Genevieve Hughes Houghton
Genevieve Hughes Houghton was born in 1932 and is one of the 3 women that participated in the freedom ride. Houghton grew up in the upper-middle-class suburban community of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Houghton studied at Cornell University and later moved to New York City to work as a stockbroker. In the late 1950's, Houghton became involved in the New York chapter of CORE and she also organized a boycott of dime stores that worked with chain restaurants that resisted the sit-in movement in the South. Houghton started to push away from her colleagues and work full time to try to end racism.
In 1960, Houghton took the position as a CORE secretary, and by doing so she became the first female to serve on CORE's staff. John Lewis speaks of her: "As graceful and gentle as her name, but not all afraid to speak up when she had strong feelings about something." When talking about her decision to join the freedom riders, she explains: "I figured Southern women should be represented so the South and the nation would realize all Southern people do not think alike." During her freedom rides, she experienced countless amounts of violence, especially in Anniston, Alabama where the bus she was riding was engulfed into flames by an angry mob. She talks about her experience:
"There was no doctor at the hospital, only a nurse. They had me breathe pure oxygen, but that only burned my throat and did not relieve the coughing. I was burning hot and my clothes were a wet mess. After a while Ed and Bert were brought in, choking. We all lay in our beds and coughed. Finally, a woman doctor came in, she had to look up smoke poisoning before treating us. They brought in the negro man who had been in the back of the bus with me. I pointed to him and told them to take care of him. But they did not bring him into our emergency room. I understand they did not do anything at all for Hank. Thirteen in all were brought in and three were admitted: Ed, the negro man and myself. They gave me a room and I slept. When I woke up, the nurse asked me if I could talk with the FBI. The FBI did not care about us, but only the bombing."
After her experience of the Freedom Ride, she married John Houghton, the marriage later ended in a divorce but she continued to be active in movements such as social justice, environmental protection, and world peace. In 1972, Houghton became a co-founder and first director of the Women's Center in Carbondale, Illinois, one of the first shelters for women victims of domestic violence in the United States.
Houghton at the time of the Freedom Riders.