocate for a number of conservative opinions, including anti-gay rights and anti-abortion. She continues to be involved in the CWA today.
Jennifer Snellings works part-time at the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center in Lynchburg, Virginia as the Director of Communications. Her husband pastors a local Southern Baptist church and together they have two children. She was born in 1975 in Greenville, South Carolina and grew up in a small community called Six Mile located near Easley, South Carolina. She details the many ways her parents, grandparents, and other family members shaped her childhood and adolescence in South Carolina. Her family attended various Southern Baptist churches as well. During her senior year in high school, she became pregnant. She gives a vivid description of events leading up to the pregnancy, the steps she and her boyfriend took to seek out an abortion clinic, the difficulty of telling her parents, and the abortion itself. She regretted her decision immediately after, and for the next six years, struggled with depression. During this time, she also attended community college and graduated from Clemson University with a degree in health science. She moved to Maryland after graduating and worked for many years with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She also met her husband at a church in Maryland, and together they founded their own church in 2002 while he was in seminary. In 2010 they moved north of Lynchburg to start a new church. Over the years, she continued to struggle with her abortion, but through the church and her beliefs, she came to forgive herself and wanted to help other young mothers in similar situations. She calls herself “post-abortive,” meaning that she regrets the decision and wants to educate others about the process. The director of the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center spoke at their church soon after arriving in Virginia, and Snellings wanted to join and get involved in its ministry. When a position opened in 2010, she began working part-time at the Pregnancy Center where she continues to advocate for pro-life decisions, fundraise, and counsel women who stop by for information.
Karen Swallow Prior
Karen Swallow Prior is a Professor of English at Liberty University in
Lynchburg, Virginia. She was born in Lewiston, Maine in 1965 and grew up in both rural Maine and Buffalo, New York. She developed a vivid imagination and a love of reading at an early age. She enjoyed school, especially the private school she attended in Maine. She attended Daemon College, and after realizing that literature could be intellectually studied and a career made from it, she applied to SUNY Buffalo for her PhD in Literature. While in graduate school, she became active in the local anti-abortion movement. She worked with Operation Rescue, and borrowing nonviolent tactics from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they blocked the entrance to abortion clinics, stopped people on the sidewalk as they tried to enter, and confronted doctors. She recalls being arrested four or five times. Operation Rescue’s strategy of “sidewalk counseling” where they approached women entering abortion clinics eventually provoked a lawsuit, and in Schenk v. Pro Choice Network of Western New York (1997), the Supreme Court established greater parameters for buffer zones around clinics. Prior gave testimony in federal court on the side of Operation Rescue. The Supreme Court’s ruling effectively ended Operation Rescue. One year, she also ran for Lieutenant Governor in New York on the Right to Life Party ticket. Her conservative activism put her at odds with professors and other graduate students in her department, but she eventually earned her PhD and finished her dissertation on evangelical abolitionist Hannah More. After completing her degree in 1999, she moved to Lynchburg, Virginia to join the English Department faculty at Liberty University. Coming from New England and having different social beliefs, she remembers native southerners perceiving her as a leftist feminist, but she had similar theological and social beliefs as other evangelicals at Liberty. Since living in Lynchburg, she has been involved with the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center. Her activism has shifted and expanded. She has not demonstrated in front of abortion clinics in many years, and she considers her writing to be her main activism now. She also advocates for environmentalism and animal welfare, which is uncharacteristic of most conservatives. She holds some tenets of feminism, but does not self-identify as feminist. She has served as the chair of the English Department, and she continues to teach full-time.
Emily Lataif is a 2016 graduate of the University of Dallas, receiving her B.A. in English Literature. The oldest of seven, she was raised in Rome, Georgia. While at the University of Dallas, she founded UD’s Anscombe Society, a club dedicated to promoting sexual integrity and a healthy marriage and family culture. She also helped lead the Crusaders for Life club and wrote and edited for the campus newspaper. At graduation, she was awarded the Helen Corbitt Award recognizing an outstanding senior man and woman. College internship opportunities at the Susan B. Anthony List, the Heritage Foundation, and the George W. Bush Presidential Library, developed in Emily an interest in public policy. Emily worked as a research assistant on the House of Representative’s Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a congressional committee investigating aborted fetal tissue procurement and trafficking and late-term abortion practices. She enjoys learning more about her Catholic faith, listening to NPR,and traveling – especially to England. Emily looks forward to promoting conservative principles in the public and private sector, particularly the right to life.
Biographies were obtained from the Southern Oral History Program interview database for Mary Frances Forrester, Jennifer Snellings, and Karen Swallow Prior. The biography of Emily Lataif was obtained from the John Jay institute were she is a 2017 John Jay Fellow.