Women's Voices: An Oral History of DC Women copy

Funded by Humanities DC in 2019, “Women’s Voices: An Oral History of DC Women” compiles the stories of 29 women born around the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution who experienced and shaped live in DC over the last century.

In-person, oral interviews were collected from twenty-nine local women, ranging in age from 89 to 103. These narrators were a diverse group: seventeen are White, ten are Black, two are Asian, and two are Latinas. Seven out of the eight DC wards were represented with fifteen of the women still living in their own homes; 16 of the women live in retirement communities in the metropolitan area. The audio interviews, generally about an hour long, were transcribed by a professional service.

1916-08-03 00:00:00

Vivian Coard

Vivian Coard recounts the story of her birth over 100 years ago at 4 pounds and how her Cherokee grandmother kept her alive in the pocket of an apron. A graduate of Dunbar High School and Miner Teachers College, she worked for the Army in the Pentagon for 35 years. After hours, she sold real estate but her real passion was playing bridge.

1922-09-15 13:37:00

Eleanor Compton

Eleanor Compton grew up on a farm in North Carolina. She moved to Norfolk, VA and worked in blueprints at the naval shipyard just as World War II was beginning. After the war, she moved to DC and worked at the National Security Administration and later at the national headquarters of the Communication Workers of America. She joined the WNDC in 1980 and has been an active member for 40 years.

1923-05-18 16:53:34

Florence Isbell

Florence Robin Isbell had a long career in civil rights starting in New York City during World War II as the secretary to Roger Baldwin, founder of the ACLU. In the mid-1960s, she helped found an ACLU chapter in Georgia. Later she served as Executive Director of the ACLU affiliate in DC before returning to New York City to work for the national ACLU. She returned to DC to work for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Right Under Law before retiring in her mid 70s.

1923-08-09 17:35:17

Alice Davis

Alice Davis was born at Garfield Hospital in Washington DC and can trace her ancestry back five generations to the Civil War. A graduate of Dunbar High School and Miner Teachers College, she joined the Delta Sigma Theta sorority in 1940. She represented the national Deltas during the production of “Countdown to Kusini,” the first commercial film by African American women, and locally, helped to launch Delta Towers, an apartment building for seniors and the disabled.

1924-10-26 17:35:17

Verda Deutscher

Verda Deutscher and her husband Irwin, married for 70 years, retired to DC in 1980. In the 1940’s at graduate school, she began a lifetime of activism as a participant in sit-ins against racial discrimination in Columbia, Missouri. After serving in the Army in World War II, she had a long career as a social worker and activist for civil right causes. She prefers to refer to herself simply as a humanitarian. Retirement for this active senior meant volunteering at four organizations.

1924-11-02 03:16:12

Ellie Newman

Elaine Newman, a Chicagoan by birth, came to DC with her family in the early 1960s. Her career centered on labor issues, civil rights, and women’s empowerment. As Executive Director of the Maryland Commission for Women during the 1970s, she helped many women get trained and obtain gainful employment. She joined the WNDC (her husband, Winn, was the first male member) and was active arranging speakers for the Program Committee.

1924-11-19 02:29:18

Georgia Herron

Georgia Herron learned to love nature growing up on her father’s 200-acre farm near Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. After Dunbar High School and Miner Teachers College, she spent a long career as a beloved and renowned teacher of science in the DC public school system. Recognized as distinguished alumnae by the University of the District of Columbia, the university created the Georgia J. Herron Spirit Award in 2015.

1925-04-23 03:16:12

Marcelina Maynard

Marcelina Maynard left her native Dominican Republic in 1972 for greater opportunities in DC. Working long hours and multiple jobs, eventually she was able to bring all seven of her children to join her in Mount Pleasant. For 17 years she worked as a housekeeper for the Mayflower Hotel, earning many awards, including the Room Keeper of the Year in 1989 for her exceptional service to the traveling public.

1925-09-15 16:53:34

Betty Lichtenstein

Betty Lichtenstein is a native Washingtonian. Married in 1945 at the Sixth and I Synagogue, she and Harold Lichtenstein started married life in a small rundown apartment, part of the Army barracks near DC’s Bowling Field. She worked for several federal government agencies generally in the field of mental health and was a 40-year volunteer with Recovery International.

1925-11-04 00:00:00

Evelyn Idelson

Evelyn Idelson developed her policy and advocacy skills as a civil rights activist in California during the 1950s when she founded a coalition for minority groups. Settling in DC in 1960, she had a 30-year career at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as she said “organizing, coordinating, administering and communicating to achieve social program goals.” During her tenure she was responsible for the development of two manuals for employers on how to comply with EEOC laws.

1926-03-22 03:16:12

Rosemary Monagan

Rosemary Monagan, came to DC in 1975 as the mother of five and wife of a Congressman from Connecticut. She volunteered at the White House during the Clinton presidency and restored ancient pottery for the Smithsonian Institution for 36 years. After the 9/11 tragedy, as president of the WNDC, she helped to arrange a series of programs to educate members about the Islamic faith.

1926-06-26 13:37:00

Joan Thomas

Joan Thomas left Atlanta, GA and moved to DC to live with her sisters when she was a teenager. For 31 years she worked as a social worker for the Federal and District governments. Her passion was always service and political activism. Her many leadership roles include the first African American Gray Lady for the Red Cross; President of the local chapter of the American War Mothers; Commissioner for her Advisory Neighborhood Commission; and, captain of her voting prescient for 46 years.

1927-01-18 16:53:34

Ruth Lubic

Ruth Lubic spent part of the funds from her 1993 McArthur Fellowship to relocate from New York City to DC to open a birthing clinic and child development center in an abandoned Safeway store at the Hechinger Mall in Ward 5. At the time, DC had the highest infant mortality in the country. Dr. Lubic continues to promote freestanding birthing centers worldwide.

1927-03-25 13:37:00

Ellie Seagraves

Eleanor Seagraves recalls her days as a young child growing up in The People’s House, as her grandmother, Eleanor Roosevelt, called The White House. Ellie worked as a librarian in the DC public school system while she and her husband raised their three children in the Shepherd Park. For many years she was active at the WNDC, primarily as the Club librarian.

1927-03-27 03:16:12

Marie Teresa Otero

Maria-Teresa Otero was raised in La Paz by a Bolivian mother and an American father. She and her extended family of 22 came to DC when the World Bank hired her husband. When the last child started school, she taught Spanish for parochial schools and at a community center. Her long-time home in Chevy Chase, MD, remains a gathering place for her extended family and DC’s Bolivian community.

1927-05-21 12:45:47

Jewell Fenzi

Jewell Fenzi’s life work was with the Foreign Service. She authored Married to the Foreign Service in 1964 and wrote two cookbooks, while posted in Curacao and Brazil. She was the catalyst behind the Spouse Oral History project for the Associations of the American Foreign Service Worldwide and created the oral history program for the Educational Foundation at the WNDC. In 2000, she and Allida Black published Democratic Women, An Oral History of the Woman’s National Democratic Club.

1927-11-30 13:37:00

Alice Vetter

Alice Uda Vetter and her family were American citizens of Japanese ancestry living in Sacramento, CA in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Forced from their home, they were sent to live under armed guard and harsh conditions in an Arkansas internment camp. She settled in DC in 1968 and worked in housing and community development. In 1978 she became the Executive Director of a nonprofit housing developer for low and moderate households called MUSCLE.

1928-06-20 17:35:17

Alice Day

Alice Day has dual US/Australian citizenship, where she and her husband, Lincoln Day, spent a total of 23 years before retiring to DC in 1993. An educator, writer and demographer by training, she and her husband authored Too Many Americans in 1964. Both life-long environmental activists they partnered again in 2008 to produce the award-winning documentary, “Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War.”

1928-10-22 03:16:12

Kathy Schmidt

Kathy Schmidt was outraged at her loss of voting representation in Congress as a DC citizen when she and her husband Al retired and moved from Connecticut to Mount Pleasant. She took that outrage and channeled it into years of volunteering for the local chapter of the League of Women’s Voters and the new organization, DC Vote, ultimately receiving the latter’s Champion of Democracy Award in 2010.

1929-07-20 22:28:23

Lena Bradley

Lena Bradley, a North Carolina native, came to DC when she was 15. Ms. Bradley learned business skills at Howard University’s School of Business. Trained as a cosmetologist, she took advantage of a business opportunity and purchased an existing salon in DC. At first, she and her husband lived above the shop, but eventually she bought her dream home “all on one floor” where she currently resides. Amora Campbell, her great-niece, conducted the interview and used it to create A Quick Guide to Oral History training video for high school students.

1929-08-19 02:29:18

Shirley Henderson

Shirley Henderson came to DC from her home in Florida to attend Dunbar High School. In 1965 she returned with her family and served as a volunteer with numerous organizations, including as President of YWCA of the National Capital Area and of the Retired Senior Volunteer Corps. During her tenure as the President of the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1990 to 1992, she helped to establish the Educational Foundation.

1929-11-27 02:29:18

Tina Hobson

Tina Hobson arrived in DC at the start of the Kennedy Administration. Career advancement and leadership opportunities were becoming available to women and as stated in her interview “she was at the right place at the right time.” Her courtship and eventual marriage in1969 to civil rights activist Julius Hobson was surveilled by the FBI. Early on she saw climate change as a major environmental threat and after forced retirement during the Reagan administration she worked to advance solar energy.

1930-02-13 00:00:00

Janie Boyd

Janie Boyd came to DC from North Carolina in 1952. She has actively engaged with her community and advocate with city leaders to improve conditions. She recalls how she graphically proved to Mayor Walter Washington that a Safeway store in her African American neighborhood was selling rotten meat. She is a gleaner at area farms helping to provide healthy food to DC’s underserved and marginalized communities.

1930-07-29 03:16:12

Henrietta Price

Henrietta Price moved from Virginia to DC with her family when she was six years old. She fondly recalls the social scene during the 1950s and shopping for clothes at the Hecht Company. During her long career as a social worker with the DC Department of Human services, she placed many people in good paying entry-level positions. She was one of the original members of the Metropolitan Women’s Democratic Club in the early 1960s.

1930-09-16 03:16:12

Dorothy Marschak

Dorothy Marschak attended high school in DC and returned in 1984 as a consultant to the World Bank. Her passion has always been the arts, especially music. Founder of CHIME (Community Help in Music Education), she organized music education and instruction in DC public schools. She was the impetus behind the 2007 exhibit, “Banding Together, School Bands as Instruments of Opportunity” at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum.

1933-01-31 03:16:12

Mary Lee McIntrye

Mary Lee McIntyre grew up outside of Philadelphia during the Depression with strong southern roots. She first experienced DC for a semester as an undergraduate. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, she served in the Foreign Service, first as a spouse, then after her husband’s death in the 1983 embassy bombing in Beirut, on her own with US Agency for International Development.

1933-08-03 00:00:00

Virginia Ali

Virginia Ali came to DC in the early 1950s from Essex County, VA, and found work at the Industrial Bank. After marriage to Ben Ali, they opened Ben Chili’s Bowl on U Street. The restaurant survived the destruction to the neighborhood after the rioting in 1968 and later the disruption to the corridor by the Metro construction. Today Mrs. Ali, affectionately known as “Mom,” and the entire Ali family, run this DC landmark.

1935-01-01 14:15:21

Gathering Around the Radio: Fireside Chats

Eleanor Compton... “when your granddaddy -- great grandaddy, right? -- became president and he just had the people. He was wonderful, he could speak so well. He would sit back and fireside. And people that had radios, like we had a radio. The people that didn’t have radios, they would come and listen. Papa would turn the radio up loud and they would come and listen to the radios. And the same thing with the fighter, Joe Lewis . . .people would come that didn’t have radios and they would come (and listen). . . back in those days people were so kind and all. Holidays and any time anybody came to visit you, my mother always had food something out for you, you know what I mean?”

1937-08-02 04:51:15

Eva Freund

Eva Freund’s life was shaped by her childhood during the Depression. She never let anything or anyone put her down, not polio when she was 10 years old, or a DC university professor asking her to leave his class because she was a woman. She became an activist in the local chapter of the National Organization for Women and the nascent LGBT movement. She established her own business providing independent verification and validation services.

1938-09-01 13:37:00

Learning To Drive

Eleanor Compton: "At that time my father had no transportation other than the buggy. . . I think my father got a... Model-A or something, because I remember I was about five or six years old and I would ride in it sometimes with him. . . . he didn’t keep that too long, something happened to it . . . Anyway, my father didn’t get another car until I was about thirteen years old . . . he taught me how to drive and I remember we were still living in the country and we didn’t have refrigerators. We had, what’s it called, ice boxes or something?. . . You put a large piece of ice, like 40 pounds or 50 pounds, and that would take care of your food . . . And so I remember one day my mother asked my daddy, “You go get some ice,” you know? So he threw the keys to me-- And she said, “What! What! What are you throwing the--” and I was thirteen years old. And my daddy taught me how to drive when I was nine! . . . He really did! And so I went and got the ice-- and back in those days now, when I was twelve and thirteen years old, you didn’t have to have a license to drive a car. Not where I lived."

1939-06-09 00:00:00

Dunbar High School Graduate

Alice Davis... [I] “graduated from Dunbar High School two months before my 16th birthday, so I was actually 15 . . . when I looked in my high school yearbook it says I wanted to be a mathematics professor. But after going -- when I got to high school and went through math and saw what you could do with math, I decided that instead of being a mathematics professor I wanted to be a civil engineer because I was fascinated with building, with how you build bridges and how you did everything by applying the right formula. And at that time the Bay Bridge was being built. So there was a lot of publicity around there.”

1940-11-20 00:00:00

Jackie Bong-Wright

Jackie Bong-Wright fled Viet Nam with her children in 1975 after the assassination of her husband, Nguyen Van Bong. After hardships and struggles, she established a career in DC fighting against human trafficking and providing aid to the local Vietnamese immigrant community. She married a Foreign Service officer and after graduation from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, she began her own diplomatic career.

1945-03-01 13:10:03

Moving To The City

Lena Bradley... "Everything was paved. And no cornfields, and I didn’t see any cotton, tobacco, all that stuff and was in the country, but the city had none of that. The houses were close together. The people walked by you’re not speaking to you. At home, everybody would speak to you when they’d see you coming and go. But different, no nobody, uh-uh and so I had to get used to. Altogether, I wasn’t afraid. I wanted to. And my mother told me, she said, 'Well, always keep enough money to come home' and so when I first -- my first job the lady paid me $20 a week, and I began to... blacks couldn’t even get a bank -- they could not open a bank account and so we saved our money at the post office. The post office right there at - by the Union Station, I would go in there and deposit my money, and so... So I began to save my $20. After I got the babysitting job... I lived on the job where I worked. I had a live-in job and so I could save my money, and I saved my money. While I was living in, I went to night school... Night school, I went to Cardosa High School, and that was where I started taking typing, shorthand."

1945-11-17 07:52:00

Discovering Jewish Heritage

Dorothy Marschack... "I was brought up as a Christian and didn’t find out that both my parents had a Jewish background till the middle of World War II when it was traumatic because in those days, the junior and senior high -- well, particularly senior high school, Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington was so segregated. The Jews and gentiles did not associate with each other, to say nothing of darker people. And I had always been with the gentile crowd. And so, I never had any Jewish friends. And then, I discovered that I’m one of those people I had developed a prejudice against. And this has been very enlightening in the sense I know what it is to be what they call a self-hating Jew. ...Maybe that’s what made me an activist from a very early age, perhaps."

1947-08-15 00:00:00

Ravaged By Polio

Eva Freund... "The second traumatic event was in the ’40's, I guess. I was about 10 years old. And I woke up one day and I really wasn’t feeling well. So, they called - that’s back when doctors made house calls. And my father called the doctor. The doctor came and he said, 'Well, I think she has something like the flu.' Because I had no energy and I just ached. And he said, 'Give it another 24 hours and call me.' So, my father did. And I did not improve at all. My fever was climbing. The doctor said, 'Get her to the hospital.' So, they got me to the nearest hospital and I later found out - I remember that what seemed to be to be the middle of the night - I was hauled from my bed and taken to some big examining room where the doctor plunged this huge needle into my spine... when I got older, I figured this out - they were tapping the spine for spinal fluid so they could run lab tests. And what they discovered is I had polio, before the vaccines. And so, they immediately in the middle of the night bundled me onto a gurney and pulled me through the hospital, and loaded me onto an ambulance... and hauled me off to a different hospital where they had an isolation ward. And that’s where they put their polio patients because we were considered very contagious. It was really nice. The nurses were wonderful. The nurses were all kind of young, right out of nursing school. The care and attention I had was phenomenal. What my father told me was I was in a coma for the first three days. ...And when I came to, I was already hooked up to fluids. And I couldn’t eat or drink because I had lost all esophageal and gastric capability... I was in the hospital for about a month. And twice a day, the nurses came into the room with these wagons of hot packs, and would plop them on me, on my legs, on my arms, and do physical rehab to make sure that I didn’t lock up or that the muscles did not deteriorate in any way. . . when they determined that I could walk with assistance or at least with somebody along, they would walk me up and down the hallway. And that was traumatic for me, also, because then I could see each room was glass to the hallway. And I could see so many of the patients were little kids still in their cribs that might never be able to walk again. And that was just heartbreaking. And I thought, I am a lucky person. I can walk. I’m not walking well, but I can walk. And I certainly am not talking well. (Mt father) came every night after work. And one night he said, 'Can I get you anything?' And I said, 'I am starving. I want chocolate pudding.' It was my favorite food at the time. And, actually, still is one of my favorite foods. And he got this big smile on this face. He turned around to one of the nurses, because I was right near the nurse’s station. And I heard him say - and he could only talk to me on the phone - and I heard him say to the nurse, 'She’s getting better. She’s getting better. She wants chocolate pudding.' "

1952-01-01 00:00:00

Dining Out in DC

Virginia Ali... "I came to DC in about ’52. It was still pretty segregated. Some place were opening up -- but not officially, not the whole area. But when I first came, we didn’t go downtown to the movies. We didn’t go to the MacArthur or the Playhouse or the Theater. And we didn’t go very many places for dinner. I remember one of the places that we could go was the [National] airport... We could have dinner at the airport. Those are my dating years. And we could do that. But we didn’t go downtown to dinner. But we had quite a few nice restaurants, in our own community, Harrison’s Café. You remember that one? Yeah. Had the best Smithfield ham. ...And there were a couple of Chinese restaurants in the community, as well as our very own restaurants. There were quite a few of them that we were able to just have in our own community. So we weren’t really desperate for nice restaurants."

1963-08-28 00:00:00

The March on Washington

Virginia Ali... "Oh, yeah. We went down to the March. Yes. We went down to the March on Washington. That was just an electric time. And so many people were there. It was indescribable."

1968-04-04 21:54:04

Challenges for Businesses on U Street

Virginia Ali... "The neighborhood began to change, particularly after the riots, 1968, April 4th, when Dr. King was assassinated. Was a most devastating time for people. I mean, the business were ruined, burned out, looted, destroyed. And they never reopened. Many of them never reopened. Big businesses, like a Safeway, on 14th Street, like a Peoples Drug Store, Smith’s storage company, C&P Telephone, all of those big businesses didn’t come back to the neighborhood again. And some of the smaller, African American businesses, many of them could not afford to come back. And do you know how difficult it was to get insurance, in those days?... You didn’t get it! And if you did, you paid so much for it, you couldn’t afford it....It was very difficult. So that had a big impact on the community. It really did. And I remember Ben took a piece of chalk and wrote “Soul brother” on the window of our business. We were, of course, safe... We had been there 10 years by that time. And we had been well received by the community. Everybody knew that we were a community-based place. And we helped people if we could. And people were there to support us. So when it was all said and done and the businesses didn’t reopen and the middle class had moved away and... Before you know it, heroin moved in and crack cocaine moved in. And we took a downhill turn, that just turned us into a ghetto. The Washington Post’s favorite headline on Sunday morning’s paper was “The Murder Capital of the World” or “The 14th & U Drug Corridor.” Just horrible times. But then, when the city finally decided to do something... And that was to build a subway, the Green Line subway system, right across the street. The research showed that only three businesses had survived, in the immediate vicinity, Industrial Bank, Lee’s flower shop, and Ben’s, not enough to maintain one lane of traffic out there, for three little businesses. They simply dug up the entire street, 65 feet deep, to build their track and their subway. Chili Bowl had one employee, and me. Ben found something else to do. And it was a difficult time. And many times we evacuated the building because they’d hit a gas line or a water line. We also were open until the sun started to set. Then we went home. Because there were no streetlights, for a long period of time."

1968-04-12 02:28:58

After the Assassination of MLK, Jr.

Eva Freund...“So, if you went to E Street and 7th, there was not military there, or no military to speak of. If you went up Georgia Avenue, there was certainly – which is what 7th Street extended – there was certainly no military there. And that’s where most of t – that where the burning of buildings started and the break-ins started. All businesses were attached. And the black businesses owners were hanging signs or painting on their window “Black Owned Business.’ Sometimes that saved them and sometimes it did not. It depended on the kind of business. Mostly those windows were broken in by youngster – well, young people who wanted to steal. Because it is an opportunity to get a suit you couldn’t afford or a bicycle you couldn’t afford.

1971-05-03 16:56:26

May Day Protest

Florence Isbell... "But of course, one of the big things that got thrown in your lap were the anti-war protests, where thousands of people were arrested by police, and they all had a case of unlawful arrest... Yes, we would bless the police chief every day, first of all for arresting 15,000 people, which was just impossible for the police to handle, and every day they would make some sort of a statement and give us an opportunity to make a much better statement about freedom, democracy. They were talking about how many people were arrested. We were talking about the glories of God who gives us the right to vote, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So it was a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for anybody to get into the papers every day. And I had people working on statements to make almost every hour that were not related to anything but were rousing."

1973-04-04 00:00:00

Home Rule for the District

Joan Thomas: "The Home Rule (Act) was written in this house. I got a call one night from saying Marion [future Mayor Marion Barry] wanted to come to my house. He was up in the neighborhood. He met with the bankers up on Georgia Avenue, and they wanted to come down here to my house, and I told them, “Well, I haven’t cooked anything,” and he said, “Don’t worry about it. We will bring everything we need, just say we can come. Well, who can tell . . . the Mayor (that he) can’t come to your house? So I said, “All right, come on.” So they came, and they brought food and beer and sodas and everything. Marion came, and he said, “All y’all go to the basement.” I said, “You ain’t gonna come to my house and tell me to go to the basement.” I said, “You ain’t paying no rent here.” So -- because Marion, you could say anything you wanted to say to him, and he’d laugh at you. He said, “That’s all right, Joan,” he said, “You can stay, but you’ve got to be quiet and don’t say nothing.” I said, “Okay.” Anyway, he called his secretary up and dictated to her over my phone the Home Rule . . . he told her, “I want you in my office tomorrow morning at six o’clock.” He said, “I will be there, and I want you there, and I want a copy of this on everybody’s desk,” because they (the Congress) was gonna vote on something, and the Home Rule charter went in as a rider on whatever bill they were voting on. And that’s how we got Home Rule. . . . It started in this house."

1975-01-01 00:00:00

Consumer Advocate

Janie Boyd: "I met Mayor Walter Washington because I was the DC Consumer Association president, elected by the people of Washington D.C. And we had problems with a certain store with inferior food in the poor neighborhoods. And I went to this particular store, and the meat was green, it was so bad. And I bought that bad meat with my husband, and I put it in foil, and I put it in the freezer, and we had a meeting at the Washington Post Building, and the mayor, everybody was invited, but the mayor didn’t show, and he didn’t send a representative either. So, the very next day was a council hearing, and at that time, we decided, I said, let’s take this meat to the mayor, this bad meat. And my husband was fussing, because he said, get that meat out of my refrigerator. But anyway, we went to the council and the mayor wasn’t there either. And I asked for three minutes of the council’s time, and I was denied, said bring it next council meeting, and I said, “Your honor, I cannot wait until such time.” And my chauffeur, who was Lloyd [Leckel?] from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, he -- I said come on, he was carrying the bag of bad meat, and I’m stepping beside him, and I was talking to them and walking to the council, and I knew councilwoman Polly Shackleton, and I shook her hand, and she wanted to know what was going on. So of course, I start telling her, the press forgot about the council. They came to listen to what I was saying, and the other councilmembers came and they listened in, and they had to ask me to excuse the media so they could close the council. And so at that point, I said, well, we need to go right along down to the mayor’s office and give him this meat. I said, we need to put it all over that beautiful, nice shiny table; he had the prettiest mahogany table, a conference table. And of course, I spread that bloody, bad meat on that table. I thought the man was going to have me arrested; he didn’t know what to do. And so anyway, behind that deal, we became friends. He became my boss, I worked for him out of the same office later, and we’ve been friends until he passed. And he died at Howard University Hospital. And I was going in and out of his house, and we’ve been sure enough true friends. I don’t mean sunshine friends, I mean we sat for hours and discussed the past. When Dr. King was, whatever, assassinated, and on and on, and when issues took place, and my husband, I never will forget him, fussing constantly, “You always put yourself in danger, in harm’s way, looking out for someone else, and I’m tired of you doing this.” But, I had a job. The mayor hired me. (laughs) And I had a job, and I was there to keep peace, and we did pretty good at it."

1980-04-03 00:00:00

MUSCLE Fights Gentrification

Alice Vetter: "the person that was the associate rector at St. Margaret’s, prior to that he was a clergyman in Southwest, across the river. And at that time, the churches were getting pleas from some of the people living in apartments, saying that the developers are coming and asking them to move. So Parke said, “You know, you’re really well organized. Could you see if you can get some people together and see if we can partially solve that problem, so the poor African American families don’t have to move?”

1983-01-01 00:00:00

Finding a House in Washington

Jewell Fenzi: “I said ‘Guido, there are no houses for $60,000 in downtown Washington,’ ‘Oh you just didn’t look hard enough.’ ‘Guido, there are no houses for $60,000 in downtown Washington, and I am not going to go out and waste any more of my time and energy looking for what.”…”Well, I think we’ll be lucky if we find one for under a hundred, but I will look. ….So, I found a $100,000 house that I couldn’t wait to tell him about. It had a hole in the roof and a tree was growing out.”

1983-04-18 03:16:12

US Embassy Bombed in Beirut

Mary Lou McIntyre: "It was -- that particular day, we had a bit of hail. It was just sort of a freak storm, and I made it to the university where I was teaching, and I think I was finished. Yes, I had finished teaching. And I wanted to go to the Embassy to see what social thing my husband was likely to have agreed to, and I went upstairs to see if the mail had come. That was always a big event, and then as I wanted to go down and see him, I stopped, and I was using the ladies’ room. And then all hell broke loose. And people were screaming, and I was too. And I went out into the general area where the offices were, and I saw people lying on the floor. I knew my husband was downstairs -- that’s where they told me he was -- being interviewed by Newsweek -- a deep background interview by Newsweek. And I wanted to again check our social schedules to see what we had to do, and then I went down -- I walked down because we were on the fifth floor and I walked down to the fourth floor, and all the windows had been blown out, and the curtains were fluttering in the breeze. And then an ambulance came and took us to the hospital because we’d all been hit, and we were kind of bloody and messed up. And I was so grateful to the ambassador because I asked him, and I found out later that Bill had already been killed and I didn’t know it. I asked him, “Have you seen Bill?” And he said, “No, I haven’t.” And it was the truth. He hadn’t. He’d heard that he’d been killed, but he didn’t say, “Oh, by the way, I heard this latest rumor that...” And so then I went down the -- he helped me over this chasm because we were on the roof of some buildings, and I was helped across, you know, a four-floor drop and I landed where he was, and then a ladder was brought up. And I went down that and got in an ambulance, and went off to the hospital."

1990-01-01 00:00:00

Retiring to DC

Kathy Schmidt: "We loved this city, and we knew we didn’t want to stay in Connecticut for retirement. So as I said, we bought the house in ’79, and then in ’90 . . . we took early retirement and came down here because it had marvelous museums that were all free. It had good music. It had good libraries for him to continue research. So. [Our daughter] had come as soon as she graduated from Oberlin College. She came and lived in a group house also in Mount Pleasant on Irving Street. And we came down at that time to see her, and we thought, oh boy, this is a fun place. And so we bought a house, and 11 years later we came here.

1993-02-01 00:00:00

Volunteering in the Clinton White House

Kathy Scmidt... "I also worked for seven years, 11 months, and two weeks as a volunteer for the Clinton White House. Of course I wanted to take him into the dark closet and kick him in the shins for what he did, but I did, and that was a terrific experience too. ...I started out in the correspondence, and I found that some of the -- well, one was Mrs. Clifton Daniel had written a note to Clinton, and nobody had picked up who she really was. And I took it to the head of correspondence, and I said, 'I think this is the Truman daughter,' but she had signed it Mrs. Clifton Daniel. And he was - of course then they grabbed that letter and took it to Clinton, and he wrote a personal response. And the same thing happened when one of the Nobel physicists had written a note to Clinton. These were in the first year. It was just happenstance in both cases there were -- you’d get hundreds of letters where you just gave them a number, and that determined which form letter went out. But again, I recognized the name, and I took it to the head of the volunteers again. And the second time Clinton did this, he began to notice who I was, and so when he had an opening he made me the receptionist on Monday for all the volunteers... And at any rate, there was this emergency. They had to have somebody to answer the phone. So the head of the volunteers said to me, 'Will you go over there today instead of sitting here?' So here I was in the press office for the day answering the phone. I had a marvelous time. And then on 4th of July, we’d get assignments if we were willing to work at the fireworks. The year the Clintons had gone to China I was handing out Dove bars and, boy, that was an experience too... Al would go in with me so he could be there on the lawn when the fireworks started too. And I was handing out the Dove bars like a crazy woman, and he was sitting there keeping our blanket from being moved, I guess. And he saw Clinton’s dog come bounding over the south lawn. Well, the part where the public was allowed was a snow fence. You couldn’t go any further, but the dog, and Al though my gosh, if Bo’s out his master’s going to be somewhere. And sure enough here came Clinton, and nobody was around, so Al walked over the fence, and he had a nice few minutes alone with Clinton."

1995-01-01 00:00:00

DC Voting Rights

Kathy Scmidt... "I got really upset when I came to grips with not having a vote. You know, I knew it, but you know it and you don’t really know it until you live here. So yeah, that really upset me. In fact, Jamie Raskin’s talk on Capitol Hill at the invitation of Eleanor Holmes Norton is what got me in the DC [legislation].... it was mid-’90s, ’95 or ’96... It was a vote for Eleanor Holmes Norton in exchange for another vote for the state of Utah after the 2000 election. And it all came about in ’99. We had 62 senators who said yes, they’d vote for it, and then the NRA said ...whoever didn’t vote no was not getting any money from the NRA, and the senators just dropped off like flies in a fly trap. ... After it was turned down by the senate, those of us who had been really committed to Jamie Raskin’s argument... got Covington Burling to take on the case to argue before the Supreme Court pro bono."

1998-07-25 02:24:03

Making Music in DC Schools

Dorothy Marschak... "I was a docent for the National Symphony, which in those days meant I went around in D.C. to Title I elementary schools, third graders who were going to -- you know, all third graders get one trip to the National Symphony. And these were preparing these Title I third graders for their one time in their careers concert at the National Symphony, which are special youth concert, they’re not the regular concerts. And what I discovered there while I was there was two things. One was how responsive the kids were to music and I had some wonderful experiences with them. And the second was how little music there was in the school system... We incorporated CHIME [Community Help In Music Education] in May -- I got Deena and all these, that was 1997 and we were incorporated in May of 1998. And so, I don’t know, just many things started happening. I put programs in every D.C. branch library. I had series of programs called Music Around the World, a series of about five programs each. And I got this whole group of wonderful musicians who were volunteering to do things. And then, I had concerts at Politics and Prose and other bookstores. But then, I think in about 2000 or 2001-- you had to be in operation for a couple years before you could put programs in the DC schools. Anyway, I started then putting these programs in schools, the Music Around the World programs and -- but then, somehow, someone one day asked me, 'Well, do you accept instruments?' And that’s how we began the instrument collection program and I got something like 500 instruments that I donated to those DC schools with instrumental music programs."

2000-01-01 00:00:00

Fighting Sex trafficking

Jackie Bong-Wright... "So, at that time, in the year 2000, there was another big scandal. I saw on eBay photos of young teenage Vietnamese girls, for sale. Auctioned off. Starting with $4,005. And it was put up by a man, a Chinese man from Taiwan. He went to Vietnam, he’d lure all these girls, paid money, paid their parents, paid some middle group people to find them and wanted to bring them and brought them to Taiwan to sell them, to Chinese men or whoever wanted to buy them. And the parents received about $500 to $1000, while he got more than $5000, up to $10,000 for each girl. So, I was so upset. A group of my friends in Washington, D.C. and myself, we wrote to eBay, the president of eBay, and finally, eBay brought that site down... When I was fighting against human trafficking, I just wrote articles about victims of human trafficking for the only one newspaper here, Asian newspaper in the Washington area, the Asian Fortune News. And I was the Vietnamese writer for all the news in the community in this Washington area, and I found myself writing a lot about sex trafficking."

Women's Voices: An Oral History of DC Women copy

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