Susan Meehan

Susan Meehan, author of Talking to the Night. Photograph 2017 by Robert Bettmann

Susan Meehan grew up on Long Island’s North Shore during World War II. The North Shore at that time was rural, and forested, and because gasoline and oil were rationed she often watched her father and a neighbor use a double-handed saw to cut logs for heat. She was provided a classic education in a tiny but capable local Quaker school – three were two other students in her 8th grade class – where she became familiar with Quaker Plain Speech.

After graduating from Wellesley College and completing graduate school in Politics at Boston University, she worked hard to elect underdog Chub Peabody as Governor of Massachusetts. When he won, she joined his personal staff. After President Kennedy was assassinated, she took and passed the tests required to join the federal government as a management intern, in order to work on foreign aid.

Her first working day in Washington, in a training class, she found herself sitting next to a young man who talked so frequently that the instructor gave her an assignment on the spot to keep him from dominating the training class. She embraced that challenge fully, marrying him in 1967. The couple moved into a house in DC’s Dupont Circle area, and began to raise their family.

After the riots when Martin Luther King was killed, President Nixon set up an elected Police Community Relations board, to which Susan was elected. She nominated Marion Barry to serve as President of that committee, and subsequently served as his director of constituent services for Ward 2. Subsequently, Mayor Barry appointed her to serve as DC’s first citywide Patient Advocate for persons in drug or alcohol treatment. She stayed in that position for until her retirement, winning awards regularly, including “Kindest Person” in her agency, and runner-up in the “Best DC Government Employee of the Year” competition.

Susan served 12 years as an elected-at-large member of the DC Democratic State Committee, and 12 years as the first Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. In that role she successfully led a major downzoning battle, spending a day in jail as a result. She was twice elected a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention — 40 years apart. She represents a Quaker point of view on the DC Council of Churches, and is its Vice President.

Click to read a Day Eight blog post announcing Susan Meehan the winner of the DC Poet Project.