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Catherine Filene Shouse

Catherine Filene Shouse
Catherine Filene in 1968
Born Catherine Filene
June 9, 1896
Boston, Massachusetts
Died December 14, 1994(1994-12-14) (aged 98)
Naples, Florida
Alma mater Wheaton College
Radcliffe College
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Occupation Editor, researcher, philanthropist
Spouse(s) Alvin E. Dodd (1921–1929)
Jouett Shouse (1931–1968)
Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977)
National Medal of Arts (1994)

Catherine Filene Shouse (June 9, 1896 – December 14, 1994) was a researcher and philanthropist. She graduated in 1918 from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.[1] She worked for the Women's Division of the U.S. Employment Service of the Department of Labor, and was the first woman appointed to the Democratic National Committee in 1925. She was also the editor of the Woman's National Democratic Committee's Bulletin (1929–32), and the first woman to chair the Federal Prison for Women Board.

Finally, she was a strong supporter of the arts, and served as chair of the President's Music Committee's Person-to-Person Program (1957–1963). In 1966 she donated her personal property, Wolf Trap Farm, to the National Park Service. This farm would go on to become Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, where Shouse would serve as founder until her death in 1994.


  • 1917–1963: activist and organizer 1
  • Board service 2
  • 1930–1966: Wolf Trap Farm 3
  • 1971–1994: Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts 4
  • 1956–1975: presidential appointments 5
  • Education 6
    • Honorary degrees 6.1
  • Decorations, citations, and honors 7
    • Filene firsts 7.1
  • Publications 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

1917–1963: activist and organizer

Catherine Filene Shouse, c. 1913

Catherine Filene was born on June 9, 1896, in Boston, Massachusetts to Abraham Lincoln Filene and the former Thérèse Weill. Born into a wealthy merchandising family, her grandfather William Filene founded Filene's department store, her father was the founder of the Boston Symphony and her mother started the Boston Music School for Underprivileged Children.[2]

When Shouse was an undergraduate student at Wheaton College, she convened a lecture series. It was the first Intercollegiate Vocational Conference for Women. The focus of the conference was to make jobs more accessible for women. The lecture series was held at Wheaton College and it initiated annual vocational conferences at Wheaton College until the 1950s. Shouse then proceeded to found Wheaton's first Vocational Bureau, which assisted alumnae in locating employment.[3] In 1917, Shouse was able to utilize experience acquired through her undergraduate and her prior activist activities. She was employed by the Women's Division of the United States Employment Service of the Department of Labor. Shouse was hired as the assistant to the chief. Three years later (1920), she published her original work, Careers for Women,[4] which Shouse revised in 1934. Her personally signed first copy is housed in Hood College's Catherine Filene Shouse Career Center.[5] Hood College named their career center after Shouse after her substantial contribution which enabled the college to obtain most of their modern technological equipment for worldwide career information.


  • New York Times obituary for Catherine Filene Shouse
  • Catherine Filene Shouse (1896–1994)
  • Catherine Filene Shouse Papers.Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
  • National Women's Hall of Fame
  • Catherine Filene Shouse (1896–1994)

External links

11. Harvard University Library. "Catherine Filene Shouse Papers, 1878–1998." Retrieved 4 August 2012.

10. Catherine Filene Shouse Career Center, Hood College.

9. "Women Working, 1800–1930." Harvard University Open Collection Program.

8. Wheaton College,

7. Zegas, Judy B. Wolf Trap--Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future. Vienna, VA: Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, 1991.

6. McLellan, Joseph. "The Many Gifts of Kay Shouse." Washington Post, 14 Dec. 1994.

5. Levy, Claudia. "Wolf Trap Founder Dies at Age 98." Washington Post, 14 Dec. 1994.

4. Carr, Eve and Millard. The Wolf Trap Story. Vienna, VA: The Wolf Trap Associates, 1977.

3. Harvard Library. Retrieved 25 July 2012.

2. Catherine Filene Shouse Interview, 1994. Wolf Trap Archives.

1. Wolf Trap Archives. Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, National Park Service, Vienna, Virginia.


  1. ^ "Shouse, Catherine Filene. Papers, 1878–1998: A Finding Aid". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  2. ^ Hume, Paul. "The Woman Who Built Wolf Trap." Washington Post 1 July 1971: C1. Print.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Harvard Library.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Harvard University Library Open Collection Program.
  7. ^ Catherine Filene Shouse Papers, 1878–1998.
  8. ^ 1994 Interview, Catherine Filene Shouse. Wolf Trap Archives, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, p. 1
  9. ^ Ibid. p. 2.
  10. ^ Ibid. p. 3
  11. ^ Ibid. p. 3
  12. ^ Carr, Eve and Millard. The Wolf Trap Story. Vienna, VA: The Wolf Trap Associates, 1977. Print. pg. 14.
  13. ^ Zegas, Judy B. Wolf Trap--Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future. Vienna, VA: Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, 1991. Print.
  14. ^ Millard, The Wolf Trap Story, pg. 16.
  15. ^ Levy, Claudia. "Wolf Trap Founder Dies at Age 98." Washington Post 14 Dec. 1994. Print
  16. ^ McLellan, Joseph. "The Many Gifts of Kay Shouse." Washington Post 14 Dec. 1994. Print
  17. ^ Masters, Kim. "Wolf Trap Founder May Break with Center." Washington Post 22 Feb. 1991: B1+. Print.
  18. ^ Wolf Trap Archives, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Vienna, VA.
  19. ^ Ibid.


  • Careers for women. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1920.


  • 1917 Organized the first Intercollegiate Vocational Conference for Women.
  • 1919 First woman appointed to the National Democratic Committee representing Massachusetts. Also, State Democratic Committee.
  • 1923 First woman to receive a degree from Harvard University (M.Ed.).
  • 1926 First woman appointed by President Calvin Coolidge as chairman of the Federal Prison for Women. She instituted a job training and rehabilitation program.
  • 1954 First woman to receive the German Federal Republic's Commander's Cross of Merit.
  • 1968 Appointed by Governor Godwin to the first Virginia Commission of the Arts and Humanities.
  • 1972 First woman to hold a Gold Card in the Stage Employees Union #22 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Operators of the U.S.A. and Canada.
  • 1975 First woman to receive the Abraham Lincoln Award from the American Hungarian Foundation.
  • 1975 First person outside of the federal government to receive the Recording Industry Association of America Annual Award.
  • 1979 First recipient of the first Governor's Award for the Arts in Virginia.
  • 1985 First Honorary Member of the Washington College Friends of the Arts Committee.
  • 2012 To date, Shouse is the first and only person to receive both an American Medal of Freedom and a British Award of Dame Commander of the British Empire.

Filene firsts

In 1971, Shouse was named Honorary Park Superintendent by the National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior. She also received the Humanitarian Award from the National Recreation and Park Association in 1972 and the Conservation Service Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1973.

Shouse received myriad other awards, including the Living Legacy Award from the Women's International Center, the Vienna (Austria) Medal of Honor for Assistance to Austrian Youth, and the City of Paris Award (both in 1949). She was the first woman to receive the German Federal Republic's Commander's Cross of Merit (1954), and Shouse was named by Queen Elizabeth II, Dame Commander of the British Empire (1976).

In 1977, Shouse was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994. In 2007, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Decorations, citations, and honors

1963 Doctor of Humanities, Tufts University
1964 Doctor of Humanities, Wheaton College
1971 Doctor of Laws, American University
1975 Doctor of Humanities, George Washington University
1975 Doctor of Humanities, Bucknell University
1975 Doctor of Music, The New England Conservatory of Music
1977 Doctor of Humanities, Catholic University
1977 Doctor of Humanities, College of William and Mary
1979 Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Maryland
1981 Doctor of Humanities, Hood College
1983 Doctor of Letters, Gonzaga University
1984 Doctor of Music, Shenandoah College & Conservatory of Music
1986 Doctor of Humane Letters, Marymount University

Honorary degrees

1918 B.A., Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts
1923 M.Ed., Harvard University Graduate School of Education


In addition to her presidential appointments, Shouse was appointed to the first Virginia Commission of the Arts and Humanities in 1968, by Governor Mills E. Godwin Jr.. In 1971, Shouse was reappointed to that position by Governor Linwood Holton.

President Eisenhower also appointed Shouse to the first board of trustees of the National Cultural Center (1958). President Nixon reappointed Shouse to that position in 1962. In 1964, the National Cultural Center was renamed The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. President Richard Nixon appointed Shouse to the Board of Trustees of the renamed Kennedy Center for a ten year term in 1970.[19] During that time, Shouse also served on the Executive and Building Committees of the Kennedy Center. Shouse was appointed to the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Commission in 1973 by President Nixon. She was appointed to the official commissions on women's rights by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and John Kennedy. Last but not least, in 1975 President Gerald Ford appointed Shouse to the Commission on Presidential Scholars.

to chair the President's Music Committee from 1957 to 1963. Dwight D. Eisenhower Shouse was appointed by President [18] Not only were Shouse's talents and abilities acknowledged and appreciated by local communities and organizations, her gifts were honored and utilized by many United States presidents. In addition to her appointment by President

1956–1975: presidential appointments

On December 14, 1994, Shouse died of heart failure at her winter home in Naples, Florida on at the age of 98.

In 1991, Shouse was reportedly close to breaking ties with Wolf Trap over a dispute relating to the park's 20th anniversary. In honor of the anniversary, Shouse planned to put on a television special to celebrate the occasion, a plan shut down by the Wolf Trap Foundation's executive committee due to budget constraints (although the special would be resurrected later that year).[17] Nevertheless, Shouse didn't resign, and would stay with Wolf Trap until her death three years later.

In 1982, at age 85, Shouse led a rigorous effort to rebuild the Filene Center, Wolf Trap's main performing arts venue, after it was destroyed by a fire that April. In addition to helping convince the federal government to donate $9 million to the project, Shouse helped to raise an additional $15 million from other sources for the effort. While the new Filene Center would be completed and re-opened in 1984, Shouse also helped salvage the 1982 and 1983 seasons by leading the construction of the Meadow Center, an enormous tent where performances would take place during these two years.[16]

In Wolf Trap's early years, Shouse also frequently traveled the world to scout talent and performers, including persuading the Chinese government to allow the Performing Arts Company of the People's Republic to perform at Wolf Trap in 1978.[15]

As the founder of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Shouse helped lead its development into one of the most prominent performing arts venues in the Washington D.C. area from the beginning. During the construction of the Filene Center—named after Shouse's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln Filene[12]—in 1971, Shouse even visited and assisted workers on site, even offering sandwiches and other refreshments when possible.[13] Shouse also helped design the Filene Center, working closely with renowned architects John H. MacFadyen and Edward F. Knowles to create a state-of-the-art venue that would still be able to "retain the unspoiled atmosphere of the setting.[14]

Shouse and Wolf Trap Foundation President I. Lee Potter oversee the construction of the Filene Center, 1970

1971–1994: Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

To ensure that her dream would become a reality, Shouse approached the Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and asked, “You have many parks for recreation, but you have nothing in the performing arts. And people find through performing arts their balance in tense times, their joys in their everyday life. Do you want Wolf Trap?”[11] That initial conversation with the Secretary of the Interior led to Shouse donating Wolf Trap to the federal government. The United States government officially accepted Wolf Trap in 1966 and designated it as a national park for the performing arts under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service – the first of its kind.

While Shouse was alive, Wolf Trap was enjoyed by countless people from many nations and from myriad backgrounds. Shouse often brought disabled and disadvantaged children from Washington, D.C., to Wolf Trap to give them hay rides. Multitudes of people would come to Wolf Trap to enjoy a walk through the woods, picking laurel, etc. Shouse wanted people to be able to enjoy Wolf Trap even when she was no longer here.

When Shouse bought Wolf Trap, it came with a dilapidated farm house on the property. Shouse used the last of her savings to buy the initial plot of land. Thus, Shouse along with family and friends physically renovated the house (and property) themselves, using whatever resources they could get their hands on. She also added to the initial property. Whenever she obtained extra money, Shouse would buy adjacent plots of land to add to Wolf Trap. Before long, Wolf Trap was 168 acres.

[10] During World War II, Wolf Trap became a haven for many American soldiers on leave. According to Shouse, “During the war it became an oasis for many of the people on leave. And General [Omar] Bradley came back from the big horrible battle and that horrible experience that our people had in

Wolf Trap also frequently hosted notable foreign and domestic political figures. In a 1994 interview, Shouse recalls, “I remember the night…that Lord Halifax, the British Ambassador called and told me, ‘I’ll bring Dumbarton Oaks British representatives to dinner tomorrow night with you. They haven’t seen a whole ham, a whole chicken, or much food of any kind since the beginning of the war.’ They came on an August evening….and the Lord Halifax watched their eating and drinking because the next morning was the Dumbarton Oaks meeting of the many countries, and you know the Dumbarton was the predecessor of the United Nations.”[9]

Initially, Shouse grew oats, wheat, alfalfa and other farm items for family and friends. However, at the advent of and during World War II, Shouse’s Wolf Trap Farm fed many more. Fresh produce (and food in general) was scarce during the war years and scores of people were allowed to take advantage of Wolf Trap.

Catherine Filene Shouse in front of her Wolf Trap farmhouse, c. 1935–40

Consequently, she set out to look for a farm. Shouse – who was short on money but long on conviction – got into her car in 1930, with a friend visiting from Vienna, Virginia. She asked a man who was standing in the road if any of the land was for sale. The man replied, “Nothing for sale. Everybody keeps his land because the division was made after the American Civil War, 52 acre properties, and because of them we don’t want any strangers coming in.”[8] Undeterred, Shouse continued to look for properties. That evening however, while reading through the classified ads in the newspaper, she came across a property for sale advertisement. It was the exact farm she inquired about earlier that day. In February 1930, Shouse bought The Wolf Trap Farm for $5,300.00.

Shouse’s desire for her children to develop an appreciation for and a relationship with nature resulted in the establishment of America's first and only national park for the performing arts – Wolf Trap. Shouse believed children should have the opportunity to learn about nature and animals and she wanted her children to be closer to nature than would be possible living in her urbanized Georgetown residence.

1930–1966: Wolf Trap Farm

1991 Served on Board of Directors of Yale University School of Music.

1984 Advisory Board, Washington Conservatory.

1975 Appointed to Board of Overseers, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College; chair, 1981.

1968 Board, Wolf Trap Foundation. Chairman, Executive Committee, 1975.

1965–72 Board, Opera Society of Washington.

1955 Board, Lincoln Filene Center of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Tufts University.

1952–63 Board, National Arbitration Association.

1949 Elected to Board of National Symphony Orchestra Association; vice president, 1951–68; honorary vice president, 1968

1947 Trustee, Filene Foundation (Boston)

1935 Member, Board of Directors, Community Chest, Washington.

Board service[7]


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