Hilda Mason

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Hilda Mason

Template:TOCnestleft Hilda Mason (1916-2007) was a veteran Washington DC activist.

Early life

Hilda Howland M. Mason was born June 14, 1916, in a log cabin that her father had built near Altavista, Va. She was initially named Hilda May Minnis, but the family added the name Howland to honor a wealthy New England suffragist, Isabel Howland, who helped establish schools to educate black girls in the South[1].


She attended Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg and St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville before moving to Washington in 1945 and received her undergraduate degree from Miner in 1952. She received a master's degree in education at D.C. Teachers College in 1957 and did further graduate work at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh and at Catholic University.

She was a teacher, counselor and administrator in the D.C. public school system for 19 years, until she was elected to the Board of Education from Ward 4[2].


Hilda Mason met her husband through the radical All Souls Unitarian Church[3];

Throughout those decades, Mason's constant companion, unofficial assistant and political alter ego was her husband. He was a Boston-born, Harvard-educated white man who came to Washington to work as a government engineer and went on to earn a law degree at Howard University. She was an African American woman from rural Virginia who came to the District to be a teacher. They met at All Souls Unitarian Church, a center for activists at the time, got married in 1965 and became one of the city's most remarkable political couples.

Political career

Mason was elected to the Board of Education in 1971 and served from 1972 to 1977, when she was appointed to the D.C. Council to fill the unexpired term of Julius Hobson Sr., who founded the D.C. Statehood Party. Later that year, she defeated nine candidates to win an at-large seat in her own right. She won reelection four times with little difficulty.

From 1981 to 1997, she chaired what is now the council's Education, Libraries and Recreation Committee. In addition, she served on the Local, Regional and Federal Affairs Committee, the Human Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee.

Mason was a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's board of directors for many years and was chairman of the board in 1988 and 1991.

In 1982, she supported a ballot initiative banning nuclear weapons in the city, a natural outgrowth, she said, of her work on civil rights. She was instrumental in the creation of the University of the District of Columbia in the 1970s and what became the David A. Clarke School of Law in the 1980s. The school's law library is named for Mason and her husband, Charles N. Mason[4].

Institute for Policy Studies connections

Hilda Mason, City Councillor Washington DC was listed[5]among those participating in the Institute for Policy Studies affiliated Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies {CASLP} Bryn Mawr August 3-5 1979.

Hilda Mason was a member[6]of the Institute for Policy Studies 20th Anniversary Committee, which organized an April 5, 1983, reception at the National Building Museum, Washington DC attended by approximately l,000 IPS staffers and former staff.

World Peace Council Connections: WPC Bureau Meeting, Jan. 25-27, 1978, Washington, D.C.


Hilda Mason, D.C. City Councilwoman, was listed as participating in this Soviet "peace" front meeting in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25-27, 1978, along with James Zogby, "an organizer of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC), a support group for the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), whose leader, Yassir Arafat, was awarded the WPC's gold medal.[7]

The name of the event was "World Dialogue on Disarmament and Détente", Capitol Hill Quality Inn, 415, New Jersey Ave., N. W. Mason' was listed as one of the people on the introductory page re the luncheon and "Remarks & Introductions", [[Josephine D. Butler, Coordinator,"DC Committee for a Dialogue on Disarmament and Détente", followed by "Welcome and Greetings" speakers as follows:

Remarks: The Honorable Romesh Chandra, President, World Peace Council (WPC)


DC demo

April 15, 1978 — In one of the most militant and massive demonstrations held anywhere in the United States since the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, over 35,000 people, the majority Black, Asian and Latin youth, came to Washington, D.C., to voice their total opposition to the racist Bakke case now pending before the Nixon-packed U.S. Supreme Court.

Chanting “We won’t go back, send Bakke back,” the angry voices of thousands of youth from the oppressed communities demanding the overturn of the notorious Bakke decision, an end to racism and upholding of affirmative action programs were undoubtedly heard in the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court and the White House.

“We say no to racism, we say no to sexism, we say no to Bakke, we say no to Carter!” With these words Jimmy Garrett, co-chairperson of the Washington, D.C., National Committee to Overturn the Bakke Decision, greeted the marchers as they gathered at the steps of the Capitol where the final rally was held.

Hilda Mason of the Washington, D.C., City Council opened up the rally by voicing the feelings of everyone present at today’s historic march. “Today we are marching, we are marching for justice. We are marching to stop the oppression against minorities, against the denied, against the have-nots.”

Bill Simons, president of the Washington Teachers Union and secretary of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, denounced the Bakke decision as a racist offensive against affirmative action. He added, “We will continue to march until we get what we were promised—equality and justice for all.”

Antonio Rodriguez of CASA-General Brotherhood of Workers, a Mexican workers’ organization based in California, said, “There is no greater proof that the people make history, make social change, than today here in Washington, D.C. We say that affirmative action, we say that special admission programs are the only concrete ways toward those goals when they talk about equality in the abstract.”[8]

1987 Rainbow conference/Board

At the 1987 National Rainbow convention in Raleigh North Carolina, a new board was elected, which included Hilda Mason.


Some 150 delegates and 100 observers met at Houston's Airport Holiday Inn, February 16-19, 1979, for the fourth national convention of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC).

DSOC's advertised convention participants were listed as including Rep. Ron Dellums (D-CA), Joyce Miller-president, Coalition of Labor Union Women, City Councillor Hilda Mason-DC Statehood Party, Maury Maverick Jr., San Antonio, Texas, James Farmer executive director, Coalition American Public Employees, William Holayter-political action director, International Association of Machinists, Jose Angel Gutierrez-La Raza Unida Party, Crystal City, Texas, Ruben Berrios-head of the Puerto Rican Independence Party and Kris Muller-Osten, a representative of the Willy Brandt led West German Social Democratic Party[9].

Democratic Agenda

More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'

The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.

Saturday speakers included Jerry Wurf, president of AFSCME; Hilda Mason, D.C. City Council/D.C. Statehood Party, Ruth Messinger, New York City Council, and Paul Sedillo.[10]

DSA Conference delegate

In 1983 Hilda Mason was a District of Columbia, Maryland delegate to the Democratic Socialists of America conference in New York City, October 14-16, 1983[11]

DSA vice chair

In 1984 Democratic Socialists of America vice chairs were Harry Britt, Ron Dellums, Dorothy Healey, Irving Howe, Frances Moore Lappe, Manning Marable, Hilda Mason, Marjorie Phyfe, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Edwin Vargas Jr, William Winpisinger[12].

DSA Feminist Commission

In 1985, Ex Officio members: Barbara Ehrenreich, Dorothy Healey, Frances Moore Lappe, Hilda Mason of Washington D.C., Marjorie Phyfe, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Maxine Phillips and Esmeralda Castillo were listed on the National Officers and Staff of the Feminist Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America.[13]

In 1986 she was listed as a member of the Commission.[14]

Frontline Anniversary events

Supplement Frontline June 1988

In 1988 Line of March celebrated the 4th Anniversay of their newspaper Frontline with a series of events around the country. Boston dinner speakers were Gus Newport and Ann Schwartz, Washington DC speakers were Irwin Silber and Hilda Mason. In Chicago it was Danny Davis and Fran Beal.

Endorsed by Democratic Socialists of America

The DC/MD/Northern VA. Democratic Socialists of America local "plunged into the electoral fray" on June 12 1990 with a meeting to choose candidates for DSA's endorsement in that year's D.C. elections. Receiving the local's endorsement in September's Democratic Primary were Eleanor Holmes Norton for Congressional Delegate; Jim Nathanson for City Council, Ward 3; and Harry Thomas for City Council from Ward 5.

The local also endorsed DSA National Vice-Chair and Statehood Party member Hilda Mason for re-election to her at-1arge Council seat, the only general election endorsement made.[15]

DSA Youth conference

Columbia Daily Spectator November 12 1992

Hilda Mason was a guest speaker at the Democratic Socialists of America Youth Section 1992 conference.

DSA Elected Representatives, 1990

As of January 1990, Democratic Socialists of America members holding elected public office included;[16]

DSA Democrat

Democratic Left, September 1991

In 1992, three members of Washington DC Democratic Socialists of America, Rick Powell, Hilda Mason and Joslyn Williams were elected as At large members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. A fourth "DSAer", Richard Rausch was defeated.[17]



SURVIVAL FEST 84 was held August 5 1984 in MacArthur Park.

"Come To Hear And Strategize With Those Changing The 1980's"

  • How can we support each other in electing progressive local candidates?
  • How can we make electoral work serve the grassroots movements for a freeze, for U.S. out of Central America and human needs?
  • How can we over turn the racist dual primary system in the South?
  • Is working inside and outside the Democratic Party a viable strategy and how can it be done?
  • How can we formulate demands to revitalize our basic industries without falling into the pitfall of the chauvinist anti-import solution -- letting U.S. finance capital off the hook?

This event was organized by the Communist Workers Party front, the Coalition for a People's Convention. The event was advertised in a half-page notice in the Marxist weekly Guardian, their Book Supplement - Summer 1984, p. 12, and the Communist Workers Party and Federation For Progress were listed as participants.

National endorsers of the event included Hilda Mason City Councilwoman, Washington DC.

Gay rights campaigner

In 2002 hundreds of District of Columbia activists joined Mayor Anthony Williams, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and members of the DC Council to celebrate the removal of Congressional restrictions on the District’s domestic partnership program after a decade-long struggle.

Even though the Council passed a 1992 act permitting any unmarried partners—gay or straight—to register with the city (DSA National Vice Chair and DC Council member Hilda Mason was one of the original backers), right-wing members of Congress blocked implementation of the program by placing a rider on the District’s budget.

The District, like Puerto Rico and other territories, is subject to budgetary and legislative oversight by Congress. Congress must approve the annual DC appropriations bill, and it uses this power to impose restrictions on the District.

Gay-rights organizations, such as ACT-UP DC and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, and the movement for DC democracy joined together to fight the ban, with DC/MD/Northern VA. Democratic Socialists of America and its members playing a significant role in the victory. DSA member Judy Nedrow chaired a local commission that developed strategy for the domestic partnership struggle, and Nedrow’s partner Christine Riddiough, former DSA Political Director, also played an important role on the commission. Riddiough was also former chair of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, a local gay-lesbian Democratic organization instrumental in convincing the District government to take up the issue.

The Stand Up for Democracy in DC Coalition, of which the DSA local was a member, conducted an annual campaign against this and other budget riders, holding rallies and walking the halls of Congress. Several of Stand Up’s members were arrested engaging in civil disobedience during congressional votes.

The local campaign finally gained the support of openly gay Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), who in 2001 was instrumental in having the ban removed. “This is a real step forward both in the domestic partnership fight and for DC sovereignty,” Riddiough said.[18]


Hilda Mason was a member of the American Personnel and Guidance Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the D.C. Counselors Association, theNAACP, the National Organization for Women, the National Women's Political Caucus, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Links Inc., Women Strike for Peace, the United Nations Association of the United States of America and All Souls Unitarian Church[19].



  1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/17/AR2007121701977.html?sid=ST2007121702276
  2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/17/AR2007121701977.html?sid=ST2007121702276
  3. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/17/AR2007121701977.html?sid=ST2007121702276
  4. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/17/AR2007121701977.html?sid=ST2007121702276
  5. Information Digest August 24 1979
  6. Information Digest April l5, 1983 p77-79
  7. The War Called Peace: The Soviet Peace Offensive, Western Goals, 1982, Page 23
  8. Workers World, WW in 1978: 35,000 march to ‘Beat back Bakke!’ Workers World is in its 50th year of publication. We reprint this article from the April 21, 1978, issue of the paper as part of our special archival series. By Jaime Veve
  9. Information Digest March 7 1979 p 63
  10. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 370/371
  11. DSA Conference delegate list Oct. 12 1983 update
  12. DSA membership letter Oct 24 1984
  13. DSA Feminist Commission Directory, 1985
  14. 1986 DSA Feminist Commission Directory
  15. Washington Socialist. July 1990, page 1
  16. Democratic left, Jan./Feb. 1990, page 7
  17. Democratic Left, Nov./Dec. 1992, page 9
  18. http://www.dsausa.org/dl/Spring2002.pdf Democratic Left • Spring 2002, page 2]
  19. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/17/AR2007121701977.html?sid=ST2007121702276