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The following program was produced and recorded by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant from the Educational Television Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters news in 20th century America. A series of radio documents on the gathering writing and dissemination of news compiled from interviews with the men and women who make news their business. I am not able to see that women have made progress at the top level that they ought to make but remember this that it is still difficult for women when they strive for the top to get the pay the prestige and the position that they in my judgment are entitled to. And it's it's idle to discuss whether this is just it's obviously unjust but it happens to be a fact. The voices that have Doris Felice and Washington reporter and political columnist miss Leeson is one of several distinguished women journalists you will meet in this edition of news in 20th century America today women in
journalism. Their work their present status and their unique problems. Now here is your host at Burroughs. Why do some women choose journalism as a career. What obstacles have they had to overcome. What is the future for women in this profession. Today you will hear these questions discussed in recorded interviews with Edith Johnson Pauline Frederick's Sylvia Porter Patricia Leeds and Doris Friesen. Nowhere in the world are so many women contributing so much to the daily press and in so many fields as in the United States today. But this state of affairs did not come about overnight. With me today I'm serving as a consultant on this program is a gentleman whose long career as a newspaper man has coincided with the first major achievements of women in his profession and who has a profound respect for those achievements. He is Leland Stowe given surprise when a foreign correspondence and professor of journalism at the University of Michigan.
What names stand out in your mind Professor stole from the earlier years in the early months of Russia's revolution and energetic young American newspaper woman. That's the Bailey of the Associated Press. One nation wide headlines in her exclusive interviews with Lennon the boast of a dictator. In those days. Female reporters were rare birds indeed long standing masculine bias barred women from reporting anything except society and women's page news. Then in the 1920s and early 30s the so-called weaker sex scored a decisive journalistic breakthrough. By sheer ability and determination. In one hundred twenty six is associated press employed Ethyl Harzi as the first woman reporter on its New York headquarters staff. Quite a revolutionary step in itself. Soon she was followed by Catherine Beebe and
Loreena Kok who later became press secretary in the White House for Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt. The United Press blossomed out with Joan Young or in New York Korean Hardesty in Chicago and in Washington with a star all round reporter Ruby black. She in turn often had team competition from Ruth Finney of the Scripps Howard newspapers another trail blazing woman who was Washington correspondent. During my Cub reporting years in New York I remember especially to keen and very attractive young women who kept all their male colleagues decidedly on their toes. The Herald Tribune owns Ishbel Ross and I know as Rob our international news service. They not only competed on equal terms with men they were superbly porters and gifted writers as well.
And like most able newspaper women their femininity never suffered one wit one woman who began as a society editor over 50 years ago has developed into a distinguished columnist. She is Edith Johnson of Oklahoma City who is still writing still pioneering. We asked Miss Johnson how she became a newspaper woman so many years ago. Well from the time I was 10 or 11 years old I wanted to write. What I didn't find that opportunity. Until. The 15th of December 1998. When a friend of mine who'd been society editor of The Oklahoman married another friend of mine and I immediately applied for the position of society editor of the old common. While I carried on that work alone for a number of years I had a great
desire. To broaden my experience and therefore my knowledge. So what I seized upon every opportunity. To do on a variety of stories. I not only reported and edited. Society in The Daily Oklahoman. But I interviewed all the celebrated persons who came to town. I did the music criticism for the Oklahoman. I did a variety of feature stories. In fact when I tried my hand of almost anything I could think of. In those days. And then when the editor of The Oklahoman at that time Mr. R. E. Stafford. Asked me
to create a woman's page without. Thinking of my ambition to anyone. I wrote I began to write my column which I have written ever since October Dailly. Ever since October 1915 overcoming prejudice in an all male profession must have been especially difficult in those early days. What was Edith Johnson's experience. I found it very hard to tell except from the start. And the only time that I ever heard a man in for a criticism of woman in the newspaper business was when our managing editor of that day a Mr. puffer said to me one day. You do. I don't think women have any place in the newspaper business.
They certainly have no place except in society. And the best society editor in the United States is a man. Well I didn't take that very seriously. Everybody was very kind everybody was very helpful. And as I was so I was completely lacking in experience when I made my start and all the men around the office seemed to want to help me. Another distinguished woman journalist with whom we talked was Pauline Frederick's whose broadcasts from the United Nations have helped the American public to understand and appreciate the activities of that important organization. Frederick's we addressed the question how did she come to choose journalism as a career. It's a long story because I've been interested in news ever since. Junior high school days quite a few years ago where there was no school paper I tried to establish one where there was one I served on the school paper at the same time. I did a little
reporting on the local newspapers so I have been interested in journalism from the very beginning although curiously enough when I went to college. I decided. To major in political science one reason I suppose was that there was no course in journalism but I just felt that political science was a broader field for me to know something about. And when I went to graduate school I studied international law. I'm very grateful that I had both of those. Experiences and have that background at the same time it might have been a little easier along the way if I'd had some technical training in journalism but I didn't and I had to learn the hard way. A young newspaper woman who has perhaps one of the most unusual jobs in the profession is Patricia Leeds of Chicago. She is a police reporter for The Chicago Tribune from 8:00 in the morning till 4:00 in the afternoon she covers police headquarters. Half a dozen different courts. The fires accidents and human
tragedies in which the police of her city are involved. How long we asked this leads. Has she been practicing journalism. High school I went to in the Summer of 42. Prior to that city. Kristin hire me when I used to try to get her as a topic or only base it on when they were here copy girls and she put down. City Press or whatever they decided to hire when I was the third one. It worked for me in the paper for many years so the modified meeting here. Palla to education that my experience. Is supposed to make up for. The columnist Doris Friesen has called the nation's capitol home for a good many years. National politics and the Washington scene are her abiding interest. Her beat. How did she begin in the newspaper field.
I decided while still at the University of Kansas that I would be a newspaper reporter. Kansas at that time this was a rather long time ago. I. Was filled with very. Exciting interesting important newspaper man what about white and how the action globe and so on they seemed to me the people who led the most exciting and interesting lives. Anyone that I could see in the immediate horizon. I saw no reason why. Being then young all the vitamins that I should not do it is if if others could do it but I know myself and I've often said happened just more than half an artistic point I was perfectly sure the only thing the Vanderbilt's had on me was money and. I unhesitatingly. You know the business. I don't think this is easy no. First then I had the courage of ignorance. I don't lose easy those now because the first place is
just on as many newspapers. Sylvia Porter makes her home in New York. She also is a columnist but I might miss Friesen Miss Porter's chief interest is the world of economics and trade. Her column on financial matters written for the layman is unique in its subject and unique in the fact that it is written by a woman. Again we were concerned to know how Miss Porter became a journalist. I think the field of journalism is one that ate an individual girl a boy wants to get into very early in his or her life. It's a rough profession to break into. The training period is extremely discouraging. At times you feel like you can't ever break to the top. Very rarely does a person enter any phase of journalism and make it quickly overnight. That's real luck. You have to want
it very much from the start. As for myself from the day I can remember. And I was younger than my own child now and she's going to be nine. I wanted to be a writer. Then after that because I was going to college in the Depression days I became fascinated by economics. And then I decided to combine the two. And so it's aged it's a matter of wanting desperately to be a part of this world and then not being discouraged. Among the many women journalists who have not become discouraged other women foreign correspondents no one is better qualified to tell their story than the man who is with me now Leland Stowe. Working overseas for many years. I happened to have an opportunity to witness the debut of women both as foreign correspondents and as war correspondents. Before the war Helen Kirkpatrick
a Smith College graduate tall dynamic and keen as a razor had become a tower of strength in the Chicago Daily News London bureau. Sanya Tomorrow the New York Herald Tribune a White Russian by birth had won wide recognition for her dispatches from its Paris bureau and as its Rome correspondent. And I have always been very proud that I was the one who first hired her in Paris. In Germany. The Chicago Tribune's Sigrid shorts had been an outstanding reporter ever since 1919. And of course there was Dorothy Thompson a blue eyed blue eyed hurricane of journalistic energy her prowess in Austria and Germany had made Dorothy a professional legend. By the mid thirties long before she became a famous nationwide columnist here at home. As a correspondent for colliers magazine Martha Gellhorn a
striking blonde from St. Louis with a hunting dog's nose for color and human interest had already distinguished herself covering the Spanish Civil War which also led incidentally to her marriage with Ernest Hemingway. But the World War 2 really brought our American newspaper women into the limelight as front zone reporters. There were an amazing number of them so many that I can only mention some who were truly star war correspondents again. Sigrid shoots Helen Kirkpatrick and Sonia Tamara but also Tanya long Danio. Of the New York Times tiny Betty Wason of CBS dark and pretty Lee Carson of INS the U.P.S. slender and blonde and Stringer who risked her neck flying in a mock like Piper Cub to meet the Russians on the Elba and came out with the scoop on that first historic
meeting of the Russian and American troops. Again and again around the world as a war correspondent I met women colleagues who are truly a remarkably able. And I remember a trip to a front command post with Martha Gellhorn at the height of the battle of the Bulge. We got bombed by our own U.S. planes as a matter of fact. A lieutenant offered Marty his steel helmet as the bombs were breaking close by. But bareheaded Marty refused this gallant gesture. The best of our women work correspondents roughed it exactly like the men and they were as brave as any soldier. Which reminds me of people it's a prize winning. Margaret Higgins magnificent war reporting from Korea. Once under a hot artillery fire she plunged into a small shell hole. So did a G.I. at exactly the same second. And when Maggie impatiently poked her head up the G.I.
exclaimed say babe maybe you aren't interested in the future but I am. Yes every American has reason to be proud of our women's performances work correspondence and of their achievements in all fields of journalism. Very often in the face of bias and serious difficulty earlier it of Johnson mention this problem of bias. We were prompted to ask the other women journalists we interviewed about this. Pat believes in her unique job as a police reporter deals with men from morning till night. As they say in hip of her freedom or theirs is one of the places requires what's said when the police always hesitate about telling us something about telling me something he said oh my god brushed a reporter I don't think is calling it theory. And I think they watch their language a little while when I'm around or. They don't tell an.
Off color story. Around I can honestly say they've been gentlemanly. I know that people lose their temper if. I tell them my ear I need to be here is to take the right. Course. The problem misleads mentions is hardly as significant as those that Edith Johnson must have had to face when she began in the business in the early years of this century. Then a woman looking for Neil's attempting to interview a visiting celebrity for instance must have been a rare sight indeed. How did she feel about her experience as an interviewer. As a rule it's been very it's been a very easy and very pleasant task and the only time that I recall when I felt defeated was when I attempted to interview. Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. He was then conducting his wellmost campaign that was a 19 tryout. I went to
the headquarters here and told the man that I want to interview Mr. Roosevelt. And they said well you can't do it unless you go to Tulsa and meet him on the train this coming year not too busy I couldn't do that. So I went to the manager of the hotel. And he told me what I did to our suite but had presence we don't put a copper plate on the door and he told me if I'd come up the next day that he would lock me in that room that suite and then I would be on my own. He did that. I went there he locked me in. I waited a while and then I could begin to hear the tumult and shouting of the great crowd it turned out to welcome Mr Roosevelt. Pretty soon he came in the door was
unlocked. He came pressed on each side by Secret Service men. He shot into there was a living room a dining room and a bedroom with his doctor heaved out into the bedroom. I told his cousin George Roosevelt while I was where the men were astonished to see me there I know. And he said Well but Mr. President is never interviewed. I said I'm sorry but I'm here for that purpose. I was sent here by the editor of the. Oklahoman who never before gave me an assignment. Pretty soon he came out. And I began to ask him some questions which I'd been told at asking he bared those teeth of here as he told me he was delighted to see me but I couldn't get another word out of him.
Such a story by Miss Johnson may appear to have only historical interest women in journalism as in other professions have made tremendous strides since then. But has the progress been as fast as some might have hoped. Are there perhaps actually fewer women journalists today than there were 10 or 20 years ago. Donors Friesen on that topic. Well there are fewer journalists of either sex. I suppose relatively There are more women in the in the trade. I am not able to see that women have made the progress at the top level that they ought to make but remember this that it is still difficult for women when they strive for the top to get the pay the prestige and the position that they in my judgment are entitled to. For example there is there are many. Men correspondents very very well known here and they have the
best jobs the biggest pay and get the biggest attention. And it's it's an idol to discuss whether this is just it's obviously unjust but it happens to be a fact. And so long as women don't get the same opportunities the the best and brightest women will look for fields in which there is less discrimination. So we lose them in both ways. Those that are here find it more difficult to get the best jobs. And we don't get as many recruits as we ought to get because it's obvious to the Bright Young Ones that the jobs opportunities the best job opportunities are withheld from them. And I only invite you to look at the front page of any newspaper. How many women by lines are either comparison by lines of men. Well I think what we need is a great flowering of mind and spirit on the part of the man who who monopolize the top echelons of the newspaper business to realize that women have a great contribution to make and
I think it has no sex one thinks or one does not but it jives so many times from the platform. And I have often wondered how effectively as I look around here. I have never been able to understand why there is this apparent fear that in giving women opportunities you are taking something away from an ego and I think you're making a great contribution to the well being the intelligence of the country. Discrimination is keeping young women away from the profession of journalism MS Friesen maintains. So be a porter's view is not so pessimistic. In her words the woman who is good and who shows it and she will show it very very very rarely I get seen a few in the last few years and I can just take them out. I know that they're going to be great you can just see it. You see it when they're 19 18 20 you can see it and feel it.
This woman this girl and this woman will be accepted. She'll be accepted by the men with whom she competes. Some of course will always be jealous men are jealous of men. Women are jealous of women in any field. I'm not talking about Korea's envious jealous but those who are good men in their own field they don't afraid of a woman's competition. They are delighted and the same thing will go for a woman as against a woman I find in my own life and I certainly was a pioneer in this that it has. They prejudices have decreased and the bias has decreased. That may be because I've been around so long now people accept me. But it's also true of other young women who I see around who are coming in and men accept them. Sure there is still the prejudice there is still bias there still the difficulty is a silly little difficulties when it's an overwhelmingly a a group of men and there becomes a simple little problem of the physical taking care of one girl on a junket of a hundred men. But these are much
very much. And I would say that it will be less and less it depends on how good the girl is. And what will the future demand of the woman journalist that she be the same as the past tense and the current present demands of her that she be I repeat again the words eager willing to work dedicated to the field and believing that something what she is doing is important and worthwhile. Never never conceded never willing to stop studying. Never a pundit. Never feeling that she has reached the point where she can tell other people who know more than she what it is that they may be talking about or writing about the future will demand of her that she be. Again I use the word good. Just as it's always been in the past and it's easier and easier and easier as the years go on because there were more and more in the field. The days of Nellie Bly are over. Some of the
greatest women comment greatest commentators and reporters in the country are women and some of the most delightful and rewarding experiences I have ever had have involved meeting a man for whom I've had respect for you know 10 or 15 years in my own field of writing. And having him say that he has been reading what I've read that of course has now come from the Greater than being complimented by a professional. In Oklahoma. Edith Johnson had a word of advice to pass along to the woman journalist of the future. One day of high school journalistic student came here to see me and asked me what it takes to become a woman. And when I said to her it isn't very important to be a lady. She looked at me in astonishment. She said do you mean. I said Yes
my dear I didn't mean that. Well she said I never heard that before. Well I said what if you were asked. You were sent to interview the wife of the president of the United States. Don't you think. Ladyhood would come there. Don't you think in fact if you count every where I said I never thought of that. Interesting Professor Stowe would you have a final word to add about these ladies of the press by their intelligence perseverance and hard work they have established an important role in our journalism while remaining ladies and none so unforgettably as the late and O'Hare McCormick of the New York Times the first woman member of its editorial board. Winner of many medals and recipient of nearly 20 honorary degrees. She still ranks as the most honored newspaper woman in the
world. All these facts we've been discussing prove amply that women will contribute notably to maintaining and improving the standards of American journalism in the future. Thank you Professor Stowe. You have been listening to women in journalism one of a series of programs on news in 20th century America. In this series we explore all facets of the gathering writing and dissemination of news in this country today by means of recorded interviews with leading news men and women. Interviewers for the series are Glenn Phillips and Ed Burroughs. On today's program you have heard the voices of Edith Johnson and Sylvia Porter. Doris Felice and Pauline Fredericks and Patricia Leeds serving as consultant was Professor Leland stole news in 20th century America is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant and aid from the
Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Larry Jones speaking. This is the Radio Network.
News in 20th Century America
Women in journalism
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University of Michigan
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The fourth episode in this series talks about female journalists and their accomplishments in journalism, as well as the obstacles they face.
Series Description
News in 20th Century America is a radio series on the gathering, writing, and dissemination of news. Each episode addresses a specific topic in the news industry, and features interviews with men and women who make news their business. This program is produced by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service in cooperation with the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
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Host: Jones, Larry
Host: Seelye, Alfred L.
Interviewee: Porter, Sylvia Field, 1913-
Interviewee: Fredericks, Pauline
Interviewee: Stowe, Leland, 1899-
Interviewee: Johnson, Edith
Interviewee: Fleeson, Doris, 1901-1970
Interviewee: Leeds, Patricia
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-48-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:35
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Chicago: “News in 20th Century America; Women in journalism,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 27, 2024,
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APA: News in 20th Century America; Women in journalism. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from