A native Seattleite born in 1916, Bernice Stern was the youngest National Council of Jewish Women officer elected at the national level, and first woman elected to the King County Council. She attended the University of Washington from 1932–1935, leaving to marry Edward Stern. Mother to two young boys, Bernice began volunteering at home, working on behalf of the blind, and on John F. Kennedy’s Women’s Conference on Civil Rights in 1961, and served on the Washington State Women’s Civil Rights Committee in 1963. She was named Outstanding Public Official in 1979 by the Municipal League of King County. Bernice Stern died on June 29, 2007.
Bernice discusses her pride in being a Seattle native, her parents' backgrounds, and her childhood memories. She talks about her involvement with the Reform Temple de Hirsch, her experiences during a trip to Europe, and her growing awareness of the needs of the Jewish community. Bernice reflects on the changes in Seattle's neighborhoods and the presence of Jewish families in different areas. The interview also touches on her experiences at the University of Washington, her dating life, marriage, and her involvement with the National Council of Jewish Women. Stern discusses her work in creating Braille reading materials, her political views, and her commitment to social justice. She shares her experiences as a Gray Lady with the Red Cross and her objection to racial discrimination. Stern also mentions her involvement with Planned Parenthood, her work with Canadian American relations, and her efforts in combating censorship in the public library. Bernice shares her reflections on her political involvement and her accomplishments as a councilwoman. Stern discusses her role in preserving farmlands, advocating for civil rights and integration, and her disappointment with busing initiatives. She also reflects on the challenges she faced as a woman in politics, her views on the Women's Liberation Movement, and her personal life as a grandmother and great-grandmother. The interview ends with her concerns about Seattle's current challenges, particularly transportation and leadership issues.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Bernice Stern. Interviewed by Pamela Brown Lavitt . 22 June 2001, 31 July 2001. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/stern-bernice>.
Oral History of Bernice Stern by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.