Though it may strike some of today's readers as extraordinarily lavish praise, The Post's editorial in 1949 -- when Marion Wade Doyle resigned after more than 20 years of remarkable service on the D.C. School Board -- was meant to be just that. "No single person knows Washington better than she," it said, "and none has done more valiant work to build a better city." Mrs. Doyle, who died here Tuesday at the age of 90, knew firsthand the many worlds of Washington -- from the well-heeled white establishment to the strictly segregated blacks of the city and the other urban underclasses that depended on understanding and generosity to survive. And out of this deep love of people in general and young people in particular came a tireless devotion to the betterment of public education and the importance of brotherhood.
Mrs. Doyle's service on the school board -- including 15 years as its president -- may have been the most visible and lasting of her many contributions to life in this city. But her commitment to civil liberties and rights came earlier, in her home town of Cambridge, Mass. It was there, this Radcliffe College graduate would recall in an interview, that she marched in a suffrage parade, passing up a chance to attend the 1915 Harvard-Brown football game with a young Harvard instructor named Henry Grattan Doyle. "Principle prevailed," she said, "but I am a woman of determination. . . . I chased that young man until I caught him, and he was my husband for 47 years."
In Washington, where the Doyles moved in 1917, she became active in the League of Women Voters, eventually serving as president of the local chapter and as a national officer. On the school board, Mrs. Doyle fought for better teacher salaries and stood up annually before Congress to argue for more school money in the D.C. budget for classrooms and supplies needed desperately by a growing school population. And she made no bones about her strong opposition to the racial segregation that divided the schools then and well afterward, until the Brown decision.
Another courageous battle was Mrs. Doyle's vigorous opposition in 1935 to a "Red rider" clause in the school appropriations bill that required teachers to sign a statement each payday declaring that they had not taught or advocated communism. It was repealed two years later.
To those who know a different Washington today, maybe much of this seems as routine as it is right. But for a woman to speak out as she did when she did took exceptional courage and a true sense of justice. And that which is different and better about Washington today is living tribute to Marion Doyle's presence among us.