by Yoon Joung Lee
An heiress of the Giant Food and a grandchild of a prominent local Jewish family, Isabelle Scott, was born Fredrica Linda Lehrman in 1940 in Washington DC. She legally changed her name to Isabelle Scott in the late 1990s.
Reportedly, her family did not know about her deafness until she was in the second grade. She got various experimental treatments to cure her deafness, but every attempt failed. As Ms. Scott went through this painful challenge, her family’s expectation toward her younger sister Heidi got bigger and her sister soon became the family’s darling. They even named Giant baked goods in her sister’s honor. Heidi later became a Washington’s well-known arts patron and died in 2009. Ms. Scott also had two brothers who still live in the District.
While the family’s heavy attention was in her younger sister, Heidi, Ms. Scott started to practice lip-reading. She carefully paid attention and studied very hard to read others’ lips so that she could read what others said without hearing them. Despite her disability, she was an active student at National Cathedral School and wrote for the school’s literary magazine. However, in some ways she lead a double life, as only few knew her own father, Jacob Lehrman, physically and sexually abused her.
One day, while she was in her late teens, her boyfriend, Barry Rosenberg, stopped by to see her at her home and saw her face was swollen and bruised. He found it was by her father. An active-duty soldier and a former football player, Rosenberg, confronted Jacob Lehrman and warned him never to do it again. Ms. Scott married Rosenberg in 1959 and had a son, Scott, in 1963. After marriage, she finished her undergraduate study at American University in 1962, and got master’s degrees in medieval history and English literature at University of Maryland in 1965. Then, her family moved to Charlottesville and she finished a PhD in English at the University of Virginia in 1969.
After finishing her PhD in the 1970s, she came back to the District and divorced her first husband. While she was teaching English at George Washington and Howard universities, she met a French professor at Howard, Richard Saunders, and married him. However, her second marriage did not last long. In 1982, she met Washingtonian psychotherapist, Douglass Carmichael, and they began an affair. She soon divorced her second husband and married Carmichael in 1983.
Marriage with her third husband, Carmichael, did not last long either because he had an affair with another woman. After her third divorce, she went to law school and finished her study at Catholic University in 1992. As a lawyer, she worked for domestic violence cases, directed a domestic violence project, and also lectured on national panels.
She also donated $1 million to establish Girl Choristers for students at National Cathedral School where she graduated in 1958. She attended most of the choristers’ concerts or sang at religious services. However, the girls had no idea who she was because she never interacted with the girls. Therefore, the girls were not able to find out about her identity until the day she died, and Ms. Scott was referred as the guardian angel. Also, the girls didn’t know of her identity because those who knew of her donation, kept it secret until her death. A few months before her death, she gave another $3 million to create an endowment and scholarships for the choristers. The reason why she provided this enormous support to the Girl Choristers was that she became devoted to music in the final five years of her life. She dreamt of being a singer as she supported the Girls Choristers. In November 2010, at her age of 70, she died at her home, in the District, of leukemia.