I will be diving into different history journals, news articles and current events evolving around the topic. What will this include? That’s the part I’m not too sure about. Essentially, this is also the process of a semester-long research project… There is no saying what will come up.
I’m just going to get right to it.
Okay, so… What is the history of women in journalism anyway? I honestly had no clue. I have never looked into the evolution of this topic and considering I am going into the field, it is definitely important to know. I have a reading list for the study that one of my past journalism teachers, Meg Heckman, put together for the project. It starts with two journalism studies, “Recent Directions for the Study of Women’s History in America” by Maurine Beasley, University of Maryland, and, “Women in Journalism” by Carolyn Kitch. (I’m not going to talk about the entirety of the readings in this blog post, but if you want to read it all, let me know what you think!)
When I first took the time to think about it, I thought that journalism wouldn't be a profession taken seriously for a women of the past. Forget just trying to get published as a writer, but making the big decisions as an editor? I thought that would never happen. Then, add in the need for sources and access to people willing to be interviewed. It was a fight for approval or job advancements. After really digging into the history of journalism in America, I found that women have been running the business since the start. They may not have gotten credit then, but, every stride and courageous step taken counts and made a difference.
If you really want to go back, take it to the time of printing on a printing press. And, not gonna lie, I’m really pumped I looked this up because (fun fact) I love newspaper layout and design. And, come to find out Elizabeth Glover founded America's first printing business. Girl power. According to “Woman With a Deadline,” a study by The National Women’s History Museum Project.
Major side story:
I became very interested in this Elizabeth Grover character so searched her name in, the Google. The press was brought to Cambridge by a man named Reverend Joseph Glover who crossed the Atlantic to the “New World” alongside his wife, Elizabeth and a man to work for him, Stephen Dayne. Reverend Glover didn’t live out the passage, but had still paid for the Dayne’s family to cross, a major expense. When Elizabeth set foot on land, the debt ways transferred to her and also, the owner of the press…Printing press, that is. A widowed woman in colonial New England, was not common. Elizabeth was not on an eligible woman or property but also the owner of the only printing press in the British Colonies. Pretty interesting how she gained power. In 1941, she married President of Harvard, Henry Dunster. After she died, the printing press was passed on to Dunster and then Harvard College.
In the 1700s, women are said to have edited 16 of the 78 small, family owned weekly newspapers in the British Colonies. But sadly, because of “domestic” responsibilities, women did not take over publications if the male relative who was the head of the press passed away.
But women ruled the small business newsrooms. Working as journalists, publishers, printers and typesetters, women often also drew the engravers that created the letterhead, alongside political cartoons.
Then in 1738, something big happened…
Side note: I am reading this timeline and doing research on every side story because this is so amazing to me. After the recent world-wide Women’s Marches, I have thought a lot about the women who were the first to stand up. I think it is easy for any women to say they have felt overshadowed by a man before, and learning about the people, not to mention the millions of unsung, who have made advancements for me today. Even more crazy to think that I could be, and hope to be, someone who can do the same for the generation below me. To see the steps women took to rise to power while knowing there is so much more to be done puts me in a fiery mix of determination and wonder…Anyone else?
Back to 1738 - Another Elizabeth, Elizabeth Timothy, became the first female newspaper publisher and editor in America after her husband passed away. She ran the South Carolina Gazette alongside Benjamin Franklin. She ran the press under the name of Peter, her 13-year-old son who would eventually take over. Many women from the 1700s-?? used a pseudonym when writing, editing or running a newspaper.
There are so many influential and inspiring stories throughout history, I am truly overwhelmed and keep finding myself in awe of how many positions of power women have been in. I am going to list some more influential “first” journalists, if you want to read more about their stories, check out the links attached to their name:
1742 Cornelia Bradford: Publisher of Philadelphia 's American Weekly Mercury after her husband died. This was the fourth newspaper published in the colonies.
1767 Anne Catherine Hoof Green: After her husband passed she took over the Maryland Gazette. Green used this as an opportunity to publish many forward thinking feminist articles and controversial pieces in the Anglican Church, as well as debates over the Stamp and Townshend Acts.
1773 Clementina Rind: Published the Virginia Gazette after her husband passed. However, she only ran the paper for one year, until she died in 1774. In that one year, she is well known as being the first to publish Tomas Jefferson’s “Ideas on American Freedom.” She also never wanted a writer to use a pseudonym.
1777 Mary Katherine Goddard, arguably the most famous female editor and publisher of the revolution, was the first to publish who had signed the Declaration of Independence.
What is interesting, and should be noted, is that all of these women were put in a position of power because their husbands died. There is two ways you can take this, but I tend to take the positive route. My take is that yes, it is unfair that they couldn’t have just started it on their own and be the original owners or founders of a newspaper. However, these women knew this. They seized the opportunity. That is what is important, to me. That’s courage.
In the early 19th century, social standards started to change. The new American democracy implied that any boy could become president and this evidently brought a new aspect to motherhood. It became a mother’s job to make sure they taught their children how to be American citizens which included a good education. Women became more educated so they could teach their children. This growth in the educational system meant that literacy rates went up, heightening the demand for newspapers and now, magazines.
Publishers started adding “society pages” and “women’s sections” which brought new opportunities to women for reporting. Although this provided a section for women to be published, it also created a divide in women vs. men in journalism and continues to create a stigma for women journalism and the legitimacy of these predominantly “soft” news sources covering “hard” news.
Overall, Women have not been well recognized in the history of journalism. The idea that women should and could only write, “soft news” pieces (poetry, fashion, advice, features etc;) has been given very little attention by historians who often see the male-dominated “hard news” to be more notable.
According to Maurine Beasley, in the 1990’s editors often thought women were “too emotional” to take on objective stories and women seeking journalistic careers had to fight and prove that they were able to meet the “male” standards. The struggle of women journalists and women’s magazines receiving validation for covering “hard” news is one that has become even more prevalent over the past year.
Case by case, it’s time to dig up what feminism in journalism is.