The Library of Virginia >> Exhibitions >> Working Out Her Destiny
  Working Out Her Destiny
Notable Virginia Women -  Margaret Elizabeth Pfohl Campbell (19022004)


Shaping Public Opinion

Women's Organizations



Service to Country

Votes for Women


Where are the Women:
Examples from the LVA Collections



Related Resources

Return to Notable Virginia Women

Margaret Elizabeth Pfohl Campbell (19022004) was born in Salem, North Carolina, in December 1902, to a Moravian minister and a music teacher. Unable to enter the ministry of the Moravian Church, which admitted only men, she turned to education, earning a bachelor's degree from Salem College and a master's degree from Teacher's College, Columbia University. Following two years as dean of women at Moravian College for Women in Pennsylvania, she served from 1929 to 1936 as dean of Mary Baldwin College, in Staunton. In 1936 she married Edmund Douglas Campbell, an attorney and widower, and moved to Arlington, where she lived until her death in January 2004. She helped raise her husband's two children by his first wife and had three sons of her own.

Elizabeth Campbell won election to the Arlington school board in 1947 and was reelected in 1951, serving for eight years, much of the time as chair. In addition to working to improve the quality of the public schools, she boldly proposed to begin desegregating the school system after the Supreme Court's 1954 and 1955 Brown v. Board of Education decisions. The state adopted a policy of Massive Resistance to desegregation, stripped from Arlington citizens the right to elect their own school board members, and eventually closed some public schools elsewhere in Virginia rather than desegregate them. Campbell lost her seat on the school board in 1955 but regained it and served as chair again from 1960 to 1962.

While on the school board she began working to use television as an instructional tool and took part in founding WETA in 1953, the first educational television station in the Washington, D.C., area. As longtime president of the Greater Washington Educational Television Association, she developed it into one of the most successful public broadcasting companies in the United States. WETA became one of the major producers of programs for the Public Broadcasting System.

Elizabeth Campbell was one of the most distinguished and honored residents of northern Virginia and won several awards for her outstanding work in public television. She worked without pay at WETA until shortly before her death at age 101. Her biography on the corporation's web site included her admonition to all: "Don't look backward or clutter up your life with regrets and resentments. . . . Put into your work all that you have of interest, enthusiasm, hope, faith, determination and love."