Bertha Mae Pinder, a pioneering African American president of the Women’s Civic League and retired Social Security Administration supervisor, died Dec. 13 at Charter Senior Living at Woodholme Crossing in Pikesville.
The resident of Windsor Hills in West Baltimore was 98.
Born Bertha Mae Taylor in Rienzi, Mississippi, she was the daughter of John William Taylor, who owned a tavern after retiring from Crucible Steel Co., and his wife, Mary. The family moved to Midland, Pennsylvania, in 1924.
According to her daughter, Gay Pinder, Mrs. Pinder discovered her love of music as a child and sang in the church and school choirs, and attended the neighboring Beaver Valley School of the Arts for vocal training. She was a 1942 graduate of Lincoln High School.
A year later, Mrs. Pinder joined in the World War II effort by becoming an airplane propeller inspector at a Curtiss-Wright Corp. plant.
During this time, she met her future husband, George Pinder.
“It was raining and he asked if she needed a ride and she said no,” said her daughter Gay. “They eventually started going out together.”
They married and in 1944 moved to Baltimore, Mr. Pinder’s hometown.
She lived for many years on Monticello Road in Windsor Hills.
A daughter said that Mrs. Pinder often told stories of the segregation she experienced in Baltimore.
“Mom often spoke of the time she went to a downtown department store to buy a hat shortly after arriving in Baltimore,” her daughter Amelia Campbell said. “She quickly learned that Black people were not welcome.”
“Despite the times, my mother began carving out a career,”her daughter Gay said. “In 1955, she began working at the Social Security Administration as a GS3 clerk where she worked with earnings reports. She soon qualified as a supervisor, and was one of few African Americans in a supervisory position at that time.”
Mrs. Pinder created a career with the Social Security Administration during her 30 years with the agency. She received numerous awards and recognitions.
Mrs. Pinder joined the Church of the Holy Trinity in West Baltimore. She served as a member of the vestry, president of the women’s group and a 50-year member of the choir.
“She had an incredible soprano voice. We would sit transfixed when she sang,” said David A. Carroll, a neighbor. “Up into her 90s, she sang like she was 25 years old.
“She was a member of the matriarchy of the women in Windsor Hills who made a difference in everything from civil rights, diversity and the beautification of the city.
“She was an absolute delight. She was really quick and had a wonderful sense of humor,” Mr. Carroll said.
Mrs. Pinder was also a member of the Cahill Recreation Center’s advisory committee and was a champion of the facility’s 2015 refurbishment.
“My mother was an elegant lady and liked good dresses and gloves, in the days when people wore gloves,” her daughter Gay said. “She felt that Baltimore had a lot of promise and that is why she joined the Civic League to contribute to the flowering of Baltimore.”
In retirement, Mrs. Pinder studied at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.
In the 1980s, Mrs. Pinder joined the Women’s Civic League and represented the group’s Northwest Baltimore section. The league was founded in 1911 with a mission of keeping the city clean.
“She became the first woman of color to be elected WCL president,” her daughter Gay said.
“During her tenure as president, Mrs. Pinder became friends with former mayor and governor William Donald Schaefer, who was a supporter of the league. It was with his association that the league attracted several new members,” said her daughter, who recalled taking her mother to visit Mr. Schaefer at the end of his life at the Charlestown Retirement Community.
Her daughter said Mrs. Pinder enjoyed and lived the words of the Women’s Civic League’s adopted song, “Let there be peace on Earth … and let it begin with me ... ”
Gay Pinder said, “My mother valued diversity and often said that there was only one race — the human race.”
She was a past member of the Baltimore Black History Club and a charter member of the National Museum of African American History.
“Whether making strides in her career or making local history, my mother was most proud of being a mother to five children,” her daughter Gay said.
Survivors include three daughters, Joy Savage, Amelia Campbell and Gay Pinder, all of Baltimore; two sisters, Ruby Golding of Midland, Pennsylvania, and Mary Wilson of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania; six grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandson.
Her husband, George Weldon Pinder, a Postal Service mechanic, died in 1977. A son, Geoffrey Pinder, died in 2022. Another son, Brian Pinder, died in 1994.
Services for Mrs. Pinder will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 29 at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity at 2300 W. Lafayette Ave.