July 29: Rosalie Vaden Oakes (2008)

Following her death, Rosalie Oakes’ hometown newspaper, The Winchester Star, hailed her as a “Quiet champion for civil rights.” Born in the spring of 1917 and raised to be a “proper young lady” in an Irish family of five daughters, Rosalie Vaden Oakes was remembered by friends and family in Winchester, Virginia where she grew up, as quiet, modest and somewhat shy. It would seem she would be an unlikely candidate to change the world. After graduation from the University of Richmond, Oakes pursued a remarkable career with the Young Women’s Christian Association. She spent 15 years in South Africa teaching leadership skills to black women living under apartheid. She faced off with the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina after the group tried to shut down a YWCA camp where blacks and whites lived and swam together.

At colleges in the South in the late 1950’s and 60’s, Rosalie served as the behind-the-scenes driving force as sit-ins and protests began to unravel the Jim Crow laws that for nearly a century had kept blacks and whites separated in schools, movie theaters, restaurants, and other aspects of public life. Oakes’ family members described her as “an absolutely amazing woman, but she never brought attention to herself.” Rosalie Oakes and her sister Ann found a spiritual home at Epiphany in the twilight years of their lives. Rosalie served on Epiphany’s vestry and was involved with several outreach programs of the church. Following her death in 2008 at age 91, a memorial service was held at Epiphany. There is no doubt that her religious convictions were the motivating force throughout her life and career.

< Previous     Next >

No comments yet

Add comment