Family Planning

In Memoriam: Terri Bartlett, Force of Nature Fighting for Women

Terri Bartlett, who passed away unexpectedly this weekend in Tennessee, was a force of nature, bulldozing her way through bureaucracies, arcane laws and barriers to ensure that the health and rights of women and their families the world over were safeguarded. Using her Southern charms, she would cajole high level policymakers into understanding her worldview of equity and parity. While others would write white papers or deliver keynote speeches, Terri would instead bat her eyelashes, exaggerate her Tennessee drawl and lay out arguments that were difficult to combat. Standing just about five feet tall and with an impish, beautiful face, Terri was the very embodiment of a “steel magnolia.” Terri BartlettTerri Bartlett

Terri Bartlett.jpgTerri Lee Bartlett was a native of Tennessee and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Fellow of the Institute of Politics, Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She began living her ideals right out of college – working as the Director of Volunteers for Planned Parenthood Association of Nashville. Soon, she worked her way up to Executive Director of the Tennessee Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, a statewide advocacy organization. She later founded Planned Parenthood of Louisiana and served for more than a decade as its CEO and President.

After so many years of working to improve the lives of women in the U.S., Terri chose to use her considerable skills to guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and their families in the developing world. She joined Population Action International (PAI) in 1999 as Vice President for Public Policy and Strategic Initiatives. In the eight years that she held this position, Terri Bartlett directed the organization’s domestic and international policy agenda. She became a regular fixture in the halls of Congress, in Parliaments around the world and in cities, towns and villages from Thailand to Ethiopia to Haiti. Women, policymakers, heads of state and advocates around the world came to know and love the small woman with the big ideas. She was at the vortex of every meeting she attended, leaving a palpable blast of energy in her wake.

Ms. Bartlett also played a key role in bringing the issue of reproductive health supplies to greater global attention. She served on the Executive Committee of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, an alliance of leading reproductive health organizations that works to identify the main causes of supply shortages and provides recommendations to government leaders and policy-makers about improving the availability and access to these products.

In the year since Terri left PAI, she had served as a public policy consultant to numerous foundations and nongovernmental organizations. Although her work was often in Washington, DC, and other world capitals, her heart was in rural Smithville, Tennessee where she lived with her beloved dog. She signed off her emails to friends and colleagues with, “from the hills…” Her death has brought grief to tens of thousands of people from Nairobi to Cairo to New Orleans to Washington, DC. She was engaged in several projects at the time of her death and had just finished rejoicing in the election of Barack Obama. But the ideals she fought to make reality – ensuring that women and infants don’t die in childbirth, that women choose when and how many children to have, that girls receive educations to make them self-sufficient – will continue. And friends and colleagues and people whose lives are vastly improved because she once was here will forever be indebted to her. “From the hills,” you will always be with us, TLB.

A memorial service is scheduled at Terri’s home in Tennessee this weekend. Her brother is collecting stories about Terri to read at the service. If you have a story to share, please email it to: KBart4033(AT)aol(DOT)com. A celebration of Terri’s life will be held in Washington, DC in the next few weeks. For information, check PAI’s website at

Republished from RH Reality Check.

One Response to “In Memoriam: Terri Bartlett, Force of Nature Fighting for Women”

  1. Tyler LePard

    Terri has been an inspiration to me. Others have spoken more eloquently about what an amazing woman she was… and I second their comments. She is greatly missed.

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