Wonderful Women Wednesday: Dr. Verdine J. Frederick

Each week, the Archives features a woman who has been a groundbreaker at the Smithsonian, past or present, in a series titled Wonderful Women Wednesday.

Dr. Verdine “Dee” J. Frederick was a nurse at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and later director of the Institution’s Employee Assistance Program.

Portrait of a woman wearing a nurses uniform that includes a small, white hat. A white building with

In 1974, Frederick began working as a nurse at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In her first years on the job, she dispensed allergy and immunization shots, treated job-related accidents for employees, provided basic aid for visitors, and taught Heimlich maneuver and CPR training for museum and cafeteria workers. In this role, she also led a campaign to help employees identify whether or not they struggled with high blood pressure.

Over the next two decades, Frederick launched counseling programs for employees that made the Smithsonian a better, more welcoming place to work. Beginning in 1981, she ran a program, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, for employees struggling with alcohol use. She also led HIV and AIDS awareness programs and founded an HIV/AIDS support group at the Institution in 1988. In this role, Frederick arranged private screenings and advocated for accommodations for employees affected by the disease. 

Portrait photograph of a white woman with short hair and a long, white neck scarf.

Frederick earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. from The George Washington University. Prior to arriving at the Smithsonian, Frederick worked as a head nurse at The George Washington University Hospital.

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