Remembering Women

Article excerpt

A few years ago, retired Associated Press reporter Katherine Harris told an oral historian about her first job interview six decades earlier. "I went to the United Press and the man said, |Well, we just don't hire women at all.... You know, it's not good work. It's dirty in here. We have lots of carbon dust....'"

Attitudes didn't improve much as she continued her career. "I often thought of what a managing editor at the Oakland Tribune had said, that they didn't want women because they'd either fall in love ... or they would get married and have a family that would interrupt their interests, or they would blow up some way. Well, I had done all three in my career, but I didn't ever stop working."

Sarah McClendon, who has run her own news bureau in Washington since 1946, also had a difficult time. McClendon, 82, says that as a single mother in the 1930s, her editors would tell her, "We can't give you a raise because this man's wife is going to have a baby," or "This man has to come a long distance to work, so he has to buy a new car."

Over the past five years, Harris, McClendon and 47 other women have shared their recollections for an ongoing Washington Press Club Foundation project documenting the experiences of veteran female journalists. Copies of 60 interview transcripts will eventually be stored at 13 journalism schools, the National Press Club and several other locations for use by scholars and students.

The project, funded in part by the Freedom Forum, several newspaper foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities, was launched by Peggy Simpson, a former Associated Press reporter who hoped to provide younger journalists with female role models. Fern Ingersoll, the oral historian who directs the project, points out that although two-thirds of journalism students today are female, their textbooks tell them little about what has been accomplished by women. …