Born in Olympia 87 years ago, Winnifred Castle Olsen has been a “doer” since school days when she edited the Olympia High School paper and the annual and was student body secretary (1933-34). Immediately after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Washington State College in 1938 and being married in the fall, she became involved in Olympia activities writing free publicity for Girl Scouts, United Good Neighbors, Red Cross, Easter Seals, March of Dimes, and other “causes.”
After having two sons, she became PTA focused – helping organize the preschool nursery school; was a cub scout den mother, Hi-Y supporter; president of the Olympia high School PTA, president two years; PTA City Council; regional PTA council; and president of the Olympia Citizens Advisory Council on Education. This group helped lay the early groundwork for a state college in Thurston County.
Before the days of television, she became “Mother Goose” on KGY radio, producing a half hour creative play/music program for pre-schoolers every Saturday morning for 8 ½ years (1948-1957). She also helped organize the Thurston County Juvenile Protection Committee, the Olympia Panhellenic, Olympia Junior Programs and was involved – writing publicity – in the beginning of the YWCA and the League of Women Voters. She served 11 years on the Washington State Fulbright Scholarship Committee.
While working at the State Capitol Museum (1963-67), she became aware of and intrigued with the little known story of George W. Bush, the mulatto pioneer who helped establish the first American settlement on Puget Sound at Tumwater in 1845. She has researched and developed the Bush family history for the past 40 years and finally experienced a “dream come true” helping to dedicate a Bush family historical kiosk on part of the family’s 1850 Land Donation claim in Tumwater of February 22, 1997.
Mrs. Olsen’s first assignment with the Tacoma Public School in 1967 was to put minorities into Northwest History. She made classroom presentations, wrote teaching materials, student texts and a series of KTPS television programs on Black history, Native American culture and Tacoma history. She worked with parents to start the Indian Education Program and with Black parents to supplement Title IV activities. She served on Title II and Title III NDEA committees for the State Department of Public Instruction and taught a popular series of extended education classes on Indian Treaty issues, “Think India”, for UPS, PLU, and WWSC. She edited a study guide on Negro History in 1968 which won a NEA Carter G. Woodson award and then authored a text on Puyallup and Nisqually Indians for third graders and a text on Tacoma Beginnings. Her history of the Tacoma Public School (1869-1984) won the National School Public Relations Association’s Golden Achievement Award for 1986.
Since her retirement, Mrs. Olsen has undertaken more volunteer roles in Olympia and Thurston County. She was appointed to the Olympia Timberland Library board, serving ten years 1985-1995); the Evergreen Convalescent Center Community Advisory Board (1985-1989), the Thurston County Historic Commission (1989 to the present, currently vice-president); steering committees for the Olympia Library Bond campaign (1995-1997) and the Olympia Library Friends Board since 1990.