From Nellie Bly and Katharine Graham to Diane Sawyer and Christiane Amanpour, many women have made their mark—and their name—through journalism and media. However, as in many industries, women historically have encountered numerous challenges and setbacks as they worked to find a foothold across a variety of roles, from writers to editors to producers. Yet, they have persisted and worked to gain influence and create opportunities in media through their contributions to radio, television, film, newspaper, magazines, podcasts, and more.
Well before Mary Paxton Keeley became the first female graduate of the MU School of Journalism in 1910, women had been making journalism history. During the nineteenth century, many women assisted their husbands, fathers, and brothers in newspaper work, from typesetting to editing and writing for the papers. While much of this early work went unnoticed, by the twentieth century, a number of women including Roberta Applegate and Beth Campbell Short began to gain recognition in the industry.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, women began to make strides in other areas of mass media. Women went on to become producers or executives, while others pursued their careers in radio, newsrooms, and television, with some becoming editorial writers such as Kay Mills.
The National Women and Media Collection (NWMC) documents the many roles that women have played and are playing in the field of mass communication, both as media representatives and as objects of coverage. The collection offers opportunities to study how those roles have been altered over time and how attitudes toward women have changed.
The NWMC was established in 1987 by two University of Missouri School of Journalism graduates, Marjorie Bowers Paxson, a longtime journalist and publisher, and Jean Gaddy Wilson, a journalism educator and author. Through this initiative, the State Historical Society of Missouri collects the personal papers and records of some of the most influential women journalists and media organizations in the country.
Today the National Women and Media Collection is comprised of work from over 120 women and media organizations from across the country. The collection includes records of women’s organizations and the professional and personal papers of women journalists, editors, newspaper and magazine publishers, journalism, and mass communication educators, press secretaries and public relations personnel, and radio, television, and film producers and personalities.
Articles from Missouri Historical Review and Missouri Times
- Frizzle-Green, Haley. "From the Stacks: Research Center-Springfield: From Joplin, Missouri to the Los Angeles Times: The Betsy Balsley Collection."
Missouri Historical Review 116 (July 2022): 348-351.
- Harper, Kimberly. "From the Stacks: Research Center-Columbia: 'She Was Marvelous': Dorothy Jurney and the New Women’s Pages of the 1950s and 1960s."
Missouri Historical Review 116 (April 2022): 255-260.
- "Jean Gaddy Wilson Papers Highlight Women's Changing Roles in Journalism, Society."
Missouri Times 10 (August 2014): 8.
- Jones, Judy Yaeger. "Some Private Advice on Publishers: Correspondence Between Laura C. Redden and Samuel L. Clemens."
Missouri Historical Review 93 (July 1999): 386-396.
- Lukomski, Jennifer. "From the Stacks: Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia: The National Women and Media Collection."
Missouri Historical Review 101 (April 2007): 183-186.
- "National Women and Media Collection Continues to Grow."
Missouri Times 3 (November 2007): 6.
- Voss, Kimberly Wilmot. "Celebrating Women and Journalism: Twenty-five Years of the National Women and Media Collection."
Missouri Times 8 (November 2012): 8.
- Marie W. Anderson - Women's editor at the Miami Herald in the 1950s and 1960s who played an important role in the transformation of women's pages.
- Roberta Applegate - Reporter for the Associated Press of Michigan from 1935 through 1946, first female press secretary to the governor of Michigan from 1946 through 1949, reporter and editor for the Miami Herald from 1950 to 1964, and a journalism professor at Kansas State University.
- Dorothy Misener Jurney - Reporter and editor for newspapers in Indiana, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
- Mary Paxton Keeley - First woman graduate of the University of Missouri, School of Journalism, in 1910.
- Sarah Newcomb McClendon - White House journalist and women’s rights advocate.
- Kay Mills- Journalist, author, and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times in the 1980s.
- Marjorie Paxson - Journalist and newspaper publisher who established the National Women and Media Collection in 1987.
- Beth Campbell Short - Journalist from Oklahoma who primarily worked in Washington, D.C. covering Eleanor Roosevelt for the Associated Press.
- Lucile Morris Upton - Journalist and writer from Springfield, Missouri.
- Theo Wilson - Trial reporter for the New York Daily News.
Many of the State Historical Society’s holdings are included in the SHSMO online catalog. The best terms to search for sources about the history of women working in the media are simply “women,” and “women in media." Rare items in the Reference Collection include a first issue of Ms. magazine signed by Gloria Steinem and a first edition of War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam signed by the authors.
The National Women and Media Collection includes records of women’s organizations and professional and personal papers of women journalists, editors, newspaper and magazine publishers, journalism and mass communication educators, press secretaries, and public relations personnel, as well as radio, television, and film producers and personalities. The digital collection contains the diaries of Los Angeles Times editorial writer Kay Mills, as well excerpts from interviews conducted by Mills.
Historic Missourian Biographies
The Society’s Historic Missourians website contains biographies of a number of women who made significant contributions in the field of media.
- Lucile Bluford - Lucile Bluford was a well-respected editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call, an important African American weekly newspaper. She was also a brave and persistent civil rights activist, challenging the University of Missouri’s policy of excluding blacks and forcefully advocating for racial justice.
- Martha Gellhorn - Martha Gellhorn was a journalist and writer who became a noted war correspondent. Beginning in 1937 with the Spanish Civil War, she reported on several of the most significant conflicts of the twentieth century, including World War II and the Vietnam War.
- Mary Paxton Keeley - Mary Paxton Keeley was the first woman graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. A female pioneer in the field of professional journalism, she served as a mentor, teacher, and friend to countless students.
- Mary Margaret McBride - Mary Margaret McBride was a writer and journalist who became one of the most popular radio broadcasters of the 1930s to the 1950s. She was known as “The First Lady of Radio.”
- Sara Lockwood Williams - Sara Lockwood Williams was a successful and influential journalist from Missouri. She was not only the first woman professor at a journalism school in the United States, but also the first woman reporter for the St. Joseph Gazette and one of the earliest female graduates from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.
- Harriett Woods - Harriett Woods was the first female lieutenant governor of Missouri, a Democratic politician, and an advocate for women’s rights. She started her career as a journalist and television producer in St. Louis in the 1960s.
The National Women and Media Collection (NWMC) documents the roles women have played in the field of mass communication, both as employees of media organizations and as objects of media coverage. The collection offers opportunities to study how those roles have been altered over time and how attitudes toward women have changed.
The National Women and Media Collection was established in 1987 through the efforts of two University of Missouri School of Journalism graduates, Marjorie B. Paxson and Jean Gaddy Wilson. The NWMC was developed in collaboration with the School of Journalism. The collection includes the records of women’s organizations and the professional and personal papers of women journalists, editors, newspaper and magazine publishers, journalism and mass communication educators, press secretaries and public relations personnel, and radio, television, and film producers and personalities.
View All Women and Media Manuscript Collections
Well before Mary Paxton Keeley became the first female graduate of the MU School of Journalism in 1910, women had been making journalism history in Missouri. During the nineteenth century, many women who were related to Missouri editors and publishers assisted their husbands, fathers, and brothers in newspaper work, from typesetting to editing and writing for the papers. While much of this early work went unnoticed, by the turn of the twentieth century a number of women were beginning to gain recognition in the newspaper business.
Some were single women such as Junia E. Heath, the editor and publisher of the Walnut Grove Tribune in Greene County from 1903 to 1916 before moving on to the Wright County Republican in Hartville. The sister team of Eva and Fidelia Mize worked as editors at the Newton County News from 1890 to 1907. Another set of sisters, Jennie and Artie Dickson, also worked as editors at newspapers in Grundy County during the 1910s and early 1920s. Ada L. Wightman worked with her brother Sam Wightman as co-editor and publisher of the Bethany Clipper beginning in 1905.
Other women assisted their husbands or took over their spouse’s newspaper duties when they became ill or died. Christina Graf took over publishing the Hermanner Volksblatt, a German-language newspaper, after her husband, Jacob Graf, died in 1870. She also assumed ownership of the English-language Hermann Advertiser and continued publishing both papers until she sold them to her sons in 1880. The New Cambria Leader was run by several couples over the years, beginning with G. and Nellie Hunton in 1920. They later sold it to Frank and Bettie Robertson. After Bettie died, Frank married his assistant, Jennie Jones, in 1947, and she continued to run the paper after his death the following year.
The stories and professional work of these and many other women editors, publishers, reporters, and columnists can be found in the Society’s newspaper collection. Below is a listing of a number of Missouri newspapers in which women played key roles. Their names, job titles, and dates of employment are included.
For a list of all digitized newspapers, visit the Missouri Digital Newspaper Project.
For a list of newspapers on microfilm at The State Historical Society of Missouri, visit the newspaper catalog.
|County||City||Title||Also Available On||Date Range||Name/Role/Dates|
|Audrain||Vandalia||Vandalia Leader||Microfilm||1880-1882; 1895-1898; 1901-present (incomplete)||Lily Herald Frost, Editor, 1907-1922|
|Boone||Rocheport||Rocheport Progress||Microfilm||1908-1917||Annie Chapman, Editor and Publisher, 1906-1917|
|Franklin||St. Clair||St. Clair Chronicle||Microfilm||1927-1977||Dorothy O. Moore, Publisher, 1952-1985|
|Gasconade||Hermann||Hermann Advertiser||Microfilm||1875-1877||Christina Graf, Editor and Publisher, 1874-1877|
|Gasconade||Hermann||Hermann Advertiser-Courier||Microfilm||1877-1993||Christina Graf, Editor and Publisher, 1877-1880|
|Gasconade||Hermann||Hermanner Volksblatt||Microfilm||1860-1872||Christina Graf, Editor and Publisher, 1870-1873|
|Gasconade||Hermann||Hermanner Volksblatt||Microfilm||1875-1879||Christina Graf, Editor and Publisher, 1874-1880|
|Gentry||King City||King City Democrat||Microfilm||1898-1899; 1903; 1905-1918 (incomplete)||Maggie A. Bowman, Editor, 1892-1918|
|Greene||Walnut Grove||Walnut Grove Tribune||Microfilm||1904-1918||Junia E. Heath, Editor and Publisher, 1903-1916|
|Grundy||Spickard||Grundy County Gazette||Microfilm||1901-1907; 1910-1922||Jennie Dickson and Artie Dickson (sisters), Editors, 1910-1922|
|Grundy||Spickard||Spickard Herald and Grundy County Gazette||Microfilm||1907-1910||Jennie Dickson and Artie Dickson (sisters), Editors, 1907-1910|
|Harrison||Bethany||Bethany Clipper||Microfilm||1905-1922||Ada L. Wightman (with brother Sam Wightman), Editor and Publisher, 1905-?|
|Henry||Clinton||Clinton Eye||Microfilm||1885-present||Amanda E. Moore Woolf (aka “Shawnee Shifters”), Columnist, 1891-1939|
|Jasper||Webb City||Webb City Daily Register||Microfilm||1903-1907||Alice Creswell Rozelle, Reporter, Editor, and Publisher, 1903-1918|
|Jasper||Webb City||Webb City Register||Microfilm||1907-1917||Alice Creswell Rozelle, Reporter, Editor, and Publisher, 1903-1918|
|Johnson||Holden||Holden Enterprise||Microfilm||1876-1937||Dora J. Sankey, Editor, 1876-?|
|Macon||New Cambria||New Cambria Leader||Microfilm||1914-1961||Editors and Publishers: G. and Nellie Hunton, 1920-1926; Frank and Bettie Robertson, 1926-1943; Jennie Jones Robertson (second wife of Frank), 1947-1950|
|Marion||Hannibal||Hannibal Daily Courier||Microfilm||1873-1889||Julia M. Bennett, Editor, 1879-?|
|Newton||Newtonia||Newton County News||Microfilm||1890-1907||Eva and Fidelia Mize (sisters), Editors, 1890-1907|
|Pettis||Sedalia||Rosa Pearle’s Paper||Microfilm||1894-1909||Elizabeth Dugan, Publisher, 1894-1911|
|Pettis||Sedalia||Sedalia Weekly Bazoo||Microfilm||1871-1895||Elizabeth Dugan, Editor and Reporter, 1872|
|Phelps||Rolla||Rolla Herald||Microfilm||1877-1953||Edwarda McCrae Woods, Publisher, 1899-1942|
|Platte||Dearborn||Dearborn Democrat||Microfilm||1898-1977||Nancy Jane "Jennie" Watson, Editor, 1905-?|
|Pulaski||Waynesville||Pulaski County Democrat||Microfilm||1902-1917||Mary Louise Wheeler, Editor and Publisher, 1906-1912|
|Shelby||Shelbina||Shelbina Democrat||Microfilm||1870-1918||Martha Jewett, Editor, 1902-1910|
|Taney||Forsyth||Taney County Republican||Microfilm||1895-1992||Mary Elizabeth Prather Mahnkey, Columnist, 1930-1948|
|Wright||Hartville||Wright County Republican||Microfilm||1911-1957||Junia E. Heath, Editor and Publisher, 1916-?|
On Demand Programs
In Their Own Words: Voices of the National Women and Media Collection
In 2022, the National Women and Media Collection celebrated its 35th anniversary at the State Historical Society of Missouri. This invaluable collection includes records of media organizations and professional and personal papers of notable women who worked as reporters, editors, publishers, press spokespersons, and other positions in the print, broadcast, and online media industries. Watch as Betsey Bruce, Sheila Gibbons, and Andrea Stone, three of the women featured in this collection, talk about the changing roles for women in the media industry; trends for the future; and how they were able to navigate careers in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Our Missouri Podcast Episodes
Our Missouri is a podcast about the people, places, culture, and history of the 114 counties and independent city of St. Louis that comprise the great state of Missouri. Engaging with subject matter experts in each episode, host Sean Rost explores topics related to the state's complex history and culture, from publications about Missouri’s history to current projects undertaken by organizations to preserve and promote local institutions.
- Episode 75: Sports Journalism in the 21st Century (Title IX in Missouri, Part 7)
To conclude the Title IX in Missouri series, host Sean Rost talks with four journalists, Kathryn Lucchesi, Maddy Glab, Lauren Michelson, and Dani Wexelman, about the evolution of sports journalism in the 21st Century.
- Summer Series 2022: Jean Gaddy Wilson (NWMC, Part 1)
This episode features excerpts from an oral history with Jean Gaddy Wilson recorded in 2022 for the National Women and Media Collection. Wilson discusses her career in media, her involvement in the Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS), and her role in the establishment of the National Women and Media Collection (NWMC).
Summer Series 2022: Women’s Page Journalism & Soft News – Kimberly Voss (NWMC, Part 2)
Dr. Kimberly Voss joins us to talk about her writings on women in journalism, particularly her books on women’s pages in newspapers, and how she utilized the National Women and Media Collection for her research.
Summer Series 2022: In Their Own Words (NWMC, Part 3)
Elizabeth Engel, Laura Jolley, Aleksandra Kinlen, and Heather Richmond from the State Historical Society of Missouri join us to discuss their involvement in the creation of the exhibit, In Their Own Words: Celebrating the National Women and Media Collection, The exhibit is on display in the Wenneker Family Corridor Gallery at the Center for Missouri Studies from July to December 2022.
Summer Series 2022: Marjorie Paxson (NWMC, Part 4)
This episode features excerpts from an oral history conversation between Marjorie “Marj” Paxson and Jean Gaddy Wilson recorded in 2007 for the National Women and Media Collection’s 20th anniversary. Wilson talks with Paxson about her career in media, her role in the establishment of the National Women and Media Collection (NWMC), and her views on the state of journalism for women at the turn of the 21st century.