Oral history interview with Velma J. Jeremiah [Sound Recording 16]

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Oral history interview with Velma J. Jeremiah [Sound Recording 16]


  • 2006-06-30 (Creation)


Audiocassette; 00:30:23

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Velma Julia Jeremiah, nee Staples, was born in Eugene, Oregon, in 1921. When she was in the second grade, her family moved to Oregon City, Oregon. She studied architecture at the University of Oregon, but dropped out after a year due to lack of funds. She was able to return to the university briefly in 1941, but did not complete her degree. She spent the years during World War II working various jobs at Army camps in California, and studying cryptography in Seattle, Washington. She met Neil Jeremiah while in Seattle, and they were married in 1943; they later had one child. The couple moved often due to Neil Jeremiah's naval career. In addition to Seattle, they lived in Long Beach, California, and San Francisco, California. They returned to Seattle after Neil's discharge, and in 1951, they moved to Snohomish, Washington, where Neil worked as a teacher. Around 1958, Neil's teaching work brought them to Portland. Velma Jeremiah and Neil Jeremiah divorced in 1963. At age 42, she enrolled at the Northwestern College of Law, and she earned her degree in 1968. In 1975, she became the first graduate of that school to be hired at Davies, Biggs, Strayer, Stoel & Boley, the firm now known as Stoel Rives. She retired in 1986. Afterward, she devoted herself to Mensa, serving as treasurer, administrative director, and international chair. She died in 2017.

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Tape 9, Side 1. This oral history interview with Velma J. Jeremiah was conducted by Youlee Yim You from February 19 to 26, 1994, and in 2006. In this interview, Jeremiah discusses her family background and early life in Eugene and Oregon City, Oregon, including her education and her memories of the Depression. She then talks about studying architecture at the University of Oregon from 1939 to 1940, and again briefly in 1941, as well as her dire financial situation. She describes her memories of World War II, including working at army camps in California, and rationing. She also talks about her marriage to Neil Jeremiah and living in Seattle, Washington, while he served in the Navy during World War II; starting an ill-fated business in San Francisco, California; and returning to Seattle after the war. She discusses Neil’s teaching career, her own jobs, and their divorce in 1963. Jeremiah discusses her decision to go to law school at the Northwestern College of Law in Portland. She then describes practicing law at Davies, Biggs, Strayer, Stoel & Boley, the firm now known as Stoel Rives, from 1975 to 1986, including some of the cases she tried, other women attorneys, and her retirement. She also discusses her involvement with the Oregon Bar Association, the Multnomah Bar Association, and the Queen’s Bench. She briefly talks about some of the discrimination women faced in the law profession. She talks about her activities during her retirement, including travel, involvement with Mensa, and stand-up comedy. She also talks about jury duty; her son and his family; and playing piano.In the second part of this interview, conducted on June 30, 2006, Jeremiah revisits some of the topics discussed earlier in 1994. She talks about taking the bar exam in 1968; professors at Northwestern College of Law; and the difficulties she faced trying to find a job as a woman lawyer. She then talks about working at Stoel Rives. She relates a few anecdotes about how women clients were sometimes treated by her male colleagues. She describes a typical workday at the law firm; early dress codes for women; and the partners of the firm. She talks about the support women lawyers in the firm gave to each other. She also discusses organizations she’s been involved in, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and Mensa. She closes the interview by discussing her involvement with her condominium association.

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Joint copyright for this interview is held by the Oregon Historical Society and the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society. Use is allowed according to the following statement: In Copyright – Educational Use Permitted, http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/

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  • English

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41.7 MiB


March 20, 2020 1:59 PM

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