Kay Bullitt was an education reformer, civil rights and peace activist, citizen diplomat, historic preservationist, philanthropist, and mother of six. She was born in Boston in 1925 and raised in Arlington, MA. While a college student at Radclifffe, she worked in a community center with African American children and on an interracial farm project at the Hampton Institute, experiences that sparked her lifelong committment to civil rights and educational equality for African Americans. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Government, she taught elementary school in Massachusetts for five years before relocating to Seattle in 1953.
For the next three decades Bullitt was a tireless advocate for the desegregation of Seattle public schools. In the early 1960s she started a successful voluntary racial transfer program between Lowell and Madrona elementary schools and coordinated volunteer instructional programs to preserve racial diversity in local schools. In 1968, she brought together several different organizations to form the Coalition for Quality Integrated Education (CQIE), a citizens group that advocated for desegregation throughout the 1970s. During this time Bullitt ran a racially integrated summer day camp, and co-founded Sound Savings and Loan, a credit union designed to empower women to obtain credit in their own names.
Over the years Bullittt was active in a number of historic preservation projects including efforts to restore Pioneer Square and to preserve Seattle’s martime heritage. She is also a longtime advocate for peace and citizen diplomacy. She demonstrated against the Vietnam War and helped organize the “Target Seattle” antinuclear protests in the 1980s. She traveled the globe from Central America to the former Soviet Union on peace missions and is currently establishing a Citizen Diplomacy archive which will preserve the records of those peace missions.
Kay Bullitt was the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her civic activism including the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the YMCA Milnor Roberts Award for World Peace Through International Understanding, the Ralph Bunche Award from the Peace Law Section of the Seattle Bar Association, and the United Nations Human Rights Award. At age 96, Kay Bullitt passed away on August 22, 2021.
Kay Bullitt discussed her involvement in struggles for school desegregation, peace, and more in a videotaped interview with James Gregory and Lisa Fiedler on November 11, 2008.