A woman who spent 61 years in an iron lung yet graduated from college and wrote a book about her life has died at her North Carolina home.

A close friend said Tuesday that Martha Mason died early Monday in Lattimore. She was 71.

Mary Dalton, an associate communications professor at Wake Forest University, produced a documentary about Mason's life in 2006.

Dalton said polio left Mason paralyzed from the neck down in 1948, yet she graduated first in her class from Wake Forest in 1960. She studied English and was well-versed in politics and literature, but it wasn't until 1994 that a voice-recognition computer allowed her to write about her life. Her book, "Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung," was published in 2003.