Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ada Jo Mann, May 11, 2021

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Motivation for joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: This is Evelyn Ganzglass. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia from 1966 to 1968. Today is May 11, 2021. And I'm interviewing Ada Jo Mann who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chad, 1967 to 1969 in a health education program and then she served at Headquarters, um--Peace Corps Headquarters from 1980 to 1985 in the Training and Program, um, Support Unit and she was respons--she was the founder of, um, the Small Project Assistance Program and also worked on renewable energy, as a renewable energy specialist.

Segment Synopsis: In 1966, while she was a junior in college, Mann's boyfriend asked her to join the Peace Corps with him and she agreed. They got married so they could serve together.

Keywords: Marriage; Peace Corps staff; Small Project Assistance Program; Vietnam War

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--1960-1970; Peace Corps (U.S.)--1980-1990; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad

GPS: Chad
Map Coordinates: 15, 19
GPS: Vietnam
Map Coordinates: 16, 108
00:02:14 - Potential assignments and eventual posting

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so you joined--you both applied to the Peace Corps and, um, did you voice a pre--state a preference for Africa or did you just apply?

Segment Synopsis: Mann did not state a preference for place of assignment. First, Mann and her husband were assigned to Gabon but that project was canceled. Next, Mann was assigned to India but that program was canceled. Third, the Manns were assigned to Cameroon.

Keywords: Changes; Marriage; Pre-service training

Subjects: Africa; Cameroon; Gabon; India; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Gabon; Peace Corps (U.S.)--India; World politics

GPS: Gabon
Map Coordinates: -1, 12
GPS: India
Map Coordinates: 21, 78
GPS: Cameroon
Map Coordinates: 6, 12
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
00:03:50 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: Sent to the same training that we would have gone to had we gone to Gabon with a, a, a large group of Volunteers who were going to a number of programs in, in--all over Africa.

Segment Synopsis: Mann was in a group of about 100 trainees who received 8 weeks of French language training in Baker, Louisiana. Training was disrupted in the middle of one night when local people burnt crosses outside the dorms and a week later local public health officials closed the kitchen facilities. Consequently, the people on site were bused for meals to Southern University. Too many married couples had been assigned to Cameroon. Accordingly, the Manns agreed to switch to Chad, in part because the technical training for Chad was in the Virgin Islands. Technical training lasted 8 weeks and involved 3 weeks of home stay in Trinidad. Study of Arabic also occurred during this second part of pre-service training. Throughout this training, there was psychological screening which de-selected trainees, which Mann feels was excessive.

Keywords: Arabic (Language); Baker (La.); Changes; Criticism; French (Language); Language training; Local languages; Local people; Locals; Motivation; Southern University; Technical training; Traveling; Virgin Islands

Subjects: Africa; Cameroon; Chad; Dahomey; Gabon; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad; Trinidad; Universities and colleges

GPS: Gabon
Map Coordinates: -1, 12
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
GPS: Baker (La.)
Map Coordinates: 30.585556, -91.157222
GPS: Southern University
Map Coordinates: 30.524674, -91.190034
GPS: Cameroon
Map Coordinates: 6, 12
GPS: Chad
Map Coordinates: 15, 19
GPS: Virgin Islands of the United States
Map Coordinates: 18.34, -64.9
GPS: Trinidad
Map Coordinates: 10.460556, -61.248611
GPS: Dahomey (now known as Benin)
Map Coordinates: 6.466667. 2.6
00:12:23 - Reflections on pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: Where did you grow up?

Segment Synopsis: Mann grew up in Detroit and found the cross burning incident upsetting. Mann describes a week of pre-service training in New Orleans. Overall, Mann found the pre-service training useful. Mann describes the health project for which she received technical training.

Keywords: Criticism; Detroit (Mich.); Fort Archambault (Chad); Language training; New Orleans (La.); Technical training; Villages

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad; Race discrimination; Race relations; Racism; United States. Agency for International Development; Volunteer workers in community health services

GPS: Detroit (Mich.)
Map Coordinates: 42.331389, -83.045833
GPS: New Orleans (La.)
Map Coordinates: 29.95, -90.08
GPS: Fort Archambault (Chad) [now known as Sarh (Chad)]
Map Coordinates: 9.15, 18.383333
00:19:10 - Departure for Chad

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So, you finished training in the Virgin Islands. And, uh, then how many of you started this training and how many of you ended the training, about?

Segment Synopsis: Mann reports that 20% of her training group was de-selected. Only one cohort before Mann's had been sent to Chad and it had a high attrition rate. Mann's cohort, Chad II, had ten Volunteers. The Manns and 2 others were assigned as a team at Sarh. After pre-service training, the Manns left for Fort-Lamy, Chad via New York City and Paris.

Keywords: Cohorts; Family; Fort-Lamy (Chad); New York City (N.Y.); Paris (France); Sarh (Chad); Site mates; Traveling

Subjects: Chad; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad

GPS: Fort Archambault (Chad) [now known as Sarh (Chad)]
Map Coordinates: 9.15, 18.383333
GPS: New York City (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.712778, -74.006111
GPS: Paris (France)
Map Coordinates: 48.856613, 2.352222
GPS: Chad
Map Coordinates: 15, 19
GPS: Fort-Lamy (Chad) [now known as N'Djamena (Chad)]
Map Coordinates: 12.11, 15.05
00:20:54 - Arrival in Chad

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So, you get to Chad. And then, then what happened?

Segment Synopsis: The Volunteers in Mann's cohort were in a hotel for a month waiting for government permission to leave for their work sites.

Keywords: Arrangements; Bureaucracy; Food; Living situation; Louisiana; Paperwork; Pre-service training; Preparation; Problems; Waiting periods

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad

GPS: Louisiana
Map Coordinates: 31.0689, -91.9968
00:23:57 - Work site

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Partial Transcript: So, it was the second largest city which, you know, wasn't really saying very much in those days.

Segment Synopsis: Mann describes her living conditions in Chad. The Manns were advised to hire a guard and a cook, which they did. The Manns' counterpart had no idea who they were and showed no interest in working with them. The refrigerated truck provided by USAID had not been running for an extended period. The Manns started studying the local language with a local high school student and wrote a training manual for other language learners to follow suit. As an alternative project, the Manns wrote and pilot tested a health curriculum in French for use in local primary schools and were able to get official approval for its use. The next cohort had a team of 3 Volunteers who worked in the nearby villages drilling water wells. So, the Manns and the 2 other Volunteers on their team would follow them and give the villagers instruction on water sanitation and latrine construction.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Activities; Adaptation; Adjustment; Advice; Amenities; Books; Bureaucracy; Challenges; Cohorts; Community involvement; Counterparts; Flexibility; Fort Archambault (Chad); French (Language); Health training; Housing; Language training; Living situation; Local languages; Outhouses; Peace Corps directors; Problems; Support; Transportation; Traveling; Villages

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad; Public health; United States. Agency for International Development; Volunteers

GPS: Fort Archambault (Chad) [now known as Sarh (Chad)]
Map Coordinates: 9.15, 18.383333
00:37:42 - Leisure activities

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Partial Transcript: What did you guys do for fun?

Segment Synopsis: Mann socialized with some of the local people. Mann also frequented the city's movie theater and had cocktails at the city hotel.

Keywords: Local people; Locals; Misconceptions; Socializing

Subjects: Central African Republic; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad; Recreation

GPS: Central African Republic
Map Coordinates: 7, 21
00:41:01 - Serving in Peace Corps as a married couple

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Partial Transcript: Do you have any thoughts about how your experience was different than the other Volunteers because you were married?

Segment Synopsis: Mann feels that having a spouse to help her made things easier. Also, living in a city gave them access to amenities that other Volunteers in Chad didn't have. However, having a spouse was a disincentive to become more fully integrated in the local society.

Keywords: Amenities; Married couples; Married volunteers; Social interactions

Subjects: Chad; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad; Volunteers

GPS: Chad
Map Coordinates: 15, 19
00:42:10 - Vacation during her service

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Partial Transcript: Did you travel during vacations, at all?

Segment Synopsis: For vacation, the Volunteers in Mann's cohort were offered a plane ticket either to East Africa or to West Africa. Mann visited Peace Corps friends throughout West Africa. In the back of a truck, Mann traveled to Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic.

Keywords: Bangui (Central African Republic); Cohorts; Mount Kilimanjaro; Traveling

Subjects: Benin; Cameroon; Dahomey; East Africa; Ghana; International travel; Niger; Nigeria; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Chad; Togo; West Africa

GPS: East Africa
Map Coordinates: -4.2408634, 24.4290571
GPS: West Africa
Map Coordinates: 14.4175698, -9.8943243
GPS: Togo
Map Coordinates: 6.133333, 1.216667
GPS: Dahomey [now known as Benin]
Map Coordinates: 6.466667, 2.6
GPS: Ghana
Map Coordinates: 7.816667, -1.05
GPS: Mount Kilimanjaro
Map Coordinates: -3.075833, 37.353333
GPS: Nigeria
Map Coordinates: 8, 10
GPS: Cameroon
Map Coordinates: 6, 12
GPS: Niger
Map Coordinates: 16, 8
GPS: Bangui (Central African Republic)
Map Coordinates: 4.373333, 18.562778
00:46:11 - Coming home and re-entry

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Partial Transcript: What did you do--did you travel coming home or come home directly?

Segment Synopsis: Mann returned to the U.S. after a few days in Paris. Once back in the U.S., Mann experienced culture shock. Mann was offered a job as the private assistant to Ethel Kennedy. However, Mann accepted a position with the Peace Corps in the Office of Selection instead. After a year and a half, Mann left as she saw no women being advanced within the Peace Corps. Mann resumed college but stopped when she became pregnant. A year after staying home with her child, Mann got a part-time job with Ralph Nader.

Keywords: Applications; Applying; Career paths; Children; Choices; Ethel Kennedy; Family; Gender discrimination; Hickory Hill (Va.); Interviews; Jobs; Paris (France); Peace Corps staff; Ralph Nader; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Sex discrimination; Traveling

Subjects: Careers.; Culture shock; International travel; Occupations.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--1960-1970; Peace Corps (U.S.)--1970-1980; Professions.; Sex discrimination in employment.; Vocation.; Women--Employment.; Work.

GPS: Paris (France)
Map Coordinates: 48.856613, 2.352222
GPS: Hickory Hill (Va.)
Map Coordinates: 38.944444, -77.161667
GPS: Kennebunkport (Me.)
Map Coordinates: 43.361667, -70.476667
00:50:48 - Return to Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: I think we fast forward about--at this point about 10 years.

Segment Synopsis: After 10 years, Mann met the special assistant to the head of ACTION at a school meeting. Mann expressed an interest in re-connecting with Peace Corps and was given a contact number by the other parent. Mann had a job interview with the Peace Corps and was hired to work for the Office of Training and Support. In a joint project with USAID, Mann's job was to oversee work to develop training in renewable energy technologies.

Keywords: California; Excited; Friends; Interviews; Jobs; Learning; Peace Corps staff; Renewable energy technology; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Skills; Support; Traveling

Subjects: Applications; Applying; Careers.; Emotions; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles; Occupations.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--1980-1990; Professions.; United States. Agency for International Development; Vocation.; Washington (D.C.); Work.

GPS: California
Map Coordinates: 37, -120
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
00:57:28 - Women in the Peace Corps / Small Project Assistance Program

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Partial Transcript: Why, why was Peace Corps an unfriendly place for women when you came back?

Segment Synopsis: Mann feels there have been differences between Republican presidents' administrations and the more liberal philosophy of the Peace Corps. Mann's counterpart at USAID was happy with the renewable energy project and asked Mann for ideas for other joint projects. Restrictions had been placed on how Peace Corps funds could be used. Accordingly, Mann suggested having a source of outside funds to which Volunteers could apply for grants. Consequently, after a year's work, an agreement was drawn up whereby monies were to be set aside at Peace Corps Headquarters and in countries that had Volunteers and a USAID mission for Volunteers to apply for grants from $500 up to $3,000 to be used at their work site and for training of Volunteer counterparts. These developments were supported by Loret Ruppe. Mann was slated to be the director of this new program. Just before the launch of the program, Mann was given 2 weeks' notice by her boss without any justification. At a later meeting, Mann's boss, who was a right-wing Republican appointee, accused Mann of being a communist and then of not having gone through proper channels. Eventually, Mann was reinstated and given a raise. Her boss was transferred to another office.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Conservative; Counterparts; Differences; Funding; Grants; Loret Ruppe; Mid-service training; Peace Corps directors; Politics and government; Problems; Richard Nixon; Support; Telephone calls; Unsupportive

Subjects: Careers.; Occupations.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Professions.; United States. Agency for International Development; Vocation.; Work.

01:09:19 - Reflections on Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: I, I noted that you left after about 5 years.

Segment Synopsis: Mann left the Peace Corps staff after serving the maximum of 5 contiguous years. Mann found her time in the Peace Corps to be a wonderful, exciting, life-changing experience. Mann discusses her late career, which was mostly involved with management and international development. Mann hopes that the Peace Corps endures.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Behavior; Bloomfield Hills (Mich.); Burlington (Vt.); Career paths; Case Western Reserve University; Champlain College; Contact; Decisions; First Goal; Funding; Grants; Impact; International development; Jesse Helms; Jobs; Leaving; Peace Corps staff; Personal growth; Third Goal; Traveling; Verbal abuse; Workshops

Subjects: Careers.; International travel; Lifestyles; Mental health; Non-governmental organizations; Occupations.; Professions.; Research; United States. Agency for International Development; Universities and colleges; Vocation.; Work.

GPS: Bloomfield Hills (Mich.)
Map Coordinates: 42.583611, -83.245556
GPS: Case Western Reserve University
Map Coordinates: 41.583611, -83.245556
GPS: Champlain College
Map Coordinates: 44.475677, -73.205685
GPS: Burlington (Vt.)
Map Coordinates: 44.475833, -73.211944