1920s

A photographic portrait of Lucy Diggs Slowe

Howard University's First Dean of Women Had to Fight to Keep Her Brookland Home

Returning to campus for the new school year in 1937, Howard University’s students received grim news: one of their deans, Lucy Diggs Slowe, was “reputed critically ill with pleurisy. Her condition was such on Tuesday that relatives were called to her bedside.” After 15 years at the university, Slowe was a staple to the campus and its students – many of the women enrolled at the college saw her has a mentor and advocate for their education at Howard. 

What the headline didn’t mention was what some believed was the cause of her declining health. There were rumblings that it was the efforts of key Howard University staff that had caused her illness, and they wouldn’t stop until Slowe left the school for good. 

Who was Lucy Diggs Slowe, and what led to such harsh conflict between her and the university?

View of the Phillips Collection building in DC

America's First Modern Art Museum

The country’s first modern art museum was established 100 years ago in a Dupont Circle townhouse. And since the Phillips Collection celebrated its centenary last year, it’s a great time to remind Washingtonians that their city has a rich art history—largely exemplified by the story of this museum.

When the Willard Hotel served as the White House

The Presidential Flag flew outside the Willard Hotel when President Calvin Coolidge stayed there in 1923.

For the first weeks of his presidency, Calvin Coolidge conducted business from a different iconic D.C. residence — the Willard Hotel. The Coolidges lived at the hotel while he was Vice President and they waited to move to the White House until Warren Harding’s family had time to move out after he died in office.

Statuary and Dignitaries

Joan of Arc statue (Source: Charlotte Muth)

If you take a stroll through Meridian Hill Park in Columbia Heights, you will find two noteworthy statues: on the lower level, a standing figure of the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri; on the upper terrace, an equestrian statue of the French saint, Jeanne d’Arc, or, Joan of Arc, anglicized. Interestingly enough, these two artworks were unveiled at the park within one month of each other—Dante on Dec. 2, 1921, and Jeanne following on Jan. 6, 1922. Walking past these serene bronze monuments, few would guess their pivotal role a century-old saga when rumored remarks in Washington led to riots in Europe.

Members of the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia protest outside the White House in 1924

The Voteless Voters of Washington, D.C.

As we celebrate the Nineteenth Amendment’s centennial year, those of us in D.C. should also remember the women whose victory wasn’t assured in 1920. Our local story really isn’t about the large demonstrations down the Mall, or the women who protested outside the White House—the suffragettes of Washington were the Voteless Voters, who continued to fight long after the Amendment was ratified.

Mystic Nobles in the District

Shriners Parade, Washington, D.C. Nile, Seattle, Wash., 5/6/23 i.e., 6/5/23. District of Columbia United States Washington D.C. Washington D.C, 1923. [June 5] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016826905/.

In June of 1923, Washington, D.C. prepared for thousands of men to descend upon the city for the 49th  annual session of the Imperial Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. In other words, the Shriners were coming to town. Over the course of June 5, 6, and 7, the city would become a sea of fezzes as thousands of Shriners took part in a number of different events throughout the city, including a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, a massive concert at American League Park, and even an open invitation to overtake the White House by the President himself.

When the Klan Descended on Washington

Klan members outside the U.S. Capitol in August 1925. (Source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

“Phantom-like hosts of the Ku Klux Klan spread their white robe over the most historic thoroughfare yesterday in one of the greatest demonstrations the city has ever seen.” So read The Washington Post on the morning of August 9th , 1925. On the previous afternoon, the nation’s capital bore witness to the largest Klan march in the city’s history as tens of thousands of robed Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Washington monument, most of them feeling no need to wear a mask.

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