Peggy Sands Orchowski

If you want to be a leader, know that that’s going to be 16 hours a day. If that’s what you want, great. But don’t expect then that, you know, you’re going to be a very successful mom, or a happy mom.

— Peggy Sands Orchowski

Peggy Sands Orchowski

Peggy Sands Orchowski was seeking to get back into journalism when she learned about JAWS through Investigative Reporters and Editors. Attendance at the JAWS 2005 camp convinced her to become a member because she enjoyed socializing with women who shared her passion for journalism. During the past decade, she has witnessed the group membership shift from mostly full-time journalists to those working in other areas of communications. She believes that this demographic change within the group reflects the realities of a precarious media industry.

Peggy’s career aspiration began while living a year in Peru during her father’s Fulbright stint. That experience sealed her desire to become a foreign correspondent in South America. Back in the mid-1960s, news organizations were not hospitable to women. Editors put up gender excuses in denying her opportunities, but Peggy remained undeterred. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, she simply bought an airplane ticket to Peru and told AP editors she was available to do reporting. She enjoyed working as a foreign correspondent, but the event that led her to hang up her journalism hat was her marriage to a German guy and then her supportive accompaniment of him throughout the United States and Europe for his engineering work. Meanwhile, she raised the children, worked in grant writing, and obtained a doctorate in educational finance. But after the family left home, Peggy relocated to Washington, D.C., to begin her journalism career anew. She accepted jobs typically taken by recent college graduates and had no fear of learning from the ground up. Now in her early 70s, she keeps herself busy as ever, continuing to serve as Congressional correspondent for the Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education and, in 2008, having authored a book titled Immigration and the American Dream.

I visited Peggy Sands Orchowski at her home in the Georgetown neighborhood on the Sunday morning of December 15, 2013. She had underestimated the time commitment of an oral interview and had promised to support a friend presenting a sermon, so she extended an impromptu invitation to accompany her and her Italian exchange student to mass at the Washington National Cathedral. Thus, the Sunday morning began with organ music and the lighting of the Advent wreath. We parted ways for lunch and then reconvened at her home, where we talked all afternoon and through the evening. It was inspiring to hear of all her experiences, but for Peggy, she is always in search of something more. Although she had overcome gender barriers earlier in life, she reported disappointment to find that ageism now hindered her professional goals and believes that society should address this issue. As well, Peggy passionately expounded on Hispanic immigration in the United States and the languages and cultures of South America. These topics are not just talking points, but as Peggy said, “These are very long, personal experiences.”

( This interview was conducted by Youn-Joo Park )