Mary Shepard was born in New York City on November 18, 1918. Her father was a Wall Street attorney, and one of her grandfathers and several uncles were bishops in the Episcopal Church. She attended Vassar College before marrying Roger Shepard Jr. in 1939.
Mary Shepard identified herself as a lifelong crusader against racial, gender, and economic discrimination. Within her own Episcopal Church, she fought for the right of women to be ordained as ministers. In the 1960s she condemned the so-called “military-industrial complex” and protested what she viewed as America’s unjustified and illegitimate involvement in the Vietnam War. Indeed, Shepard joined many other anti-war protesters in a major demonstration at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and was tear-gassed by police during the mayhem.
Also during the Vietnam War era, Shepard became a board member of the antiwar group Clergy and Laity Concerned. Keywiki.org reports that this organization “was formed in 1965 by the National Council of Churches and … first became widely known in 1967 when it cosponsored a White House demonstration in conjunction with the Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, a coalition [that was] strongly influenced by Communists and [was] found by the House Committee on Internal Security in 1970 to have ‘operated from its inception with significant international Communist support’ through the World Peace Council.”
In 1980 Shepard and a group of approximately 50 fellow Americans visited with the radical Iranian students who were holding U.S. Embassy officials hostage in Tehran. During that 444-day hostage crisis, Shepard was highly critical of what she viewed as the U.S. mainstream media’s failure to emphasize that the crisis had been precipitated by America’s role in supporting the pro-Western regime of Shah Muhammad Pahlavi.
In the early 1980s as well, Shepard was an avid supporter of the newly formed Women Against Military Madness, an anti-war group from the Minneapolis, Minnesota area.
Increasingly frustrated by what she perceived to be the establishment media’s uncritical coverage of American foreign policy, Shepard in the late 1980s became an advocate for the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
In addition to her various activist pursuits, Shepard also served on the boards of Macalester College and the Episcopal Church Pension Fund.
During the Iraq War which began in 2003, Shepard once complained that “Communism, over the years, had been demonized, discredited, and used successfully by many of our leaders to justify all sorts of crimes carried out in our name.” But “the winners [of the War],” she pointed out, “are the members of the military-industrial complex: the oil companies, the weapons manufacturers, and ‘consultants’ who will advise Iraq’s leaders (handpicked by the Bush Administration) on how they can change from their dream of Socialism to a market economy like ours.” Giving voice to her hope that America might one day become a Communist nation, Shepard also stated: “We will have to create a new value system that rewards conservation and equitable sharing instead of rewarding the winners in the competition to exploit weak nations and the world’s resources.”
Shepard died of congestive heart failure on July 17, 2010 at a care center in St. Paul, Minnesota.