Diana Brown, Recipient of Distinguished Humanist Award, Dies at Seventy-Seven

Julia Lavarnway

Diana “Danny” Brown passed away in Oxford, England, on May 20, 2017, after a long battle with the autoimmune disease Sjögren’s Syndrome. She was seventy-seven.

Brown was a lifelong champion of secular causes. In 1987, she cofounded the World Population Foundation—now known as Rutgers WPF—along with her husband, Roy W. Brown. Rutgers WPF, based in the Netherlands, is an organization that was created to draw attention to the effects of high birthrates and rapid population growth on the world—on everything from infant and maternal mortality to the environment. It also works to improve sexual health and reproductive rights worldwide, especially in developing countries where birthrates are skyrocketing.

Brown was a past contributor to Free Inquiry. In the Winter 1999/2000 issue, she had an op-ed titled “A Wiser View of Abortion,” in which her expertise on women’s reproductive rights was at the fore. In 1999, Brown was a recipient, along with her husband, of one of the Council for Secular Humanism’s most prestigious awards, the Distinguished Humanist Award. It was in recognition of their work combating overpopulation. The award was given at Free Inquiry’s “Why Does Religion Persist?” conference held May 13–16, 1999, in Des Plaines, Illinois (see FI, Summer 1999, p. 66).

Brown was a passionate lecturer on women’s rights at conferences and other events throughout the world. In 2014, she gave a speech in Ireland titled “Who Owns Women’s Bodies?” Her husband thought that speech so “summed up her philosophy, covering not only the question itself, but a model of the kind of thinking we should bring to bear when debating such issues,” that he included it in a book of tributes to Diana that was published in July 2017.

A memorial was held for Diana Brown on July 9, 2017, at her alma mater, Somerville College, Oxford, from which she graduated in 1957. The Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the entire Free Inquiry family extend our most heart-felt condolences to Danny’s family and friends throughout the world.

Julia Lavarnway

Julia Lavarnway is assistant editor at FREE INQUIRY, a columnist for the Secular Humanist Bulletin, and the managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.


Brown was a passionate lecturer on women’s rights at conferences and other events throughout the world.

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