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Diane McCoy-Lee

Diane McCoy-Lee was born on February 3, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois to Charles and Dimples McCoy. After graduation from high school in 1966, she attended the University of Southern Illinois for a brief period. McCoy then married a service man that she had known and dated since they were freshmen in high school. She earned her B.A. degree in sociology in 1981 from Chicago State University’s University Without Walls program. In 1988, McCoy earned her M.A. degree from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

McCoy’s first observation of family violence was an incident she observed between her parents prior to their divorce. In 1978, McCoy’s life experience as a battered wife with children led her to work as a volunteer addressing the issues of battered women. She is a founding member of the Chicago Abused Women’s Coalition and served on its Board of Directors from 1978 to 1986. In 1982, McCoy developed and directed the first hospital based crisis intervention program for battered women at Jackson Park Hospital in Chicago. From 1989 through 1992, McCoy worked with the Council on Battered Women, in Atlanta, as the Client Service Manager and served as Acting Director of the agency for a brief period.

From 1990 until 1992, she served as Supervisor of Foster Care for Ada S. McKinney. From 1992 until the present, McCoy serves as curriculum writer for the Georgia Department of Human Resources – Department of Family and Child Services.

Married to Robert C. Lee since 1986, they are the parents of three adult children, one of whom is deceased, and six grandchildren. They reside in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Interview Date


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Holy Angels Catholic School

Doolittle Elementary School

Loretto Academy Catholic High School

Southern Illinois University

Chicago State University

University of Chicago

First Name


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Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination


Favorite Quote

Let Go And Let God.

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Interview Description
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Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Social activist Diane McCoy-Lee (1947 - ) served as client service manager with the Chicago Battered Women's Organization.


Jackson Park Hospital

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Diane McCoy-Lee's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Diane McCoy-Lee lists her favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls the accident that paralyzed her mother</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her mother's personality</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her maternal family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her relationship with her father</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her father's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her father's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Diane McCoy-Lee remembers growing up with a handicapped mother</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her mother's accident</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls growing up in Chicago's Ida B. Wells Homes</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Diane McCoy-Lee remembers the supportive community of Ida B. Wells Homes</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls her primary education at Holy Angels Catholic School</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls her early aspirations to better her community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her religious upbringing</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls her experiences at Loretto Academy in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Diane McCoy-Lee explains her motivations for going to college</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassination</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her experiences of racism during high school</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Diane McCoy-Lee talks about Vietnam and her first husband</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes the abuse she experienced during her first marriage</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls divorcing and remarrying her first husband</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls returning to Chicago and escaping her abusive husband again</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Diane McCoy-Lee recalls beginning to work with battered women while living a homeless shelter</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her work with Greenhouse Shelter and Chicago Abuse Women's Coaltion</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her career in social services for battered women</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Diane McCoy-Lee reflects upon her service to victims of domestic abuse</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her work at the Division of Family and Children Services in Atlanta</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Diane McCoy-Lee reflects upon her experiences with abuse</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Diane McCoy-Lee reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Diane McCoy-Lee talks about the importance of family and her second husband</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Diane McCoy-Lee describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Diane McCoy-Lee talks about her children and grandchildren</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Diane McCoy-Lee reflects upon the importance of history</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Diane McCoy-Lee reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Diane McCoy-Lee narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Diane McCoy-Lee narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>







Diane McCoy-Lee recalls beginning to work with battered women while living a homeless shelter
Diane McCoy-Lee describes her career in social services for battered women
Let's again fast forward to the homeless shelter with two children [Tamila Brown Taylor and Barry Brown II], and you're not wanting your children to believe that a relationship that they would have in the future should be like yours, please continue what you were telling us regarding that?$$Well, when I first got to the shelter, we were in a room with my two children. It was an old hotel, that's what it was and there a number of many fifty other people there some families, some single people. I was just at the depths of despair one night when I woke up in the middle of the night and the room was filled with moths and I started killing moths and I'm saying, "Oh my God I got my children here." I can't go to my job because he'll [McCoy-Lee's first husband, Barry Brown] find me there. They made me apply for public aid. I'd never been on public aid, never planned to be on public aid, I had a job and we had sizable income, we had savings, why? Then I was sitting outside that morning, I couldn't sleep, I went outside it was about five o'clock in the morning and the newspaper was delivered and I looked in the newspaper and my mother [Dimples Broadway Hester] had written an article to a columnist in a newspaper asking for me, what can I do, where can I get help and kind of described my situation. And I said well if my mother believes, I gotta keep going.$$Now you were in a homeless shelter but your situation was different from other homeless, jobless women there.$$Yeah, I had different issues. I was not homeless because I couldn't find a job or because I had a mental illness that made so I couldn't, you know establish myself in, in a place, I was homeless because I was in fear of my life. I was being abused. I couldn't live safely in any place because my husband was always there. And he found the shelter you know, a family member told him where the shelter was, where I was. So in a sense I wasn't even safe there. It was at that point, well I did try to have him committed and I think I mentioned to you. He broke out of the mental institution and then we went to court, the judge said he's paranoid schizophrenic but not recommended for commitment. And he left before I did. In, in, in court where I filed for divorce it was much the same thing, it took two years to get the divorce and they could not make him give me any of the savings. His attorney finally gave up and said, "I can't represent you anymore." But it was at that shelter that I saw more women coming in there who were battered women as well.$$And what did this inspire you to do?$$I started working with some people at the shelter who wanted to establish a program for battered women and used that to give me strength in working with other women. I started going with women to recover some of their belongings when they knew their husband was at work you know knowing that that was you know the only time they could get some of their belongings. I started working with women going with them to court and and working with them gave me strength and around that we organized a program for battered women and then went on to open a shelter.$$When was your divorce final?$$My divorce wasn't final, it took two years so it was about 1980, '81 [1981] before it was final.$And from a vocational perspective, you have worked with battered women for a living since your own experience?$$Yeah. Well, in Chicago [Illinois] I did keynote addresses for which I was paid. A stipend or honorarium or what have you for giving those speeches, just describing where I was and how I felt and what it took to get out of that situation for other women and for the women to understand more about this whole issue of family violence and what needed to be done. And I went from there when I came to Atlanta [Georgia] I got a job with a Chicago Abused Women's Coalition [Connections for Abused Women and their Children] in Chicago--Council on Battered Women here in Atlanta and I was a client services manager for the sixty-five bed shelter, which was the largest shelter in the State of Georgia I'm sure and I was their first client service manager. They had an old home that was donated and had enough money to add on to that home so they were able to accommodate sixty-five women and children.$$When did you come to Atlanta for that purpose?$$I came to Atlanta in '88 [1988] right after I got my master's degree.$$So throughout this time your experience from high school [Loretto Academy, Chicago, Illinois] throughout the marriage [to Barry Brown], throughout the battering period, you continued to work on your education?$$I did.$$And when did you finish your college degree and what did you major in?$$I got my bachelor's degree from Chicago State University [Chicago, Illinois] in social work. I actually went through the University Without Walls [program] getting college credits for the speeches that I was giving and the work that I did with battered women. I got my master's degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration [Chicago, Illinois] in, master's degree in social work in 1988. But prior to that, I started the first service for battered women in a hospital. I worked at Jackson Park Hospital [Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois] from 1981 to 1986 I believe it was. And that was the first hospital based program for battered women in the State of Illinois because at that time when a woman came into hospital and she said she had been beaten by her husband, there was no documentation in the medical records of what she went through and she was just treated and sent back home, whereas that was the opportune time to offer a woman services when she came into the emergency room. You know, in addition to treating you, we have a safe place for you to go if you want to go there. And even if you don't want to go to a shelter, I can refer you to support groups where you can get some information. And that was completely staffed by volunteers at the hospital and many staff at the hospital came to that program because they were experiencing violence. They were being abused. Yeah.