By Research Librarian Katy Sternberger
Evidently, Doris Moore was known for asking questions in history class. Her “talent” was recognized in the ninth grade “class will” published in the Portsmouth Herald when she graduated from Portsmouth Junior High School in 1934. She would later break barriers in Black history.
Moore was born in Portsmouth on March 12, 1916, and lived much of her life at 41 Pickering Street in the South End. She attended Haven School, which served the children of the Puddle Dock area, graduating from sixth grade in 1929. Unknown circumstances didn’t allow her to begin seventh grade until 1931, when she was among the first students to attend the newly built junior high school. She went on to graduate from Portsmouth High School in 1937.
It was not expected in the 1930s that women should attend college—much less Black women. But Moore preferred to get her education and work to support herself. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1942, Moore returned to Portsmouth and worked as a machine operator at the Morley Company on Islington Street. In April 1943, she registered with the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, which became known as the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) when women were granted rank and privileges in the United States Army a few months after Moore’s enlistment.
Moore served in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, traveling to Birmingham, England, and Rouen, France, to sort and deliver massive amounts of mail. The battalion was the only all-Black, all-female unit to travel overseas during World War II. While in France in 1945, Moore was promoted to private first class.
Upon returning from the war, Moore earned a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University in 1951. At her first job in Louisville, Kentucky, she accepted both Black and white clients. With a specialty in child welfare, she joined the staff at the Children’s Aid Society in Manchester in 1959, becoming the first Black social worker in New Hampshire. She worked at the agency for twenty-two years.
Moore passed away in Portsmouth on June 26, 1993, at age 77. We remember and we salute her service to family, state, and nation.
Note: Moore’s birth year has often been incorrectly given as 1919. Multiple sources confirm she was in fact born in 1916.
The Moore Family of Pickering Street
Doris Moore (1916–1993) was the daughter of James H. Moore, described as “a local window washer,” and Sarah Annie (Fields) Moore, both originally from North Carolina. The couple lived together in Portsmouth for more than fifty years and raised three children. Doris, the youngest, had a brother, James Robert Moore (born 1912), and a sister, Sarah Pettiford (1914–1989).
The family settled at 41 Pickering Street in the South End. They had previously rented 83 Washington Street. According to a December 9, 1926, notice in the Portsmouth Herald, the land and buildings on Pickering Street were conveyed to James H. Moore by Elmer H. Downs of North Conway. Newspaper clippings trace the children’s education, from the Puddle Dock neighborhood’s Haven School through Portsmouth High School.
For many years, the Moores attended the People’s Baptist Church on Pearl Street, where Martin Luther King Jr. preached on October 26, 1952 (the church later reorganized as New Hope Baptist Church). James Robert, Sarah, and Doris all spoke and sang regularly and were active participants in the Baptist Young People’s Union.
James Robert married Eutha Belle Hylick of Dawson, Georgia, in 1939; earned a master’s degree in education from Atlanta University in 1951; and worked as a high school principal in Georgia.
Sarah first married George Ludlow of Coronado, California, in 1935; then Henry Pettiford (1917–1994) of Portsmouth in 1941. She raised her family in the Puddle Dock neighborhood.
After Doris established her career as a social worker, she returned to New Hampshire to care for her mother. Both of her parents suffered long illnesses before dying within eight days of each other in May 1958. Doris recorded an oral history interview with Valerie Cunningham in 1990.