Dr Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray

Dr Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray

Birth
Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
Death 1 Jul 1985 (aged 74)
Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Memorial ID 42874322 · View Source
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Pauli Murray (Anna Pauline Murray) was born on November 20th, 1910 in Baltimore, Maryland to middle-class parents of mixed racial stock. Her parents were Agnes Fitzgerald, a nurse and William Henry Murray a teacher and high school principle, he was a graduate of Howard University. Pauli's mother died of a cerebral hemorrhage when Pauli was 3-1/2 years old. Unable to care for 6 children, her father sent Pauli to live with her Aunt, Pauline Fitzgerald Dame, a school teacher, who later legally adopted her and her Maternal grandparents, Cornelia Smith and Robert G. Fitzgerald. Her father suffered from the long-term effects of typhoid fever and eventually was confined to Crownsville State Hospital where he died in 1923. Anna's five brothers and sisters were raised by relatives in Baltimore. Pauli Murray was the granddaughter of a slave and the great granddaughter of a slave owner. She identified with her grandfather, whose faith in education and role as a freedom fighter during the Civil War inspired her own civil rights activities.
Murray's devotion to Civil Rights began as a struggle to overcoming segregation. After graduating from college in 1933, Murray worked for the National Urban League, the Works Progress Administration, and the Workers Defense League. Immersed in an interracial, interfaith community that formed the Civil Rights movement of the 1930s, Murray could envision the possibilities of interracial solidarity. Jailed while returning home to North Carolina from New York for refusing to sit on the broken seats on the back of the bus.
Pauli decided that she should pursue graduate study. Her growing interest in race relations led to her decision to apply to the Sociology Department at the all-white University of North Carolina. After being refused entry because of her race, Pauli contacted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for legal counsel, but the organization refused to take her case because of a technicality. She entered Howard University Law School in the fall of 1941.Pauli's students activities with the Howard chapter of the NAACP, especially the student's non-violent, direct action sit-in campaigns to desegregate downtown Washington lunch counters. Upon graduating from Howard, she attempted to enroll to Harvard Law School for graduate study. Again her efforts were thwarted by discrimination: Harvard did not admit women. This experience awakened her feminist consciousness.
She went to the University of California instead. After graduating from the University of California, Murray spent a year working for the district attorney's office in Los Angeles and her vision of the civil rights struggle expanded again when she learned of the oppression of Asian Americans. Murray spent the rest of the 1950s working on various aspects of the Civil Rights movement when not writing a family memoir, Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family (1956), in which she discussed the lives of her slave grandparents.
Pauli returned to New York to open her own law office, where she remained until she was hired as associate attorney in the law offices of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison in 1956. She worked there until she accepted a position teaching law in Ghana in 1960. A little over a year after her arrival in Africa, Pauli arrived in New Haven, Conn., to pursue graduate studies at Yale Law School. In the mid 1960s, Pauli served on the Committee on Civil and Political Rights, a study committee of the President's Commission on the Status of Women, earned a J.D.S. from Yale Law School, was a founding member of the National Organization for Women, and served as a vice-president and professor of political science at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. In 1968 she secured a teaching position at Brandeis University (Waltham, Mass.), where she remained until the death of her close friend of 17 years, Renee Barlow, in 1973. She described Renee Barlow as her silent partner, spiritual mate, and the closest person in her life. They are buried under the same headstone
Pauli an Episcopalian, was deeply affected by the fact that, not being a priest, she had not been able to administer the last rites to her devout friend, and felt compelled to devote the remainder of her life to the church. In 1976 she received a Master of Divinity degree from General Theological Seminary in New York City. Her ordination in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on January 8, 1977, was the first ordination of an African American woman as an Episcopal priest. Before her retirement in 1984, she served first as priest at the retirement in 1984, she served first as a priest at the Church of the Atonement in Washington, D.C. and later at the Church of the Holy Nativity in Baltimore.
Pauli "the ultimate outsider in everything" — not white, not black; born in Maryland, but a Yankee by inclination; and a woman who thought that God had intended her to be a man. (Riding the rails as a hobo during the Great Depression, Murray masqueraded as a boy — a cross-dressing ruse she continued to cultivate in later life.)
Pauli focuses on her gender and sexual conflicts, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s. Murray's private papers indicate that she struggled during this period to stave off the threat that her romantic attractions to women--along with her "masculine" self-presentation--posed to her respectable life as an African American leader.
During the early 1930s, as a college student in New York City, she lived an adventurous life, aspiring to be a poet, learning about radical politics, sometimes passing as a young man, and engaging in intimate relationships with other women. Though Pauli was married briefly in the 1930's, her most important and lasting relationships were with women. By 1937, however, the Pauli Murray who had celebrated her "boyishness" and same-sex desire sought the help of medical science in establishing an alternative view of her sexuality. In the context of backlashes of the 1920s and '30s against unmarried women, working-class African American migrants, and lesbian and gay subcultures, Pauli rejected a homosexual identity as incompatible with her aspirations toward respectability. Lamenting that homosexuals did not have "normal ways" of expressing love and were not "protected" by society, she drew on popularized medical discourses on hermaphroditism, fighting for a way to situate herself as non-deviant and properly heterosexual. Murray was always very particular about the kind of normalcy she desired. She refused heterosexual femininity as well as a homosexual identity, preferring to view herself as a latent heterosexual male.

Pauli died of pancreatic cancer on July 1, 1985 in the house she owned with a lifelong friend, Maida Springer Kemp, in Pittsburgh, Pa. She had written her autobiography, Song in a Weary Throat (published posthumously in 1987).


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  • Created by: Carol Ballew/Harris
  • Added: 8 Oct 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 42874322
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray (20 Nov 1910–1 Jul 1985), Find A Grave Memorial no. 42874322, citing Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA ; Maintained by Carol Ballew/Harris (contributor 47108695) .