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Helen McDowell

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Information about Helen McDowell

Profile image of Helen McDowell

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Lodging Entrepreneur
High School English Teacher

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Bread
Favorite Time of Year:
Birthday
Favorite Vacation Spot:
California
Favorite Quote:
If a task is once begun, never leave it till it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.

Birthplace

Born:
9/28/1903
Birth Location:
Abingdon, Virginia

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Lodging Entrepreneur
High School English Teacher

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Bread
Favorite Time of Year:
Birthday
Favorite Vacation Spot:
California
Favorite Quote:
If a task is once begun, never leave it till it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.

Birthplace

Born:
9/28/1903
Birth Location:
Abingdon
See how Helen McDowell is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Born on September 28, 1903, in Abingdon, Virginia, Helen Newberry McDowell was the fourth of fourteen children. Her mother, Caroline, was orphaned in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised by her uncle Frank Donahue in Abingdon, where her mother met her father, Samuel.

McDowell attended Morristown Industrial School, where her mother taught, and went on to Bennett College. Graduating in 1924, she attended Teacher's College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. McDowell then attended Howard University from 1928 to 1931, earning her M.A. in education.

McDowell began teaching in 1925, and after earning her M.A. went on to teach at Morgan State University in Baltimore. In the 1940s, McDowell bought six houses in Washington, D.C., and converted them into rooming houses for students. These buildings became known as the Newberry House and from 1949 to 1973, was the home to hundreds of students from Howard University's School of Religion. McDowell also ran a wedding salon out of Newberry House. McDowell began teaching at Phelps Vocational High School in Washington, D.C., in 1950, and taught English there until her retirement in 1973. She then moved to California with her husband but relocated to Washington D.C. in 1993. McDowell continues to teach






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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Helen McDowell's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell talks about her mother's family, childhood, education, and early career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell describes her mother's thwarted career plans and methods of teaching her children
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell talks about her father and his family's heritage
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell recalls her cousins moving away in 1912 and a happy visit to see them in Los Angeles, California in 1934
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Helen McDowell recounts her father's work as a cook for the Southern Railroad and later for a family in Abingdon, Virginia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Helen McDowell describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Helen McDowell recalls childhood memories, including a word game that she later used when teaching
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell remembers her early education at King's Mountain School in Abingdon, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell explains how she was able to attend school despite financial hardships
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell recalls her college education and her first years teaching at a Rosenwald school in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1924
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell details her time completing her teacher training at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell recalls meeting her husband Newberry at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Helen McDowell recalls meeting her husband Newberry at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Helen McDowell recounts her marriage to her husband and their work at an elementary school in Liberty, North Carolina
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell talks about her husband's family in North Carolina
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell recalls happy memories of attending Bennett College and living with her in-laws in North Carolina during 1927
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell explains how she was able to continue at Howard University while raising her siblings after her mother's death in 1931
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell remembers her mentors at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell reflects on her religious beliefs and raising her siblings
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Helen McDowell explains how she began operating rooming houses, including the Newberry House
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell recalls Dr. Thomas Wright, a Civil Rights leader who stayed at Newberry House
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell remembers Howard Thurman and his story about Haley's Comet
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell describes how Dr. Benjamin Mays inspired her
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell recalls how Dr. William Leo Hansberry conducted a slide-show lecture at Newberry House
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell mentions Dr. Ernest Everett Just and Dr. E. Franklin Frazier and explains why she does not join organizations
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Helen McDowell talks about the influence of Mary McLeod Bethune and George Washington Carver
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Helen McDowell recalls the highlight of her educational career at Phelps Trade School in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Helen McDowell talks about providing guidance and support for her students
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell describes helping a former student and his family succeed
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell explains her teaching philosophy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell attributes her longevity to a disciplined and religious life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Helen McDowell talks about how she would like to be remembered