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Carolyn Stieff interview, 2021-11-13

Identifier: dcpl_dcohc032_01.mp3

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

D.C. Oral History Collaborative (DCOHC) is a citywide initiative to train community members in oral history skills, fund new and ongoing oral history projects, connect volunteers with oral history projects, and publicize existing oral history collections. DCOHC is a project of DC Public Library, HumanitiesDC, and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. This collection contains oral history interviews, transcripts, and indexes produced by DCOHC grantees.


  • Creation: 2021-11-13


Language of Materials


Biographical / Historical

Carolyn Stieff was born into a still segregated town in Richmond County, Virginia. At 6 years old her family decided to move to Washington, D.C., where she grew up on Park Road in the Park View neighborhood. She was one of the first women to drive a bus in Washington, D.C., and was active in the Amalgamated Transit Union local 689 from the day that she began work at Metro. She would participate in both the 1974 and 1978 Wildcat strikes and continued to work for workers' rights as part of her role in the union until she retired in 2010.


From the Collection: 1.13 Terabytes


Please note this interview was recorded over a telephone call. Carolyn Stieff reflects on her time as an active member of the WMATA union Amalgamated Transit Union 689. Thrust into the labor movement in 1974 while still in her first months on the job, she participated in the 1974 wildcat strike. After that experience Carolyn soon got involved in the union. She speaks about what it was like to be one of the first female bus drivers in DC, a role that brought her both harassment and praise from the riding public. Sexual harassment looms large in the lead up to the 1978 strike. A one-day walkout takes place in response to the rape of one of the female drivers sets the tone for the six-day wildcat strike which follows. Carolyn describes the raucous meetings leading up to the 1978 strike and what it felt like to be on the picket line. She then reflects on why she believes the union was able to stay strong throughout the 1980s and 1990s, even as other unions around the country were experiencing significant hardship. The legacy of the 1978 strike, she believes, helped to carry the union throughout these two decades.

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

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