It’s made of polyurethane — a thin, strong plastic. It has a rigid ring on each end. It is an effective method of birth control and STD prevention. It’s the female condom, which was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1993 due in no small part to lobbying by Mary Ann Leeper, Mary Baldwin University’s Smyth Business Lecturer on campus November 8.
The global development and introduction of the female condom may be Leeper’s most recognizable claim to fame, but the entrepreneur has long been on the leading edge of female health and responsiveness initiatives. She has launched several companies, and has extensive experience in gaining regulatory approval of drugs and medical devices in the United States and abroad. Leeper is senior strategic advisor for The Female Health Company, working to educate people about and distribute female condoms worldwide — particularly in developing nations with high pregnancy and HIV/AIDS rates. She is co-founder of the Business Woman’s Initiative against HIV/AIDS with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (and Mary Baldwin’s Smyth Leadership Lecturer in 2005). In addition, Leeper serves as chair of The Female Health Foundation, which she founded in 1994.
“[Leeper has] taken the concept and vision of female condoms, and women’s empowerment in reproductive health, and carefully blown life into the actual product itself and the concept of female-initiated protection,” said Jeff Spieler, chief of research, technology and utilization for the Bureau for Global Health at USAID, who presented her with a Pioneer Award in October 2005.
Leeper earned her BA from Drexel University, an MS from Temple University, a master of business management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry from Temple.
The Smyth Business Lecture Series and the annual Smyth Leadership Lecture are made possible by the Smyth Foundation, an organization established by Mary Baldwin University former trustee H. Gordon Smyth and his wife, Mary Beth Smyth, Mary Baldwin Class of 1947.
Leeper will speak at 5 p.m. November 8 in Room 107 in Mary Baldwin University’s William Wayt King Building, New Street, Staunton. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (540) 887-7009.