Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project. Interviews, 1981-1983: A Finding
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Â© 2006 President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: OH-40; T-114
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Title: Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project. Interviewees, 1981-1983
Abstract: Tapes and transcripts of oral histories and supporting documentation from the Women
in the Federal Government Oral History Project, an oral history project of the Schlesinger
Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project. Interviews, 1981-1983; item
description, dates. OH-40, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard
University, Cambridge, Mass.
- 1. Mary Anderson Bain, 1911- Washington, D.C. Director for the National Youth Administration
in the Midwest during the Roosevelt years, Mary Bain's career evolved with the New
Deal. During World War II, she worked for the War Manpower Commission in Illinois
and the Illinois Employment Service. After government service, she began her own
advertising and public relations business. Involvement in the presidential campaign
for Adlai Stevenson later prompted her to assist Congressman Sidney Yates, for whom
she currently works as administrative assistant.
- 2. Lucy Wilson Benson, 1927- Amherst, Massachusetts. In her career as a public servant,
Lucy Benson has been a member of numerous boards and commissions at local, state and
national levels. She was national president of the League of Women Voters from 1968
to 1974, and secretary of human services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in
1975. She was undersecretary of state for security assistance, science and technology
from 1977 to 1980, the highest position ever held by a woman in the Department of
State in the Carter administration.
- 3. Bernice Lotwin Bernstein, 1908-1996 New York, New York.
Bernice Bernstein began her long career as a lawyer in government service with the
National Recovery Administration in 1933. In 1934, she joined the legal staff of
the newly created Social Security Board, where she worked to develop state laws for
unemployment insurance. She became regional attorney for the Department of Health,
Education and Welfare in 1947, and director for Region II of the Department in 1966.
She has also been employed by various human service programs in the New York City
area. Since retirement, she has been a consultant to the New York Department of Aging.
She received a Federal Woman's Award in 1973.
- 4. Clara Mortensen Beyer, 1892- Washington, D.C.
Beginning as executive assistant with the War Labor Policies Board in 1917, Clara
Beyer was director of the Industrial Division of the Children's Bureau from 1931 to
1934. She also served as an associate director of the Bureau of Labor Standards from
1934 to 1957, and as acting director from 1957 to 1958. After retirement, Ms. Beyer
began a second career which spanned nearly twenty years, as advisor to the International
Cooperation Administration and the Agency for International Development.
- 5. Virginia S. Butler, 1926- Washington, D.C.
Beginning at the age of 16, with an entry-level job in the State Department in 1943,
Virginia Butler climbed the career ladder to become director of publication distribution
for the Department in 1971. Her professional affiliations include active membership
in the Business and Professional Women's Club and involvement in the advancement of
women and minorities in professional spheres.
- 6. Antonia Handler Chayes, 1929- Cambridge, Massachusetts.
As a lawyer, Antonia Chayes was a member of the White House staff from 1961 to 1962,
and assistant secretary and undersecretary for manpower, research affairs and installations
of the Air Force from 1977 to 1981. She is presently a partner in the firm of Csaplar
& Bok in Boston.
- 7. Lucile Atcherson Curtis, 1894- Columbus, Ohio.
As the first woman in the Foreign Service, Lucile Curtis served in the Division of
Latin American Affairs in the Department of State from 1922 to 1925, and in the American
legation in Berne and Panama City from 1925 to 1927.
- 8. Bernice Deutrich, 1919- Aptos, California.
Beginning as a junior stenographer in the Internal Revenue Service in 1940, Bernice
Deurich served in several departments and advanced to become budget analyst in the
Bureau of Aeronautics in the Department of the Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration
before retirement in 1979. A member of various social and professional organizations,
Ms. Deutrich received the Secretary's Award for Meritorious Achievement from the Department
of Transportation in 1975.
- 9. Mabel E. Deutrich, 1915- Aptos, California.
Entering government service in 1942 as a clerk in the Mail and Record Division in
the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Mabel Deutrich began working in the National
Archives and Records Service in 1950 as an archivist. She retired in 1979 as the
assistant archivist for the United States, the highest ranking woman in the National
Archives. She has demonstrated an active interest in the status of women, particularly
in the archival profession.
- 10. Catherine S. East, 1916- Arlington, Virginia.
Entering government service as a clerk with the Civil Service Commission in 1939,
Catherine East rose through the ranks to become chief of the Career Service Division
for the Bureau of Recruiting and Examining. In 1964 she transferred to the Labor
Department as executive secretary of the Inter-Departmental Commission on the Status
of Women and the Citizens' Advisory Council on the Status of Women. From 1975 to
1977, she worked with the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's
- 11. Mary Harrover Ferguson, 1912- Haymarket, Virginia.
Mary Ferguson began her career at grade 1 in the Farm Credit Administration in 1933.
By 1944, she had entered the field of financial management, and rose in the Department
of the Navy to become budget analyst and comptroller, until her retirement as grade
17 from the Office of Naval Research.
- 12. Daisy Bresley Fields, 1915- Silver Spring, Maryland.
Daisy Fields entered government service as a personnel officer for the U.S. Air Force
in 1942. Other positions have included assistant director of personnel at the Smithsonian
Institution from 1954 to 1960, chief of special programs at the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration from 1960 to 1967, and special assistant in Federal Women's
Programs at the Veterans' Administration from 1967 to 1970. She was executive director
of Federally Employed Women from 1975 to 1977, and in 1978 became president of Fields
- 13. Kathryn G. Heath, 1910- Washington, D.C.
From 1943 to 1949, Kathryn Heath was chief of employee relations and training in the
Office of the Quartermaster General in Frankfurt, Germany. She later served as senior
staff officer for international relations in the Office of the Secretary in the Department
of Health, Education and Welfare. From 1956 to 1975, she was an assistant for special
studies in the Office of Education. Her affiliations include the Business and Professional
Women's Club and the National Organization of Women (NOW).
- 14. Grace Murray Hopper, 1906- Washington, D.C.
A mathematician and educator, who entered the Naval Reserve in 1943 and retired in
1966, Grace Hopper was recalled to active duty in 1967. Since 1977, she has been
assigned to active duty with the Naval Commission. Inventor of the COBOL language,
she is a leader in the computer field and serves as a captain in the Naval Data Automation
Command in the Department of the Navy.
- 15. Mildred McAfee Horton, 1900- Randolph, New Hampshire.
An educator and president of Wellesley College from 1936 to 1949, Mildred Horton served
as director of the Women's Reserve of the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1942 to 1946. She
was the first woman to receive a naval commission and retired as captain in 1946.
She was a member of the committee on the White House Conference on Education in 1955,
and a United States delegate to UNESCO's 12th General Conference in 1962. A self-described
professional volunteer for over twenty-five years, Ms. Horton has served on numerous
commissions and committees which reflect her special interests in education and social
- 16. Charlotte Moton Hubbard, 1911- Chevy Chase, Maryland
A health and physical education instructor at Hampton Institute in 1941, Charlotte
Hubbard later worked for the Office of Community War Services as national recreation
representative for service personnel. In 1945 she became a national community relations
advisor for the Girl Scouts of America, and in 1950, director of field relations in
the commercial dietetics department at Tuskegee Institute. After a two-year involvement
with the Political Action Committee of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations),
she became director of community services at WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C. Appointed
Foreign Service reserve officer in charge of community meetings for the Bureau of
Public Affairs in the Department of State in 1963, Ms. Hubbard became deputy assistant
secretary of state for public affairs in 1964.
- 18. Mary Dublin Keyserling, 1910- Washington, D.C.
An economist, Mary Keyserling has alternated periods of government service with work
in the private sector. Beginning in the Foreign Economics Administration, she became
director of the International Economic Analysis Division in the Department of Commerce
from 1950 to 1953. She and her husband founded the Conference on Economic Progress,
while she served on the President's Commission on the Status of Women. Appointed
director of the Women's Bureau in 1964, she concurrently served on the Interdepartmental
Committee on the Status of Women for civil rights legislation. After leaving the
Women's Bureau in 1969, Ms. Keyserling continued her work as a consulting economist.
- 19. Florence K. Kirlin, 1903- Washington, D.C.
A special assistant to the assistant secretary for congressional relations in the
State Department from 1945 to 1946, Florence Kirlin became a special assistant to
the undersecretary of state in 1946. As a congressional relations specialist, she
was responsible for seeing the entire legislative procedure through Congress. In
the 1960s she acted as liaison between the State Department and the newly formed Peace
Corps. She worked as the United Nations advisor to the Bureau of Economic Affairs
until her retirement in 1965.
- 20. Carol C. Laise, 1917- Washington, D.C.
Beginning her government career with the U.S. Civil Service Commission in 1940, Carol
Laise served as international relations officer with the State Department in Indian
and South Asian affairs from 1948 to 1956, and as Ambassador to Nepal from 1966 to
1973. She was also liaison to several United Nations commissions during this time.
In 1975, she became the first woman director general of the Foreign Service. She
was the recipient of a Federal Woman's Award in 1965.
- 21. Esther Christian Lawton, 1910- Washington, D.C.
An expert on position classification and salary administration in the Treasury Department,
Esther Lawton began as a grade 2 clerk in the Public Relations Office in 1936. She
retired at a grade 16 in 1980, after serving as a deputy director and acting director
of personnel. Her forty-two year government service career ran concurrently with
a teaching position at The George Washington University. Ms. Lawton became coordinator
for the Decade of Women in 1970 and has participated in various groups concerned with
discrimination in the workplace and equal pay for women. Since retirement, she has
established her own management consulting firm. She was recipient of a Federal Woman's
Award in 1969.
- 22. Virginia Wood McLaughlin, 1915- Alderson, West Virginia.
A stenographer and secretary at the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, West
Virginia, from 1939 to 1955, Virginia McLaughlin became a correctional officer in
1955, and warden in 1969. Retiring as warden in 1976, she maintains her concern for
the welfare of the institutionalized, and is active in community affairs.
- 23. Eleanor L. Makel, 1914- Washington, D.C.
A physician and medical officer at St. Elizabeth's Hospital from 1953 to 1962, Eleanor
Makel was accreditation officer of medicine and surgery from 1962 to 1970, and became
physician chief of staff and administration in 1970. She is also assistant clinical
professor of medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine. Cited
by the Department of Labor in 1962 as one of the highest ranking Black woman in government,
she was one of the 1963 recipients of the Federal Woman's Award.
- 24. Mildred Kester Marcy, 1913- Washington, D.C.
A senior advisor for educational and cultural affairs in the International Communications
Agency (formerly USIS), Mildred Marcy drafted the Percy Amendment on women in development
under the U.S. foreign aid programs. She also served as the U.S. coordinator of International
Women's Year in Mexico City. She has been active on the local and national levels
of the League of Women Voters.
- 25. Elizabeth Stoffregen May, 1907- Harvard, Massachusetts.
An economist and educator, Elizabeth May was principal fiscal analyst for the U.S.
Bureau of the Budget from 1941 to 1947. After a year as a consultant to the American
Mission Aid to Greece, she served as dean of Wheaton College from 1949 to 1964, and
as acting president in 1961 and 1962. She was the first woman member of the Board
of the Export-Import Bank from 1964 to 1969, and traveled through the Pacific Orient
in this capacity.
- 26. Ida Craven Merriam, 1904- Washington, D.C.
Economist Ida Merriam joined the Social Security Administration in 1936, and was assistant
director and director of the Division of Research and Statistics from 1956 to 1965,
and assistant commissioner for research and statistics from 1965 to 1972. She became
special assistant to the commissioner in 1972. Ms. Merriam's expertise in the field
of social security research led to her participation in many international conferences.
A recipient of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's Distinguished Service
Award, she also received a 1966 Federal Woman's Award.
- 27. Helen A. Miller, 1919- Alexandria, Virginia.
Beginning her government career in the Legislative Reference Service in 1949, Helen
Miller became chief of the Education Section in the Education and Public Welfare Division
of the Congressional Research staff of the Library of Congress in 1967. During this
time, she headed research for Senate and House Committees on education. Upon retirement
from federal service, she was paid tribute in the Congressional Record.
- 28. Alice Angus Morrison, 1903- Alexandria, Virginia
A lawyer, Alice Morrison became a field agent for the Women's Bureau of the Department
of Labor in 1932. She served as an industrial economist from 1940 to 1951, and was
chief of the Division of Legislation and Standards from 1950 to 1966. She worked
on a variety of New Deal legislation as well as the minimum wage and equal pay for
women in the 1960s. Since 1952 she has been a member and advisor of the U.S. delegations
to the United Nations Status of Women Commission.
- 29. Katherine Brownell Oettinger, 1903- Carmel, California.
A social worker, mental health consultant, and educator, Katherine Oettinger was dean
of the School of Social Work at Boston University from 1954 to 1957. She became chief
of the Children's Bureau from 1956 to 1968, and then served as deputy assistant secretary
for population and family planning in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare
from 1968 to 1970. She was the first vice-chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee
on Children and Youth (ICCY), and was a delegate to other national and international
conferences on children and youth.
- 30. Mary S. Olmsted, 1919- Washington, D.C.
Beginning her government service career as a research assistant in the National Bureau
of Economic Research in 1943, Mary Olmsted joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1945,
and served in Canada, Europe, and India as a vice-consul, secretary, and economic
officer. She was the first woman appointed deputy director of personnel for management
and services in the Department of State, and in 1966 became senior economic officer
for India, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Department of State.
- 31. Mina S. Rees, 1902- New York, New York.
Mina Rees worked as a mathematician during World War II, and served as head of the
Mathematics Branch of the Office of Naval Research from 1946 to 1949, and deputy science
director from 1952 through 1953. In 1953, she became dean of the faculty at Hunter
College. When the City University of New York was established, she organized the
Graduate School and University Center, and has served successively as instructor,
professor, dean, and provost. She is currently president emeritus of the Graduate
Division. She has served on numerous government advisory panels and commissions throughout
- 32. Madge Skelly 1903- Cleveland, Ohio.
A member of the Iroquois Onondaga Tribe, Madge Skelly has been a professional actress
and is the author of more than twenty full-length plays. In 1962 she earned a Ph.D.
degree in speech pathology, and became chief in the Audiology and Speech Pathology
Service at the Veterans' Administration Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Her unique
contribution to the field is the modernization of Indian hand sign for the mute.
She was a recipient of the Federal Woman's Award in 1974.
- 33. Lucile F. Stickel, 1915-, Franklin, North Carolina. A wildlife research biologist
with the Department of the Interior, Lucile Stickel's primary identification is with
the pioneering field of pesticide research. She became a biologist with Patuxent
Wildlife Research Center at Laurel, Maryland, in 1956, and was director from 1972
until her retirement in 1982. She received a Federal Woman's Award in 1968. INTERVIEW
- 34. Margaret Joy Tibbetts, 1919- Bethel, Maine.
A Foreign Service officer with the Department of State beginning in 1945, Margaret
Tibbetts served in Europe and Africa as attache, secretary, and consul, and as ambassador
to Norway from 1965 to 1969. She became deputy assistant secretary of state for European
affairs in 1969, retiring in 1971. She received a Federal Woman's Award in 1970.
- 36. Wilma L. Victor, 1919- Idabel, Oklahoma.
Beginning with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1941, Wilma Victor was academic supervisor
of the Intermountain Indian School from 1940 to 1960, and 1964 to 1970, and principal
of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe from 1961 to 1964. The recipient
of a Federal Woman's Award in 1967, she became advisor to the secretary on Indian
affairs in 1971. A member of the Choctaw Indian Tribe, she is involved in local Indian
affairs and various professional organizations.
- 37. Caroline F. Ware, 1899- Vienna, Virginia.
An historian, social scientist, educator, and author, Caroline Ware is an expert in
consumer affairs. She is associated with a variety of New Deal legislation, including
the Consumers Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration from 1934 to
1935, the National Defense Advisory Commission from 1940 to 1941, and the Office of
Price Administration from 1941 to 1942. She chaired the Consumer Advisory Committee
of the Council for Economic Advisors from 1947 to 1952. Dr. Ware has been active
on numerous boards and panels for consumers throughout her career.
- 38. Bennetta B. Washington, 1918- Washington, D.C.
Bennetta Washington began her career as an educator in the Baltimore public school
system in 1941, and transferred to the Washington, D.C., public school system as a
teacher, counselor, and principal from 1946 to 1964. She became director of the Women's
Centers, of the Job Corps, Washington, D.C., in 1964, and headed the Cardozo Project
in Urban Teaching. She has been honored for her dedication and achievement in many
areas, including service to the YWCA.
- 39. Aryness Joy Wickens, 1901- Vienna, Virginia.
A labor economic analyst and statistician, Aryness Wickens began her career as a research
assistant for the Federal Reserve Board in 1924, and continued to work in various
New Deal programs through the 1930s. She worked for the secretary of labor, as a
deputy assistant from 1956 to 1959, and then as an economic advisor from 1959 to 1962.
She has served as a special assistant to the assistant secretary for manpower since
1967. Ms. Wickens received the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of
Labor in 1955, and a Federal Woman's Award in 1961.
- 40. Ellen Black Winston, 1903-1984 Raleigh, North Carolina.
A social welfare policy consultant, Ellen Winston served as North Carolina's commissioner
of public welfare from 1944 to 1962. In 1962, she joined the Social Security Administration
as the U.S. commissioner of welfare, implementing the 1962 social service amendments
and facilitating the administration of Medicaid in 1965. She returned to develop
state-level social welfare policy, and later went to Washington again to serve on
the National Council for Homemaker-Home Health Aides Services from 1970 to 1974.
She was a chairperson of the North Carolina committees for the 1961, 1971, 1981 White
House Conferences on Aging, and a member of the President's Citizens Advisory Council
on the Status of Women in 1967.