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Jewish Women in Civil Rights - June Finer

June Finer
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Dr. June Finer, Medical Committee for Human Rights, treats foot-weary Doris Wilson, Selma, 1965.
©1978 Matt Heron/TAKE STOCK. Reprinted by permission.

Biography

June Finer was born in London in 1935, the oldest of three sisters. During World War II, Finer experienced the bombing of London, being evacuated at times to the countryside, where she and her sisters had to submerge their Jewish identity. Following in her father's footsteps, she studied medicine. While interning at a Chicago hospital in 1960, Finer became politicized by seeing inequities in medical treatment for blacks and whites. She worked with an interracial organization, the Committee to End Discrimination in Chicago Medical Institutions. That group gave birth to the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) under whose aegis Dr. Finer went south for the first time in the summer of 1964. She returned to the South in the spring of 1965 for five months as MCHR's Southern Coordinator, assigning the many volunteer medical professionals to their tasks.

Her subsequent career has included working at the Women's House of Detention at Rikers Island, in an abortion clinic in the early 1970's, and with drug addicts at the Lower East Side Service Center. She divides her time between her medical work in New York City and her home in New Paltz, New York. She has raised two children as a single parent.

Interview

Among the relatively small number of women professionals was physician June Finer. She went south as part of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) work in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. She was one of approximately one of one hundred physicians, nurses, and psychologists MCHR sent out in teams to Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) centers.

As the Selma movement was heating up, Dr. June Finer arrived as a paid southern coordinator for the MCHR, setting up MCHR-funded offices. Primarily, Finer focused on emergency medical needs that arose during demonstrations, dispatching incoming medical teams from the North to places where they were most needed.

We were always on standby for demonstrations. We wore red cross symbols-a white armband with a little red cross to identify us. It was felt that our presence at demonstrations was of some importance although in fact there's not much you could do [for tear gas].

During the larger demonstrations, when people were jailed, Finer and her colleagues would:

go to the jail and demand to see them, thinking this might perhaps prevent them from being beaten up because a medical person had viewed them at some point. If subsequently they appeared to be damaged in any way, one could make a testimony about that.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Women in Civil Rights - June Finer." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/discover/infocus/civilrights/finer>.