Women's History

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?

The Show Must Go On: Shirley Horn at the Howard Theatre

Exterior of the Howard Theatre at night

By the late 1950s, Shirley Horn had performed all up and down the U Street corridor a countless number of times, but her show at the Howard Theatre one October night in 1958 was particularly memorable for her. The jazz pianist and singer happened to be in the ninth month of her pregnancy at the time and was expecting the baby to be due any day.

Dr. Loguen-Fraser in Puerto Plata. (Source: Wikipedia).

Dr. Loguen-Fraser's Solemn Vow

To close off Women's History Month, learn about Sarah Marinda Loguen Fraser, the first woman to receive an M.D. from the Syracuse University College of Medicine, and the fourth Black woman to become a licensed physician in the United States. While her extraordinary life took her all around the world, including New York, the Dominican Republic and France, some of the most important landmarks of her life happened in Washington, D.C.

Portrait of Margaret Bayard Smith

Margaret Bayard Smith: A Writer of Washington

Anyone who reads The First Forty Years of Washington Society will form an image of Margaret Bayard Smith as a lively social butterfly and busybody. After all, her published letters seem like the nineteenth-century equivalent of a gossip column. What readers may not realize is that, just like her husband, Margaret was an accomplished writer. In nineteenth-century Washington, she was well-known as an author in her own right, not just a socialite.

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.

Portrait of John Quincy Adams ca. 1818

Anne Royall and the President's Clothes

When the stresses of life in Washington became too much, John Quincy Adams calmed his nerves by taking early-morning swims in the Potomac River. In a move that might be considered questionable by today’s standards, he especially liked to soak in the brisk, cold water wearing nothing but his own skin. According to local lore, it once got him into a bit of trouble: Anne Royall, a trailblazing journalist, caught him in a very awkward situation. But is there any truth in the tale?

Daguerrotype of Dolley Madison in 1848, seated at a table

Dolley Madison, the Queen of Washington

Today she is widely remembered for her heroism during the War of 1812, when she saved a portrait of George Washington from being taken and burned by British invaders. But during her lifetime, Dolley Madison was best known as a prominent socialite, hostess, and politician in her own right — one of the country’s first celebrity personalities. 

The Filipino Women’s Club of Washington D.C.

Filipino Woman's Club, Washington, D.C.

When the U.S. entered WWII in late 1941, women all over Washington stepped up to fulfill wartime needs; and Filipino women were certainly no exception. The Filipino Women's Club of Washington, formed in 1943, played a crucial role in the war effort and inspired community when the city most needed it. 

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