Bernice Smith White

(1924 -  )

Image of Bernice Smith White from Women's Hall of Fame program.

Bernice Smith White was born in Maryland on February 27, 1924. White is known as a community worker, civic leader, education, and a leader in the struggle for equal rights for women. She was educated in the Baltimore City Public Schools, and received her B.S. degree in Education from Coppin State College (formerly known as Coppin Teacher's College). She furthered her education in the fields of political science, government, personnel management, behavioral aspects of management, labor relations, and equal opportunity from Morgan State University, Community College of Baltimore, George Washington University , University of Maryland, and Fisk University. She taught in the Baltimore school system for about 12 years.

Her interest in young people led her to the Baltimore Urban League where she became active as a volunteer in programs to provide job opportunities for youths. As a result of her research and studies about the school  dropout rate, she conducted a local radio program  Radio WEBB. She later left the school system to embark on a career to prove that women could succeed in other fields. 

As the first Director of Community Education and Relations of the Baltimore City Community Relation Commission, she worked tirelessly to bring her organization's message to Maryland. She interpreted the City's civil rights law for the public via radio, television, movies, print media, workshops, and conferences.

This experience led to her appointment as the first woman Insurance Compliance Specialist for the Social Security Administration. In this position, she traveled across the country monitoring affirmative action programs of government Medicare contractors to ensure equality of opportunity for minorities and women. In July, 1969, she was appointed one of the only three full-time National Directors of the Federal Women's Program which was established under Executive Order of the President.  Through her work in this program, Bernice became a recognized authority in the field and served as a consultant and resource person for the former U.S. Civil Service Commission. She lectured locally and nationally at conferences, workshops, and schools.

In October, 1972, she was promoted to the position of Community Relations Officer for Social Security Administration - again another first. Due to the growth of activities in this area, a Community Relations Staff was created and she was named Chief of the Headquarters Coordination and Liaison Staff, Office of Governmental Affairs. This staff served as the primary source of advice and information regarding the public's position and opinions on SSA Entitlement Programs. She retired from the Social Security Administration in May, 1984.

She found that, although it is difficult, a woman can succeed in this so-called "man's world." It was out of this that she created the title for her weekly column in the Baltimore Afro American, "It's Not A Man's World." She gained national recognition because of this column and the wealth of information it contained. She was guest columnist from 1969-1974.

Bernice found time to be very active in voter registration and voter education programs and in many aspects of the political life of the Baltimore community. Through her affiliation with Woman Power, she worked with women to make them more politically aware and informed on current issues. She initiated the move to have sex included in the Provisions of Acts of Discrimination in the City Civil Rights Ordinance No. 103. The amendment was passed in August, 1971 and signed into law by the Mayor. Currently, she is the first African-American chair of the Baltimore City Commission for Women. Mrs. White began her tenure with the commission in 1990. In January 1995, the Honorable Kurt L. Schmoke, Mayor of the City of Baltimore, appointed her as chairperson.

Her participation in civic, religious, and professional organizations has been long and rewarding. She has held membership on many boards, commissions, and is often sought after to chair or serve on philanthropic ventures and health and welfare fund-raising projects. She was appointed by former Governor Harry Hughes to serve on the Eastern Region Foster Care Review Board for Baltimore City. The Honorable Parris N. Glendening presented a Governor's Citation to her, acknowledging the Valued Hours Award she received from the Fullwood Foundation.

Bernice Smith White's continued dedication to creating awareness and cultivating understanding has benefited women in the State of Maryland.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2001