I Have Taken Stands
During World War II, there were a lot of black servicemen who were at the U.S. Naval Hospital where we worked every week. And they’d play music and there were no black girls with whom they would dance. So I would dance with the boys that didn’t have anybody to dance with and so would some of the other women who were with me. And so at the next meeting of the Gray Ladies the head stood up and said, “We do not wish you to dance with the fellows, with the servicemen.” I stood up. I said, “Are you going to have young black girls to dance with the servicemen? No! Well, then we will continue to dance with them. I object strenuously to your using these boys to fight our battle with us and for us but not have girls for them to dance with.” And the head of the Gray Ladies said, “We are not going to permit that.” I said, “Well, then I am resigning as a Gray Lady.” A few others did but not many. I have taken stands on organizations like that.
A native Seattleite born in 1916, Bernice Stern was a Gray Lady during World War II. This excerpt from her oral history describes the stand she took against racial descrimination within that organization.