Oral history interview with Edith D., 1980


D., Edith (Interviewee)
Courtwright, David T., 1952- (Interviewer)
Joseph, Herman (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Edith D., 1980
Other Titles
Reminiscences of Edith D., 1980; Oral history of Edith D., 1980
Edith D. discusses the arc of her life, jobs, relationships, and addictions. She discusses her time working in dress shops and checkrooms, and her involvement in organizing unions in nightclubs, which included communicating with crime boss Louis Lepke Buchalter. She describes the class-based scenes of opium smokers. She is dying of throat cancer at the time of the interview, and approximately half- way through the interview, she gets too tired to speak, so her husband Abe D. begins speaking too. She and Abe discuss the social perceptions of an opium user versus a heroin junkie. They also discuss the changing prices of opium, various "cures," the mechanics of an opium pipe, and the transition to using heroin. The interview mentions a number of famous people the couple encountered through drug circles: Rudy Vallee, Irving Berlin, Billy Rose, and Billie Holiday
Collection Name
Addicts Who Survived oral history collection
Nightclubs--New York (State); Drug addicts--United States; Opium abuse--History--20th century.--United States; Heroin abuse--History--20th century.--United States; Methadone maintenance--History--20th century.--United States; D., Edith; D., Abe
oral histories
Physical Description
65 pages
Note (Biographical)
Edith D. was born on September 28, 1912. She was the third of eight children raised in a Lower East Side tenement with her parents. She finished the eighth grade, then went to continuation school to study homemaking. Afterwards she sold dresses on Cli nton Street, through which she became involved with a union. She formed unions in various nightclubs including The Howdy Club, the Nineteenth Hole, Ernie's and the Village Inn. She married at sixteen, conceived a son, and divorced two years later because of domestic abuse. She was introduced to opium by a friend who was trying to distract her from her gambling addiction. At age twenty-one, she met Abe D. They married several years later. Their marriage was marked by a shared opium addiction. During the opium shortage after the Second World War, Edith tried heroin. She attempted multiple detoxes and cures for her addiction throughout her years, but none proved useful except methadone. By 1980, she was taking methadone prescribed through a recovery clinic she was in with her husband. Edith D. was interviewed for the project that led to the book Addicts Who Survived. The name is likely a pseudonym for the project. In the book, Edith D. was referred to by the pseudonym "Emily"
Interviewed by David Courtwright and Herman Joseph on May 16, 1980. Abe D. was also present for the interview
Note (Provenance)
David Courtwright, Herman Joseph, and Don Des Jarlais, Gift, 1988
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
Browse Location’s Digital Content
Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Time-Based Media
Time-Based Media
Persistent URL
Related URLs
Available digital content for this interview.