The National Women and Media Collection at the University of Missouri

Article excerpt

This is the fifth in what is a series of articles on archival collections of interest to mass communication historians. Readers of Journalism History are invited to suggest collections that they would like to see appear in future articles, and the editors would welcome volunteers to write such articles.

Many historical publications have described women's pages, a staple at newspapers until the early 1970s, as feature-based sections full of stories about family, fashion, food, and furnishings. The accepted history of these sections has only occasionally been questioned. Yet, there were sections from the 1950s and 1960s that pushed the envelope by covering progressive news important to women. One of the women's page editors who led the way was Marie Anderson of the Miami Herald. She is rarely mentioned in journalism history, despite her impact on other women's page editors as detailed in the transcripts of the Washington Press Club Foundation's oral history project, Women in Journalism.

Anderson's approach to women's pages, which resulted in national awards, went well beyond traditional content.1 In a 1970 speech to women's page editors about issues that should be addressed in women's pages that went beyond the traditional fare, she said:

Women . . . have gone back to work. It takes two to get along now financially. Most working women are heads of families. Does she, as a family head, have the same legal protection as a man? Equal pay for equal work? Many states don't have the equal law. Why not?

One in ten families is headed by a woman; it's probably a poverty family. The child care situation is desperate. One newspaper has a working women's column in a community which established a child care program. We had them during the war, why not now?

Most young girls are being encouraged only to get a husband or teach these days. Why can't she be a mathematician and have a husband, too?

If we are producing unwanted babies, what about abortion? Legally women can dye their hak, bulge their busts or slice off their bosoms, but you can't tamper with the reproductive apparatus.2

Details about this speech can be found in the personal papers of Anderson, which are archived in the National Women and Media Collection at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri. Her words, which challenge the notion of women's sections as consisting of only light fare, would have been lost without her donation to the collection. Research about women frequently lacks historical documentation, particularly primary sources, and often material about journalists, other than the "greats," does not exist outside of individual memories.3 Without the existence of the primary source materials, the stories of women such as Anderson could not be presented. Thus, the National Women and Media Collection is significant because it preserves this primary source material about women journalists who often have been overlooked and fills a major void in the documented history of journalism by giving women a voice. In order for future generations to understand women journalists of the twentieth century, it is important that women's contributions are preserved.

Reflections of those times are found in the stories that women journalists wrote, in the speeches that they gave, and in the records of organizations to which they belonged. These items, along with other personal and professional papers of women journalists and media members, can be found in the National Women and Media Collection. The collection is a joint venture of the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and the Western Historical Manuscript Collection, which comprises the holdings of both the University and the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The collection contains personal and professional papers, documentation about media sex discrimination and legal challenges to gender discrimination, and other research on women in journalism. …