Women's Voices: An Oral History of DC Women

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 life 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.

1922-01-31 17:02:48

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Vivian Coard: "Well Washington was kind of funny about segregation, you know? It wasn’t segregated like the real South. Because never to sit on the back of the streetcars, we sat anywhere on the streetcars. And we went into any store, any restaurant, anywhere, yeah, until President Wilson came in. And he was the one who started segregation again. …And this was the Wilson administration. Yeah, because even when we were at the segregation, period of segregation, and to tell you the truth, when we lived on C Street, I remember, I was old enough to remember that. Of course, the block was integrated, more whites than coloreds, because we were very few then. And it was, the family across the street from us, she had three kids, and there were four of us. And when they wanted to go away, attend some party or something at night, they would bring their kids over to us, and they would stay with us until they go back. And my mother and father did the same thing when they went out to some party or whatever, they would get us, we’d stay at their house like that…..Before that blacks & whites helped each other."

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, nurse, midwife and anthropologist, is a renowned leader in child and maternal health. She 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. She and her family of five moved to Crestwood in 1964. Hired as the first librarian at DC’s Sharpe Health School, she also had a career as an historian and editor. She joined the WNDC in 1986 and for many years was the Club’s 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 US 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 South 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 returned to DC in 1984 as a consultant to the World Bank after a long academic career and advanced degrees in economics and statistics. Founder of CHIME (Community Help in Music Education) she was recognized by the city for organizing 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. Community Museum.

1933-01-31 03:16:12

Mary Lee McIntyre

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 US 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.”

1939-10-16 18:59:40

English Monarchs Visit

Betty Lichtenstein: "...when I was living in southwest. There were many parades on Pennsylvania Avenue in those days, and my uncles always used to go because they used to sell baskets for people to stand on and sit on at the parade, and I’d go with them, and one parade it was the King and Queen of England and Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, and I saw them. And that’s why I knew Elizabeth was always about my age. She’s about a year younger."

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 US Foreign Service officer and after graduation from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, she began her own diplomatic career.

1942-04-25 15:06:05

Moved to a Japanese Internment Camp

Alice Vetter: "Well, as you know, we declared war on Japan. And several days later... I can’t... It’s been too long ago. I can’t remember. But the military came to us, at our home outside of Sacramento, and told us that we had probably - it was like five days - to get our affairs in order, that we would be, quote, evacuated from our homes and sent to, at that point, an unknown destination. We first were -- so it was myself, my father, my uncle, my sister Mary, and my brother Ben -- were all taken to Santa Anita, where we spent our first night in a horse stall, which hadn’t been cleaned, by the way.

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 Marschak... "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."

1962-10-01 05:25:04

Visiting Russia

Rosemary Monagan: "Communism was an interesting experiment there in Russia. And John and I, he was on the Foreign Affairs Committee and we went to Russia three times during the ’60s, which was fascinating, ’62 no one was going to Moscow in ’62. I had taken slides and I came back and the people of the District were fascinated to see the slides. I showed them I think 35 or 36 times at luncheon meetings of the Kiwanis Club or the Women’s Organizations or whatever. But everyone was fascinated to know what life was really like in Moscow. And then we went again in ’64 and at that time Khrushchev had been replaced… And then again in ’69 and you could see the city opening up. And I remember one time in ’69 we were on our way to an Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in New Delhi. And the Russian Parliament invited us to stop in Russia on the way, so we did. And they had an official meeting of the people who were in the Foreign Affairs part of the Russian government."

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."

1967-04-06 23:52:36

Expanding Roles for Women In the Federal Government

Tina Hobson: "I was the first director of the Federal Women’s Program, which was Executive Order 11375 by President Johnson, outlawed or banned discrimination based on sex in the federal government and with federal contractors. Huge job. I have no idea why I was chosen because I didn’t have the knowledge of dealing with all the other agencies in the Federal government all over the United States and the world, for that matter, because we had federal program coordinators in every agency that we contacted. And it’s very interesting because when I was hired -- and Evelyn Harrison, who was one of the United States Civil Service Commission -- one of the three Commissioners at the Civil Service Commission, she had met me through the National Institute of Public Affairs. And so, she helped me to get the job. And I think there were two reasons I was hired: one, I had graduated from Stanford. And the other one, that I had lots of experience in speaking… So, we did the first book on federal data, on women in the federal government. But, as I mentioned to you before, the interesting thing about this was the drumbeat supporting the women’s movement. You could hear it. The door was opened, we were given the -- women in the federal government were just waiting to have something like this that they could use."

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 DC. 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."

1975-09-01 22:30:25

Residents without Representation

Rosemary Monagan: "We live in Washington now and did since 1975 in the city where we have no representation in Congress. And it used to be that people would say -- we’d be talking about an issue and they’d say, 'Well you have to write to your congressman,' and I’d say, 'I don’t have to write to mine. He comes home for dinner.' But I said, 'But now living in D.C. you don’t have any representation. You can write to them but they can’t do anything.” And I said, “It’s really a pity.' That’s one of the things that needs doing and it’s one of the things that of course the Women’s National Democratic Club is fighting for all the time."

1976-01-20 08:34:09

Creating the Department of Energy

Tina Hobson: "And then, Carter came in. And when Carter came in, he decided to have a Department of Energy. Now, remember, there was a lot of environmental discussions going on at this time because of the damage that coal and gasoline and oil and so forth can do but also the costs and the lack -- remember, we thought we were going to have to ration it for a while under -- but Carter started the Department of Energy….. And so, I was asked if I wanted to be the director of consumer affairs at this new department. Again, it’s because the door opened and they were looking for women. And we just happened to be there…. And I worked on those yellow labels, identifying energy efficiency on home appliances and I was working with a lot of engineers. And we did the first energy labeling on appliances and that was fascinating."

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?”

Women's Voices: An Oral History of DC Women

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