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Local History Center Unveils New Arlington Women Digital Collection

(Updated 2:35 p.m.) The Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History has unveiled a new digital profile collection of women who influenced Arlington’s development through their “quiet but not silent” persistence.

The collection seeks to bring up the names of those women who “were frequently hidden in the background” but “were nonetheless ground breakers and trailblazers” who fought for better education, libraries, conservation, and health care in a modernizing county.

Focusing on women from 1900-1975, the center is seeking community donations and oral histories of little known facets of Arlington history to add to the their collection.

The center “will follow their journey as it is revealed through [the] archival collections and oral histories” over the next year, according to the collection’s website.

One subject of the in-progress collection is Dr. Phoebe Hall Knipling, who was responsible for bringing an annual science fair to Arlington Public Schools and was the first APS science supervisor — and the first in Virginia. Dr. Knipling, finding that there were few pristine natural spaces in the fast developing county, took three years to track down an outdoor lab in Fauquier County for her students to experience and work in nature.

Margarite Syphax, a U.S.O. entertainer turned prominent African-American businesswoman and real estate developer, was also featured. The archive entry on her life stated that after World War II, she and her husband had a difficult time finding adequate housing in still segregated Northern Virginia.

The injustice led the couple to eventually form W.T. Syphax Real Estate Company, a property development and construction business focused on minority affordable housing.

Other notable Arlington women in the collection include the members of an interracial, interdenominational women’s group focused on community building and social justice, as well as several groups of women who either founded or contributed to the creation of several Arlington libraries.

Photos via Center for Local History

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