Grace Snively

(1913 - 2014)

Grace Snively, 92, is a modest and gracious lady, medical educator, civil rights and voter's rights activist as well as an outstanding volunteer. Her dedication to her community has illustrated the immense importance of her work within her local area and across the State of Maryland.

Mrs. Snively was a volunteer medical educator in the segregated sections of Hagerstown in the 1950s when women of color were fearful of taking Pap smears and lacked the necessary information to understand new scientific breakthroughs to ensure improved health. She worked with the American Cancer Society during this time to bring information to residents. Mrs. Snively went door-to-door handing out home Pap smear kits used for early cancer detection.

"I was known as the cancer woman, and they wouldn't let me in and said they weren't interested," Mrs. Snively recalled in an interview with The Herald-Mail published April 24, 2005.

She persevered, however, and served as a role model and leader by convincing women to undergo the new procedure. To lessen irrational fears, Mrs. Snively used the example of two women who had been diagnosed with cancer and survived for many years due to early detection from the Pap smear kits.

Mrs. Snively was successfully able to reverse community perceptions so that women came to welcome the new health information and intervention. She continues her involvement with the American Cancer Society today and participates in fundraising events.

Additionally, Mrs. Snively worked jointly with the Washington County Health Department and March of Dimes to administer polo vaccines within her community.

Mrs. Snively was also a civil rights leader during the 1950s and 1960s and encouraged people to register to vote and to vote. When no one else would push for voter registration during this period of segregation, Mrs. Snively promoted social consciousness and advanced society throughout Western Maryland. In 1993, the NAACP honored her with a Community Service Award for "participation in and support of civil and human rights."

Her work led to an appointment as a Washington County Election Board judge, a position she held for 30 years, concluding her service as chief judge.

Other volunteer activities include serving on the boards of the American Red Cross and Community Action Council. Mrs. Snively served as a United Way liaison to the Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, Red Cross and Day Nursery. She also served as state president of the Daughters of the Elks. Her life is so thoroughly intermingled with that of the community that it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Today, Mrs. Snively continues her involvement in the community by phoning for the Red Cross bloodmobile and participating in cancer awareness events. She has also been the recipient of many honors including recognition in 1998 by the Easter Seals Society as one of the Top Ten Lady Leaders in the Tri-State area; Governor's Volunteer Award in 1999; and induction into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 1999.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2006.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2006