Meet the “Ladies of the Press”

305919_10151390014587913_619961207_nIn 1936, a reporter named Ishbel Ross did something extraordinary when she wrote the first formal history of female journalists. It’s imperfect in many ways:  the book features only white women and Ross devotes many pages to praising reporters who get the story without sacrificing their feminine charm. Still, it’s full of fascinating tidbits, especially a chapter devoted to the rural press.

Nowhere, Ross writes, “is the newspaper woman more active than in country journalism” where she “practically raises her babies in the waste-paper basket, cooks rice pudding to the friendly thud of the linotype or chronicles the town doings from the cracker box stance.” At the time the book was published, Ross counted more than 300 female editors and publishers working at small papers across the United States.

Some of these woman worked alone; others came to power through family ties, operating the papers alongside their husbands or fathers. Many filled their newsrooms with women, just one example Ross cites of how their publications differed from their urban counterparts:

The country newspaper woman has a freedom of expression denied the metropolitan reporter. She can push a local cause, mix freely in political fights, write what she likes and continue her job until she is eighty years of age, if her eyesight is good and she so desires.

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