Oral History with Beth Marschak (W'72)

Dublin Core


Oral History with Beth Marschak (W'72)


In this oral history interview, Beth Marschak (W'72) sat down with Jisu Song ('22) and Shira Greer ('22) on June 17, 2019 at University of Richmond Downtown. Over the course of the one hour interview, Marschak talks about growing up in the city of Richmond, being the first in her family to attend college, being a commuter student, majoring in political science, her political involvement on and off campus--including the founding of OWL (Organization for Women's Liberation) and SHAME (Studying and Halting the Assault on Man and Environment) and the anti-Vietnam War movement on campus, a teacher exchange program with Virginia Union University, growing up Southern Baptist, becoming involved in civil rights during high school, her experience as a lesbian both on campus and in Richmond during the 1970s, and what she learned about women's leadership as a student at Westhampton College.

Beth Marschak grew up in Richmond and was actively engaged in the social change movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s- Civil Rights, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Ecology Movement, the Peace Movement, and Lesbian and Gay Liberation. In her early years, she lived in Lakeside, a white working class neighborhood, then her family moved to the far west end. She came out as a lesbian in the early 1970’s, and openly identified as a lesbian in her civil rights and human rights activism.

By the time she graduated from Westhampton College, University of Richmond, with a BA in political science in 1972, Beth had already helped to start a women’s group on campus, and a local chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus. She actively engaged with SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) for many marches and other actions and was an active member of the Woody Guthrie Community Center. She participated in Gay Awareness in Perspective and helped to start Richmond-Lesbian Feminists in 1975. Beth was instrumental in starting a number of coalition efforts including the Virginia Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights (VCLGR) and the Richmond Lesbian and Gay Pride Coalition.

Starting as a representative of the Lesbian Caucus, Beth served on the National Steering Committee of the National Women’s Political Caucus for 16 years. Here in Richmond, she served on the Board of the Richmond YWCA for 8 years. In 1978, she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the International Women’s Year Continuing Committee. And, in 1988, as a Jesse Jackson Delegate, she served as the first “out” Virginia delegate to a national presidential convention.

Beth Marschak’s work and advocacy garnered the Richmond Human Rights Coalition Human Rights Award in 1983, and the Richmond YWCA Outstanding Woman of the Year Award in Human Relations in 1990. The Richmond Lesbian and Gay Pride Coalition recognized Beth with awards in 1990, 1993 and 1999. In 2008, Beth co-authored the book Lesbian and Gay Richmond. On November 1, 2008, she conducted the first bus tour featuring the history of the LGBTQ+ community for the Valentine Richmond History Center, where she is a master tour guide. In 2009 Equality Virginia recognized her as one of 20 Outstanding Virginians. Beth has continued as an activist, and participates in Richmond Lesbian-Feminists (which she co-founded in 1975), Southerners on New Ground (SONG), and is on the Board of Diversity Richmond. She recently curated an exhibit at the Diversity Richmond Iridian Gallery: Truthful History Heals, which examined future visions for Monument Avenue, and worked with Ayana Obika as co-chairs of the Diversity Richmond Programs Committee to organize a roundtable community conversation on racism and racial bias in the LGBTQ+ community.


This oral history is available for academic purposes--including but not limited to research by students, faculty, and staff--by permission from the interviewee (Beth Marschak). The interviewee maintains the copyright, and must be contacted via the Race & Racism Project (urraceproject@gmail.com) for permissions for use outside of academic purposes.







Richmond (Va.)

Oral History Item Type Metadata



Beth Marschak


Law Clinic Room
UR Downtown
626 E Broad St # 100
Richmond, VA 23219



Date of Interview

June 17, 2019



“Oral History with Beth Marschak (W'72),” University of Richmond Race & Racism Project, accessed June 25, 2024, https://memory.richmond.edu/items/show/3063.