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Alyce Faye Wattleton

Alyce Faye Wattleton was born on July 8, 1943, in St. Louis, Missouri; her mother was a traveling preacher and her father was a construction worker. While her mother traveled, Wattleton spent each school year in the care of church members in different states; before entering high school, she had not attended the same school two years in a row. In 1959, at the age of sixteen, Wattleton earned her high school diploma from Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca, Texas, where she was active in the band, the thespian club, and the basketball team.

Wattleton received her B.S. degree in nursing from Ohio State University in 1964 and went on to earn her M.S. degree in midwifery and maternal and infant health from Columbia University in 1967. Wattleton began her nursing career as an instructor at Miami-Dade Hospital in Ohio, teaching nursing obstetrics and labor and delivery; in 1970 she was named executive director of the Dayton-Miami Valley chapter of Planned Parenthood.

In 1978, Wattleton became the youngest individual at the time, and the first African American woman, to serve as president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). During Wattleton’s fourteen-year tenure, PPFA became one of the nation’s largest charitable organizations. Under Wattleton’s leadership, the organization secured federal funding for birth control and prenatal programs, fought against efforts to restrict legal abortions, and legalized the sale of RU-486 (a French-made birth control pill which terminates pregnancies) in the United States.

After her resignation from the PPFA in 1992, Wattleton hosted a Chicago-based television talk show. In 1995, Wattleton became president of the Center for the Advancement of Women, an independent, nonpartisan non-profit research and education institution dedicated to advocating for the advancement of women.

Wattleton has received numerous awards and honors, including the American Humanist Award; the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Humanitarian Award; the American Nurses Association’s Women's Honor in Public Service; the Jefferson Award for the Greatest Public Service performed by a Private Citizen; the Fries Prize, for service to improving public health; and the PPFA’s Margaret Sanger Award. Throughout her career, Wattleton has been awarded fourteen honorary degrees. In 1993 Wattleton was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 1996, published her memoir Life on the Line.

Accession Number

A2005.037

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/4/2005

Last Name

Wattleton

Maker Category
Middle Name

Faye

Organizations
Schools

Calhoun High School

The Ohio State University

Columbia University

Washington Elementary School

Tougaloo College Preparatory School

First Name

Alyce

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

WAT05

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Winston and Strawn LLC

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Thailand

Favorite Quote

Can You Believe That?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/8/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Nonprofit chief executive and chief executive officer Alyce Faye Wattleton (1943 - ) was the first African American woman to serve as president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Wattleton also serves as president of the Center for the Advancement of Women.

Employment

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Center for the Advancement of Women

Nationwide Children's Hospital

Miami Valley Hospital

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Alyce Faye Wattleton's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Alyce Faye Wattleton lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her mother's personality and ministry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alyce Faye Wattleton recalls moving often during her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers her grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her maternal grandparents' family backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Alyce Faye Wattleton recalls holidays in her childhood home in St. Louis

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers her childhood neighborhood in St. Louis

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers Washington Montessori Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes moving among church members' homes in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alyce Faye Wattleton recalls moving to Columbus, Nebraska with her parents

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers moving to Franklin, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alyce Faye Wattleton recalls her influences as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers Tougaloo Preparatory School and Calhoun High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Alyce Faye Wattleton recounts her decision to attend The Ohio State University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers her social life at The Ohio State University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Alyce Faye Wattleton recalls her decision to attend Columbia University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her family's civil rights' activities

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers working at the Miami Valley Hospital

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers her abortion

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alyce Faye Wattleton remembers working at Harlem Hospital and the Dayton Public Health Department

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes the Dayton affiliate of Planned Parenthood

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her mother's opposition to her career

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Alyce Faye Wattleton recalls Planned Parenthoods' challenges in the late 1970s and early 1980s

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Alyce Faye Wattleton recounts the impact of U.S. Supreme Court cases on Planned Parenthood

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes issues surrounding minority women's access to abortions

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her decision to leave Planned Parenthood

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alyce Faye Wattleton reflects upon her life

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$1

DAStory

6$8

DATitle
Alyce Faye Wattleton describes the Dayton affiliate of Planned Parenthood
Alyce Faye Wattleton describes her earliest childhood memory
Transcript
And when did you become the director of, of the Dayton [Ohio] chapter [Planned Parenthood of Miami Valley Foundation, Dayton, Ohio] (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) About, well I became the executive director of the Dayton affiliate of Planned Parenthood [Planned Parenthood Federation of America] in 1970, but that was after I had been on the board of directors for about a year and a half. And the executive director left and they asked if I'd be willing to join as executive director and, and I said, sure. I, I actually wasn't that straightforward. I was on the search committee to find a new executive director for the affiliate and one of the members; well actually, the chairman of the search committee turned to me one day and said, "Well, why don't you take the job?" And it was like one of those situations where it never occurred to you. I mean, you know, why don't you become president of the United States? Would you ever think that you would be? And, and I didn't think about it and I thought well, you know, I, could I do that job? I mean, you know, that's, that's really something. And they, they coaxed and they said we'll support you and so I took the plunge and so at twenty-seven I became the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Dayton, Ohio, which was Planned Parenthood of Miami Valley, which was located in Dayton, Ohio, which was a six-county organization. I served in that position for seven years. And, and the fifth year that I was the executive director, by that time the affiliate had grown tremendously. And by the fifth year that I was in that position I was elected to represent all Planned Parenthood executive directors on the national board. I became the chairman of the local, of, of the local affiliated executive directors' council. And that's sort of a funny story because by that time I had gotten married and I'd, I had become pregnant and while I was being elected to the national board in Seattle [Washington], I was in Dayton having my daughter. So that was in October, on October 20th 1975, I was elected to the board of the, national board of Planned Parenthood and I gave birth to, to Felicia Gordon, my daughter, who is now twenty-nine.$$And what was it like for you in 1973 as the executive director of the Miami Valley Chapter of Planned Parenthood when Roe v. Wade [1973] came down?$$Well, it was, it was you know, it was, I was a very young executive director and it was a really big challenge for me to take on this responsibility and I, I, I, I, I entered an organization that was especially hostile to me. The staff were not, did not welcome me with open arms because they thought I was too young and too inexperienced to do the job that, that needed to be done. And I think there was probably a person there who wanted the job, but was not selected. So it was really trying to learn so much, it was learning about government grants because the federal government had just entered the field of family planning and was making huge amounts of money available under Title X and under the Office of Economic Opportunity, making family planning funds widely available to Planned Parenthoods and anti-poverty organizations. So learning the whole federal system and learning how to implement services for expanding. When I took over the affiliate we had tiny, tiny offices over, on the second floor over a real estate office; moving the, the affiliate out to bigger quarters and adding services really was a, was a big challenge and so I can't say that I was really as conscious of what, what, what was going on around Roe v. Wade. I knew that there was the clergy consultation service in Dayton that helped women to go to, to Puerto Rico and Mexico to get abortions. These were ministers that counseled women to help them to get to locations with safe abortions. But we as an affiliate were not at all involved in abortions. And I can't say that I had a great deal of consciousness about the movement for the reform of abortions. But when '73 [1973] came down and, and the decision came down in '73 [1973] there was believe it or not, and I, you know these days with abortion being characterized as widely available and anyone can have abortions right up to the moment of birth, we were very deeply concerned that the court [U.S. Supreme Court] had handed down a decision that was going to continue to be very restrictive on the ability of women to terminate their pregnancy. We considered it a very conservative position that left the decision mainly in the hands of physicians and we knew that physicians have always been conservative, as a matter-of-fact it was the AMA [American Medical Association] that was the driving force behind the illegality of abortion. So we, we had no hope that this was really a reformation for women in being able to make the choice to end an unintended pregnancy.$Tell me what is your earliest memory of growing up? What's one of the earliest things you remember?$$Well my earliest memory is riding my tricycle up and down the street and break-, carrying a milk bottle. I loved cold milk and I remember that in those years the milk man delivered milk every day or several times a week and put it in a small box that was presumably insulated to keep it cold until it could be transferred to the icebox, because there were still icebox, iceboxes in the early '40s [1940s]. So I remember once grabbing the milk bottle and dropping it and cutting my, my arm, a scar that is still with me to this day, but also that was another time in which my parents [Ozie Garrett Wattleton and George Wattleton] were, and my aunts were just completely out, at their wits end with me. But I, but, but my, I had transportation. My tricycle was my transportation. And so I had freedom. I took freedom early on and I took off and my imagination was-, I was only limited by imagine, by my imagination as to where I would go. I mean it was always in the neighborhood [in St. Louis, Missouri]. But I was not--I never saw my world as limited to my yard. And their challenge was to somehow to always keep an eye on me for safety's sake, because even in the '40s [1940s] it was not a safe proposition for a two or three or four year old to run around the neighborhood without supervision. And I was also very creative in listening to adult conversation around me. And so I had--I remember with great enjoyment that I would often mimic the conversations that I heard among the, the women in my--who came to visit my mother [Ozie Garrett Wattleton] and her sisters and my aunts. And I would--they would sometimes hear me having conversations with myself playing the different parts of the different women. I loved having pocketbooks. And that's, that's a quality that has, has been with me through my adulthood. I would, I would very often carry around an old pocketbook and go throughout the house picking up items and, and stuffing them in my purse as I called it. So if my mother missed something she would go first to my purse to find out if it was there because very often, if it was something that was pretty nice I had already spotted it and put it in my cache.