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Serial and Government Publications Division



Using the Newspaper Collection
Women and the News Business
Researching Women in the Newspaper Industry
arrow graphicWomen Reporters
PATHFINDER: Women's Editions of Daily Newspapers
Finding Women in Newspapers
Women as Audience






Women Reporters
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Margaret Fuller. [between 1840 and 1880]. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-47039 (b&w film copy neg.)

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The Library's newspaper collection represents the gradual emergence of women as reporters and columnists. Not until the nineteenth century do women begin to establish reporting careers in their own right.

Horace Greeley appointed the already notable Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) as the first woman literary critic of the New York Tribune (News MF 1358), for which she also wrote investigative articles on women prisoners, prostitution, and insane asylums. She became one of America's first women foreign correspondents and covered the Italian republican uprisings of 1848-49.

By midcentury, Jane Cunningham Croly (1829-1901), who wrote under the pen name Jennie June, was one of the first women syndicated columnists. Through her fashion columns in the New York World (News MF 1363, 1862-72), New York Times (News Self-Service, 1864-72), and New York Daily Graphic (News MF 2980, 1873-78; originals in P&P, 1872-78), Jennie June is credited with starting the woman's page in newspapers. By the end of the nineteenth century, her column regularly appeared in newspapers in every state in the country, and she was considered the best known woman journalist in America.5

Presidential wives also found self-expression as columnists: Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) penned the column “My Day,” which was syndicated nationwide, and, more recently, Hillary Rodham Clinton (b. 1946) wrote a weekly newspaper column.

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Winifred Black (pseud. Annie Laurie). Copyright c1913. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-100902 (b&w film copy neg.)
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Their experiences in the field as reporters often caused women to become reform-minded. While working for the Chicago Herald (News MF 2133), Teresa Howard Dean (d. 1935) was assigned to cover the Sioux Ghost Dance phenomenon. Initially neutral on government Indian policy, she arrived in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, only weeks after the Wounded Knee massacre of December 1890, and there she gradually developed sympathy and respect for the Sioux. Dean criticized fellow reporters who used the massacre as an opportunity for self-promotion.6

Likewise, many women reformers were inspired by their stints as reporters early in their careers to support reforms. The “sob sisters,” reporters Winifred Black (1863-1936), Dorothy Dix (aka Elizabeth Meriweather, 1861-1951), Ada Patterson (1867-1939), and Nixola Greeley-Smith (1880-1919) were known for their investigative, undercover exposés that often led to reform of public institutions.7 In 1921 reporter Genevieve Forbes Herrick (1894-1962) disguised herself as an immigrant to expose conditions at Ellis Island for an article in the Chicago Tribune that led to national scrutiny.

Minority women journalists found opportunities in the ethnic press. African American women journalists rose to prominence after the Civil War. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a well-known activist and a former slave, wrote for the New York Age (News MF 1316) in the 1890s and championed women's rights and human rights in her stories, speaking out against lynchings that targeted blacks. Victoria Earle Matthews (1861-1907) worked for several New York dailies, including the New York Times and the New York Herald (News MF 1330), as well as prominent black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender (News MF 1057), Washington Bee (News MF 1008), and Detroit Plain Dealer (News MF 1217). During World War II the five women who made up the “Mosquito Patrol” (so called for their slender frames, rapidity of movement, and accuracy of reporting)—Ruth A. Jenkins (1921?-1997), Louise Hines, Mae Medders (1923?-1996), Audrey Weaver (1913-1996), and Frances Murphy—reported on segregation and discrimination at home for the Baltimore Afro-American (News MF 1182) while their male colleagues covered the war.

Foreign newspapers are also revealing as sources for studying American women. Not only do they illustrate what women and men outside the United States have considered important in America, but they have provided employment for American women reporters. One of many women journalists following World War I who saw Europe as a place of opportunity, Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961) achieved initial fame as foreign correspondent for the Manchester Guardian (News MF 328) and the Philadelphia Public Ledger (News MF 1449). She interviewed politicians such as Czechoslovakian president Tomás Masaryk and German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Thompson interviewed Hitler in 1931, and dismissed him as “inconsequent and voluble, ill-poised, and insecure,” an opinion she was to regret later. Eventually her anti-Nazi reports led to her expulsion from Germany. She became a columnist for the New York Herald-Tribune (News MF 1330) in 1936, and her controversial column “On the Record” gave her the reputation for being the most famous woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt.8 Less well known is war correspondent Frances Davis, who, as the London Daily Mail's (News MF 2211) only woman reporter in the 1930s, was seriously wounded covering the Spanish Civil War.9

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