Interview with Ellen Bozman, Longest Serving County Board Member
Ellen Bozman is an important name in Arlington County. As the longest serving member of the Arlington County Board to date, Bozman supported countless causes that have made long lasting impacts on the county and Northern Virginia.
Born and raised in Illinois, Bozman came to Arlington after graduating from Northwestern University. She began her public service in Arlington with the League of Women Voters and served on other boards and committees until her run for County Board in 1974. During her time on the Board, Bozman saw significant changes in Arlington - its development, transportation, and citizens were very different when she retired in 1997 than they had been when she began 23 years earlier.
In this oral history clip, Bozman shares with interviews Edmund Campbell and Cas Cocklin her experiences working on other boards and committees before her first run as a Democrat-backed Independent candidate for the County Board:
NARRATOR: Ellen Bozman
INTERVIEWER 1: Edmund Campbell
INTERVIEWER 2: Cas Cocklin
DATE: May 15, 1987
EC: You ultimately became President of the League, did you?
EB: Yes. Those were busy years for the League and I was President from '63 to '65. Then, as you know, once you have been president of an organization, there's no readymade spot for you so you look around and you tend to do other things. Then I later chaired the Health and Welfare Council of Arlington and the Committee of One Hundred and finally in the early '70's chaired the Rock Springs Congregational Church Council. About that time, some of my friends jokingly said well since you've done a church council, you're ready to run for the Board.
CC: Had you ever given any thought prior to that to getting into politics?
EB: Only recently prior to that. And the change really came about when I served on the Planning Commission. Up until the time I served on the Planning Commission, I didn't think that, first of all, I thought of myself as an administrator rather than a politician. Secondly, I had been through some, I had been standing on the fringes and involved in some very, very tumultuous political times in Arlington.
EC: Such as?
EB: Well, when you go way back and I remember Barbara Riches who was on the School Board saying to me, "I don't care when they throw garbage on my front porch because I know they don't have anything more important they're doing." Very split community. Very difficult and personal political campaigns. A kind of atmosphere that I didn't think that I was ready or wanted to participate in. But times change.
To learn more about Ellen Bozman;s life and work, visit the Center for Local History's online exhibit, Women's Work.
The goal of the Arlington Voices project is to showcase the Center for Local History’s oral history collection in a publicly accessible and shareable way.
What is the oral history collection?
Oral history is a popular method of research used for understanding historical events, actors, and movements from the point of view of people’s personal experiences.
The Arlington Public Library began collecting oral histories of long-time residents in the 1970s, and since then the scope of the collection has expanded to capture the diverse voices of Arlington’s community. In 2016, staff members and volunteers recorded many additional hours of interviews, building the collection to 575 catalogued oral histories.
To browse our list of narrators indexed by interview subject, check out our community archive. To read a full transcript of an interview, visit the Center for Local History located at Central Library.