The Public Relations Work of Journalism Trailblazer and First Lady Confidante Lorena Hickok, 1937-45
Martinelli, Diana Knott, Bowen, Shannon A., Journalism History
This article draws on both primary and secondary sources to help understand the evolution of the public relations profession through a biographical analysis of Lorena Hickok, a reporter who was the first woman to have a front- page byline in the New York Times and to hold a PR position in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. In examining her lesser-known public relations career at the World's Fair from 1937 to 1940 and at the Democratic National Committee from 1940 to 1945, the authors found that she implemented asymmetrical public relations and relationship maintenance strategies, which were both forms of a developing managerial function in the public relations field. Information about this period of her work adds to the history of women in political public relations.
In the last few decades, a dramatic shift in public relations em- ployment has seen women emerge as a clear majority, and this trend is not abating.' However, such representation was not always the case. Women worked in public relations but did so in a somewhat secretive manner, keeping their contributions hidden by allowing men to take credit for their efforts or working behind closed doors. For example, journalist and press agent Ruth Hale published columns and publicity in the 1920s and 1930s under her husband's name, Heywood Broun, to avoid overt discrimina- tion. - Doris Fleischman started her career as a women's page writer for the New York Tribune in 1914 after her future husband, Edward Bernays, helped her make the right contacts.' At the Tribune, she covered women's issues and broke traditional roles by being the first woman at a major paper to cover a prize fight. ' She went on to work as both a publicist and a public relations strategist under the auspices of Bernays' name and practice. 5
Legions of other women writers remained relegated to the "woman's angle" while their male counterparts advanced into investigative reporting and editors' positions or into public relations management.1' Many historical documents of this era have described the gender discrimination faced by women who aspired to be journalists and public relations practitioners, but a number of women persevered and succeeded.7
One such trailblazer was Lorena Hickok, who outperformed many of her male peers as an Associated Press reporter and advanced to positions in public relations within the Roosevelt administration, the World's Fair, and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). She is often better known as a journalist and a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, but Hickok was one of the earliest known U.S. women to fill the role of strategic public relations counsel to a president. This article surveys how she built her career from a beat reporter to a presidential advisor and First Lady confidante, and then it examines the lesser known period of her career as a public relations director for the New York World's Fair and as a DNC executive.
Historian Karen Miller Russell has argued that early political campaigning is an "underexplored area" in public relations history. What research has been conducted in the area of political public relations has normally focused on male advisors.8 Many scholars also note the relative absence of history concerning women journalists and public relations practitioners in general.'' This research helps fill that gap by exploring the contributions of Hickok (1893-1968), who was a pioneering woman journalist, press agent, and public relations advisor closely tied to the Roosevelt presidency.
Women began working as journalists as early as the industrial revolution, according to one scholar's 1999 study of women who wrote for textile factory publications.1" These or- gans were one of the earliest forms of public rela- tions in the U.S. with the first known employee publication in 1 885 produced by Massey Manu- facturing." Still, the role of women as writers and professional communicators was constrained. In industrialized America, and arguably for the next fifty years, working women were an underclass. Although financial necessity forced some of them into the workplace, their roles were con- fined to "female" occupations or factory or farm work, often involving dangerous or hard labor and fraught with sexual harassment, discrimi- nation, and exploitatively low pay.12 Working women rarely held positions as journalists or po- litical advisors." Hickok frequently complained to friends about the sex discrimination that she faced in the news business, the lack of women editors, and her discriminatory assignments. She wrote to a colleague, "The trouble is that, being a woman, I never should have gone into this business."14 Journalism historian Maurine Beasley contended in 2001:
Widening our concept of journalism allows us to take into account more fully the way women have participated in all areas of the field. ... It lets us go beyond news per se to the involvement of women in allied activities like public relations which include an understanding of and participation in the journalistic process.15
She noted American journalism history is moving in the direction of including women's biographical information.16 Viewed in this context, the work of Hickok as an early twentieth-century journalist, about which much has been written, and public relations practitioner, which this article more fully explores, contributes important historical information and reveals a career progression into managerial public relations.
As an Associated Press reporter, Hickok had the first woman's byline in The New York Times and was "the first journalist to recognize Eleanor Roosevelt's news-making potential," Doris Faber wrote in 1980 in Hickok's biography.17 Despite some hostile press toward the New Deal at the time, the compassion toward the ordinary American, which later came to characterize the Roosevelt presidency, can perhaps be attributed in part to Hickok's counsel. She performed the public relations role of monitoring public opinion, and her confidential reports to New Deal relief administrator Harry Hopkins were often shared with FDR at his request.18
Karla Cower noted in 2001 that historical studies of women in public relations include the pioneering careers of Fleischman (starting in the 1920s) and Jane Stewart (beginning in the 1940s), "but that, for the most part, exhausts the list."19 However, Hickok's influence was felt by women reporters and public relations practitioners, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Roosevelt administration, among others.20 This research extends what is known about the practice and responsibility of women in early public relations by examining her career after her years as a journalist, both as a press agent and a public relations counselor. This work is examined through World's Fair records and correspondence, particularly the extensive personal correspondence she had with Eleanor Roosevelt during 1937-45. After a historical overview of Hickok's career in journalism, which comes from secondary sources, this article will examine new primary research related to her public relations work.21
p; robably best known as Eleanor Roos- evelt's long-time friend and confidante, Hickok was born on March 7, 1893, in East Troy, Wisconsin, to Anna Waite Hickok, a seamstress, and Addison Hickok, a buttermaker with a violent temper, who beat Lorena and her two younger sisters, Ruby and Myrtle.22 After her mother's death, Lorena was sent away from home at age fourteen to work as a maid, and two years later, she moved in with her mother's cous- in, Ella Ellie, in Battle Creek, Michigan.23 She finished high school and enrolled in Lawrence College, where she wrote for the college newspa- per but flunked out after one year. She returned to Battle Creek and began writing for the Battle Creek Evening News for $7 a week, and then she went on to work for the Milwaukee Sentinel as society editor, following in the footsteps of nov- elist Edna Ferber, a woman whom she considered a role model. While at the paper, she helped overcome gender discrimination by volunteering for night assignments.24 In 1917, she joined the Minneapolis Tribune, but longing for adventure she moved to New York because she hoped to get involved in the war effort. Instead, she found work as a New York Tribune reporter but was fired after slightly more than a month and returned to Minnesota.25
She found work at the Minneapolis Tribune and again tried college, this time at the University of Minnesota but only attended classes for slightly more than a year. At the Tribune, she became Sunday editor and "chief by-lined reporter" under her managing editor, Thomas J. Dillon, whom Hickok called "The Old Man."26 He gave her numerous story opportunities, which included politics, murder trials, and football.27
"In the 1920s, such football legends as Knute Rockne and Red Grange earned all the ink," wrote historian Dave Kaszuba in 2006. "But it was a little-known [Tribune] football writer named Lorena Hickok who was behind the typewriter." Even then, it seems, she was a good promotional person, helping to catapult these men's careers and turn them into household names. "Hickok humanized [University of Minnesota] coaches and athletes more deftly than the male writers who stressed hype and play-by-play specifics," said Kaszuba. Then thirty-five, she was described as "a husky voiced chain smoker who was not averse to using profanity or engaging in a card game." He noted that "Hick" rode the football team train to away games and stayed at the team hotel during an era when such association among members of the opposite sex was not deemed socially acceptable. According to him, she was the first woman reporter to earn a beat covering a men's sports team, a notable feat in the male-dominated worlds of both journalism and sports.28
When diabetes affected her health, Hickok left the Tribune in 1926 and moved to San Francisco, hoping to be a writer, but running out of money, she returned to New York and a job at the Daily Mirror in 1927. In the following year, the Associated Press hired her to write feature stories. She was restricted to features, noted Beasley, "because women were regarded as unable to handle 'hard news' stories."29 However, she soon proved herself, and her coverage of the sinking of the steamship Vestris on November 12, 1928, earned her the distinction of being the first female reporter to have her name on a front page story in the New York Times.''" She further made a name for herself by covering politics and such dramatic stories as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932."
"She had finally broken into the male ranks of political reporting as the only woman assigned to cover Frank- lin Roosevelt when the 1932 campaign opened," Beasley said. By then, Hickok was a well-known journalist and earned the highest salary of any AP woman re- porter.52 She convinced her editors to as- sign her to Eleanor Roosevelt during the campaign, and the two women quickly influenced each other. In her autobiog- raphy, Roosevelt wrote: "Miss Lorena Hickok, who had been assigned by the AP to 'cover' me, . . . felt a sense of responsibility for the other women writers. My press conferences were her suggestion.""
However, their friendship ultimately impinged on Hickok's professional values; she found herself clearing stories with Eleanor or with Franklin Roosevelt's chief advisor, Louis Howe, before sending them over the newswire. But the friendship afforded her unprecedented access as well. On Roosevelt's presidential inauguration day in 1933, she became the first reporter to ever conduct an on-the-record interview with a president's wife in the White House.'4 Indeed, Hickok taught Eleanor "to trust women reporters and to use them in constructing an acceptable public role as First Lady. They would help to make Eleanor Roosevelt into a symbol of womanly achievement that transcended partisan politics," wrote Beasley in her 1987 book, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Media?''
In 1933, after five years with AP, Hickok made the difficult choice to leave because she could no longer be objective about the Roosevelts. Faber reported that she could not bear to relay what she knew about Eleanor's plans to her colleagues, as they expected, and that wherever else she might work as a reporter, they would likely expect her to provide the same kind of inside information. However, she also did not want to be too far away from Eleanor and her friendship."'
Shortly before Hickok's departure from the AP, public relations had been discussed in magazines as a profession that women might pursue. Fleischman wrote of its promising opportunities in Tadies Home Journal in 1930 and in Independent Woman in 193 1.37 Hickok was employed by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) in the summer of 1933, traveling the country and providing reports to her boss, Harry L. Hopkins, and to Eleanor in her letters about people's living conditions and their reactions to the Roosevelt administration and its New Deal policies. Although she may not have recognized it, this was practicing a public relations "boundary role," a type of informal research involving listening to stakeholders in their environments and reporting the findings back to the sponsoring organization.38
During this time Hickok advised Eleanor to write a syndicated column, "My Day," which appeared six days a week and which made her a more popular and well-known figure.39 It was one of Hickok's letters to Eleanor about a depressing stay in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1 936 that became the copy for Eleanor's first column at the encouragement of the president, noted Hickok biographer Faber.4"
Public relations scholar Margot Lamme observed in 2007 that as a former journalist, public relations pioneer Fleischman was sensitive to understanding and targeting messages toward discrete authences to whom various newspaper sections were written to appeal.'1 Hickok's journalism background and interviewing prowess proved valuable in her political public relations work because she, too, understood authence segments and how to effectively observe, interview, and gain access, making her a valuable New Deal field researcher and strategist. These tal- ents demonstrated her predisposition for public relations success.42 From the evidence, it can be surmised that Hickok was engaged in advising the president and his officials by using the two-way asymmetrical model of public relations in which information is gathered from and provided to publics for a strategic competitive advantage.43
In a June 11, 1934, letter, Hickok discussed a Memphis Scripps-Howard editor who was worried that the administration was not adequately telling its story to the public. The editor suggested that the administration should give newspapers "the right kind of news," not destructive - as Charles Michelson, a Democratic Party strategist, had done to tear apart the Herbert Hoover administration - but "constructive propaganda." Hickok continued: "And, with 20 years' background in the newspaper business myself, may I add that we must slip over the propaganda sugarcoated with news, so they don't realize it's propaganda they're getting!"44
Despite Hickok's sense of purpose with the Roosevelt administration, Faber noted that she relinquished her position in iate 1 936 after a diabetes scare on the road. With a tip about the World's Fair position from Eleanor's secretary, Malvina "Tommy" Thompson, she pursued the possibility of working in New York City for Grover Whalen. Well known throughout the city, he was heading the World's Fair project, and Thompson thought that he would "be receptive to hiring a writer who happened to be a close friend of the First Lady."45 A few days after FDR's overwhelming November 3, 1936, election victory over Alf Landon, she was contacted for an interview at the World's Fair office in the Empire State Building. She wrote Eleanor that she said during the interview: "I have also done a little investigating for the President."46
Although she was not initially convinced that she should become a publicist for the World's Fair, Whalen indicated he would pay her $100 a week, and Hickok began to want the job.47 In a follow-up letter to him, she wrote:
As 1 told you yesterday, I am not interested in an executive position. I think I could do my best work for you in publicity or in some sort of "contact" job. Mrs. Roosevelt suggested that I might go out with a small model of the World's Fair and sell the fair to small town commercial clubs, women's clubs, and the like.'48
Several weeks later, she shared her first day at work in a letter to Eleanor:
Well, I've completed the firsr day on the job, and I guess it's going to be alright. . . . Spent most of the day reading up on the World's Fair and trying to familiarize myself with it. My first job is to be a kind of a survey of the whole organization - personnel, etc. - and a report to Commander Flanagan, Grover Whalen's administrative assistant. Ye gods! And for the time being, I'm to have a desk in his outer office, with his two secretaries. After I finish that in a week or so I'm to go down into the promotions department where my first two jobs will be a poster contest for school children and some drrift plan, like the Christmas clubs - the idea being to encourage people to start savings accounts to come to the fair. . . . I think it will be fun, at that. Office hours, 9 to 5, with Saturday afternoons off. Pay days, 1st and 15th.'"
A feature release from the fair about "the important role women are occupying in administering the affairs of the New York World's Fair" detailed a number of positions held by women. Among them on page 6, it described Hickok's role: "Miss Lorena Hickok is in charge of promotional work among children and young people. She works directly with the public, private and parochial schools. . . . Her work will attract the attention of children all through the United States and help them to develop an interest in the Fair." Then, the release continued about women in general: "So, women are high-spotted in numerous interesting positions in the Fair, as they are in modern business corporations. They are secretaries to important officials, assistants to department heads. In fact, all of the working opportunities which women find in today's world have been opened to them at the Fair."50
In other words, women remained supporting roles, not managerial ones. Perhaps this was partly why Hickok found the fair's work so demeaning. Although on paper, her position was one of forty-eight listed as "department heads and executives," being director of children and youth promotion was but one of many public relationsrelated posts. " However, one thing she had that the other directors likely did not was direct access to the White House, and she was called upon to use these connections.
In a letter to Eleanor only two weeks after she began work, she explained that fair colleague Senator Joseph Clark Baldwin would be in Washington in the following month, and she wondered if the first lady would invite him to lunch or tea, employing what public relations theorists have identified as the communication facilitator role." After an apparent telephone call from Eleanor, Hickok gratefully wrote of the accommodation on her behalf:
Thanks ever so much for taking care of all those people and for calling me today. I hate to bother you with these, but since 1 took the job, and since everyone in the organization apparently knows how 1 got it - well? I may as well do all I can, within reason, to make every body happy! Honestly I can't take most of them so very seriously! But it's a good salary and can be made interesting, I think, and it may eventually lead to something good. I'll try not to bother you too much.11
Soon afterward, Hickok shared details of her position:
A breathless day! Down at the office at 8 to write up the poster plan and write a new graph conforming with the ideas of the school people. At 10:30, accompanied by one of our stenographers, 1 wenr up to a conference at the Board of Education. The school people are nice, but, oh, so deliberate! . . . But I must get along with them, for I have a good deal at stake! Lunched with Mr. Grant, art director in the public schools of NYC, at the Town Hall Club. . . . Back to the office at 3. Conferences. Senator Baldwin. Printers. . . . A letter ro [illegible]. At 5:30 I left the office on a run, dashed home, grabbing a bite in a "joint" enroute, with a glance at the evening paper.54
This was a stark contrast to Hickok's reporting days. In fact, she boasted in fair publicity material that "she has stood knee-deep in mud to get a story, has gone without food for forty-four hours, has been 'asleep standing up but able to write a news story.'" Her feelings about working in the World's Fair promotion department were evident, even in the fair's publicity piece. It continued: "She is in the midst of an art poster contest for the children of this country and she finds it pretty remote from the exciting life of a newspaper reporter."^ As 1 937 ended, she wrote to Eleanor: "I want to be interested in my job, dammit, and do it as well as I possibly can. But much of the time that only means being irritated. . . . But it's been a miserably uncomfortable business, most of it, and I'm tired of it and bored with past, present and future."56
Despite her fairly high salary, Hickok constantly struggled with money, partly because she lived not only in New York City but also had a place in the country that she loved (in Moriches on Long Island), which she rented from friends.1 Throughout the time period in this study, Eleanor often sent her gifts, food, and money ss and also helped secure government employment for some of her friends and family members.1'
By September 1938, Eleanor was trying to help Hickok get a publicity job with the Democratic National Committee, but it would be some time before these efforts paid off, and Hickok's professional dedication to her World's Fair work remained. In a memorandum to Fair President Whalen in 1939, she wrote:
I wish you to recall . . . you and I had a brief discussion about the possibility of some sort of special guide service for groups of students coming to the Fair on an educational tour.
You told me that there certainly would be such a guide service, and you added: ? want you to see that this is done. Keep after me and don't let me forget it.'
So, I am now carrying out your instructions: Beginning next Monday evening, ... I shall start camping on your doorstep with a carbon copy or rhis memorandum in my hand.
There is a considerable demand for this special service for student groups. It is reflected constantly in our mail.
She continued that tour itineraries should be developed for students, so that younger children and high school students could have age-relevant activities, and suggested the possibility of special tours for science and art students. She proposed a group should prepare these, and the directors of seven other departments, plus herself, be involved in the process. She also suggested that two "outsiders" should be part or the group to develop the itineraries "because I think it will do a great deal toward creating good-will toward the service."60
These communications are evidence that Hickok was again boundary spanning and using an early form of segmenting publics according to their level of involvement, just as modern-day public relations practitioners do.''1 Furthermore, strategically including two "outsiders," as she called them, to "create good will" was an early form or relationship building with strategic publics, which is now considered a state-of-the-art approach to public relations practice.''2 However, she still doubted herself especially when it came to her skills writing press agentry materials and news releases, which were then known as handouts. She wrote Eleanor in 1939: "I talked myself out of being assigned to write a feature story about the baby incubators today. I haven't written a newspaper story for six years! And I never was any good at that sort of story. But I do feel sort of guilty. The real truth is 1 haven't much faith in handouts."6'
It should be noted that the World's Fair opening ceremony on April 30, 1939, comprised the nation's first formal television debut, which was a broadcast of President Roosevelt's speech from the fairgrounds' RCA pavilion.'" However, there is no evidence in the World's Fair files or in Hickok's correspondence that she was involved in arranging it. Instead, she told Eleanor in a May 1939 letter that she had "more than 12,000 kids at the Fair today" and expected 20,000 on the next day.6'' But despite the excitement of the fair being under way, she became even more disenchanted with her work, especially as the fair floundered financially. Still, she worked conscientiously, often arriving early and staying late to meet her responsibilities. In an August 1939 letter, she told Eleanor:
This place is damned depressing. Another department was broken up Saturday, the head resigning, the assistant let out, and resr of the help being transferred. I'm supposed to be putting in part time . . . with the press department, but the head isn't crazy about it. He has hired more people, the management says he has to let them go and offers me as a substitute, part time. . . .
I saw Grover [ Whalen) lor a tew minutes at a distance Saturday. He looked tired and sort of crushed. Tile bankers are making it very, very tough for him. Its too bad. This is a darned good Fair, really.''6
Then, in early September, she reported:
They fired a lot more people last night, and [my assistant] Ferrarmi and I are now practically alone on this floot. . . . The funny thing is that they apparently want . . . me to stay. ... I haven't announced to anyone save the Commandet that I expect to leave . . . but they seem to take it for granted that I'm to stay! Meanwhile, Ferrarmi and [I] arc going ahead with our Fall program for all the world as if we both were to be here all Winter!'1
She indeed remained there, at least for part of the winter. A memorandum later that month, addressed to "The Vice President," emphasized the changes in student group fair admission rates. She described how the railroads were offering drastic cuts in rates for these groups, because the busy summer season was over and the fair was continuing to struggle financially, with plans to minimize losses by extending the fair into 1940. Hickok continued:
These railroads are really going to town on this thing. The rare is a quartet of a cent lower per mile than they granted for the [highly successful 1933-34) Chicago Fair. I believe with all my heart that we should give them every bit of help we can to pur this thing over. Incidentally, in addition to granting the reduced rate, they are putting on a good big advertising campaign, and some of the [rail]roads arc going to send out traveling passenger agents to drum up this business. '"s
She noted that a flyer that she had developed would be used in the advertising campaign, which the railroads would conduct in local newspapers, and the railroads would mimeograph it for distribution on their end as well. Thus, she saw the value of partnering with others whose objectives overlap with hers, again demonstrating an astute use of strategic relationships. Showing a natural understanding of publicity, she also noted her plan to direct-mail the flyer to school superintendents and high school principals with a future strategy to reach college students and teachers. Even her press agentry work employed a good measure of strategy and political understanding, which was far ahead of many of the press agents of her time, who relied primarily on hyperbole or simply generating media attention.69
During her last weeks with the World's Fair, Hickok remained busy promoting it to young people. She wrote a fellow employee about the "promotion program to be planned and carried out in public and private elementary and high schools between December 1 and the opening of the 1940 fair." In a two-and-a-half page, single-spaced memorandum, she explained that "there should really be two programs: One for the schools of New York City, and one for out-of-town schools." She noted the New York City promotions were being largely driven by the distribution of educational materials related to the fair that would be developed with the superintendents' approval.
For other schools, she recommended capitalizing on the inter- est of high school seniors who wanted to make senior trips to the fair. She proposed to do this by promoting discount rates through a circular mailed to school superintendents along with relevant local transportation information and brochures. She also suggested that when fair representatives were traveling, they should visit super- intendents and give speeches at high school assemblies. Thus, she obviously understood the power of interpersonal communication in persuading people to act and of strategically targeting authences and influential persons. She also suggested that trucks with World's Fair pictures should travel to students and discussed the previous success with this tactic: "Thousands children turned out to see these things, schools were closed, and we had the very interesting experience of getting thank you notes from some of the southern school superintendents!"70
By January 1940, Hickok seemed encouraged by news from Eleanor about a position with the Democratic Committee:
Do you think I ought to ask them lor a year's contract? My thought is that it should extend only through the [presidential] campaign, with a possibility of renewal if both sides are satisfied. . . .
I am not counting on it as a permanent job. But there are two reasons why I am anxious to get it - now. First, it pays S 125 a week, and if I do any great amount of traveling, on an expense account, I ought to be able, from the start - even while I'm still paying off debts - to save $50 a month. . . . The second reason is that ... I might have a chance to make some contacts that would do me some good!
She wrote as if her White House contacts were not enough, especially, she said, for an overweight woman in her forties. Still, her conscientiousness remained: "If the job does come through - and I'm certainly keeping my fingers crossed - 111 probably stay with the Fair until February 1st, to finish up the work I'm now doing and leave everything in good order."71
Although Hickok often dined and socialized with friends, staying out until midnight or later, she disdained social gatherings where small talk was expected. In the same letter to Eleanor, she eschewed some of the more traditional tactics of press agentry: "The Commander talked to me again yesterday about giving cocktail parties to make contacts. But I think that's a cheap, lousy thing to do, and 111 be damned if I will!"72 However, three weeks later, she wrote: "I'm nervous as the devil today! This afternoon I've got to give a cocktail party at the Sky Lounge, in the Empire State building, for a gang of business women to whom the Commander wants me to sell the idea of a club for business women at the Fair. I'd just about as soon face sixteen devils! Lord, how I hate to make a speech."73
On January 20, 1940, Hickok noted in a letter that she resigned "with that sort of sinking sensation I always get."74 The next World's Fair correspondence with any reference to Hickok was a memorandum from the budget director to the executive vice president regarding termination pay:
I think we would be making a great mistake in allowing termination pay to Miss Hickok. in no sense of the word has she been forced out of the organization. Her resignation is entirely voluntary and she is going to a better position with more pay. . . .
The fact is, Miss Hickok has been given special consideration in that even though we knew that she was trying to get another position, it made no difference in her status here and she was given every encouragement to stay. Furthermore, Miss Hickok was granted a two weeks vacation from November 20 to December 4. 3
A memorandum written on the next day from the vice president in charge of finance to the secretary's office indicated the amount paid to Hickok was $206.33, which was the equivalent of about two weeks' pay.76
The final World's Fair document concerning Hickok was a letter she wrote to the associate superintendent of New York schools. In it, she demonstrated her sense of humor regarding the negative image of political public relations in her new position with the Democratic National Committee:
I am very sorry not to see you again before I leave. I am afraid that the nefarious practices of a publicity representative of the Democratic National Committee might not make me a particularly welcome visitor ....
Anyway, I do want to tell you before I leave - and lose my respectability - that it has been fun working with you and that I deeply appreciate your cooperation and the many kindnesses you have shown me.
Eleanor invited her to stay at the White House during her DNC employment, and Hickok agreed. "I think I can stay at the WH. alright if you want me to and there is room. I'd like to very much. . . . But I'm not going to hang around the place the way I used to. I shall live, as far as possible, a normal business life, going to the office every morning, putting in a full business day, usually lunching out."78 And stay, she did, unbeknownst to many, for more than four years.7''
Hickok began her DNC work on February 1, 1940, with the same enthusiasm that she had expressed when she .started at the fair, despite knowing it was only temporary until the November presidential election. The position took her full circle; she again began traveling around the country and reporting on the mood of key Democrats and others, this time regarding FDR's third election bid. For example, on February 8, she was in Philadelphia, talking with leading Democrats, then she went to Scranton on the next night and to Harrisburg three days later.8" Nearly two weeks later, she wrote Eleanor that she was again on the road:
These have been two busy days, and I'm leaving in a few minutes on my next trip - Ohio and Indiana. I'll probably be away about three weeks, maybe four. You can't cover a state in much less than ten days, and Ohio may take more time than that. Getting around by train is slow.
In preparation for my Ohio trip, and on Charley's [Michelson] instructions, I had long talks yesterday and today . . . with Washington correspondents . . . of the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. . . . Back in the fall of 1935, I pleaded wirh Harry Hopkins . . . to have a survey made [in Ohio and Indiana] and remove WPA [the government's Works Projects Administration] from those prosperous rural counties that quite obviously didn't need it. . . . Nothing was done about it. Well - those counties helped lick us in Ohio two years ago, and the issue, they tell me, was WPA and the way we were spending money where it wasn't needed! And I saw it coming six years ago!
Thus, Hickok was demonstrating her desire to practice another contemporary public relations task issues management - to thwart possible threats before they occurred through the proactive use of information. She continued:
This job is such fun, dear. I'm having the time of my life. . . . It's the nearest thing to newspaper work I've found since I left the A. P. I'm awfully glad to have a few months of it, even if it isn't a permanent job. And, Madame, I'm mosr grateful to you. I hope I'll be able to get my next job on my own, but you've been a peach about this, and I thank you.81
In early March, Eleanor wrote: "F [Franklin] thinks your reports are most interesting and he says Charlie [Michel- son] is delighted with them."82 Even with the DNC position and the praise of the president, Faber reported that Hickok considered returning to newspaper work: "In New York, a new daily called PM was being started by a group of liberals and somebody had suggested that she apply for a job; although nothing was at all definite, she still felt she ought to let Charley Michelson know she was contemplating leaving. To her intense surprise, he not only asked her to stay on - he outright told her that he had taken her only because he'd had to, but now he'd hate to lose her."8'
Even so, Hickok found herself briefly unemployed after the election. She wrote to Eleanor about the prospect of taking a Women's Division post at the DNC and the value of her World's Fair press agentry and managerial experience:
I honestly don't think you . . . have any real cause for worry about my getting bored or impatient with the ladies. What neither of you seems to realize is just how desperate my plight is - and how little I can afford to be choosy! I am 47 years old, my dear, and have reached an age where it is very, very difficult for a woman to get a job. . . .
This particular job appeals to me more than any other 1 might get. ... 1 believe 1 could handle it, with a "front woman" to make most of the speeches and pose for the photographers. And whatever else I have to do I can do. What gives me confidence that I can do it is my experience at the Fair.8'
Gladys Tillett of North Carolina became the "front woman," and Hickok, who was called "executive secretary," ran the day-today operations and edited the monthly publication, the Democratic Digest.^ Although she hated giving speeches, she did not seem to mind writing them and spoke without complaint of writing speeches on such topics as the food stamp plan.86 Yet she still lacked confidence in her public-speaking abilities. She told Eleanor that she had been consulted about a speech to be delivered at an American Association of University Women conference, and she found it amusing that women consulted her about their speeches when she knew so little about public speaking.87
When both the DNC and the Women's Division were downsized in 1942, Hickok was one of only six employees to be retained, three of whom worked in the Women's Division.88 She remained with the organization until 1945. In March ofthat year, she wrote Eleanor on White House stationery:
The goodbyes have all been said, and presently I shall be on my way out of Washington . . . wishing that I could live tip to the nice things that have been said to me these last few days. With you as an example, I tried awfully hard to do a good job, and most of the time, I think I honestly did give the Women's Division the best that was in me. But many times 1 was irritable and impatient and intolerant. . . . And [it] also makes me feel awkward and inadequate when people say nice things to me - even though I love to hear them and even though, especially now, they mean a lot to me. I wish I had the words to tell you how grateful I am for your many kindnesses these last four years - and especially for letting me stay here.89
Although it seems clear that Hickok believed her talents lay in reporting and that she preferred that work to any other, she never returned to it.90 Yet the evidence indicates she also was an astute early practitioner of modern managerial public relations. She found her work with the New Deal's Federal Emergency Relief Administration both exhilarating and depressing; and although she was excited when she entered the world of publicity with the World's Fair, she soon grew frustrated with its comparatively trivial work. While there, she tried to facilitate transformational leadership, proposing collaboration with various directors with only limited results, and although she had a director's title and a good salary, she had little legitimate power within the organization, which was shown by the reassignment and relocation of her assistants against her wishes.91
By the time of Hickok's death on May 1, 1968, just shy of her seventy-fifth birthday, she had influenced American life in many ways through her reporting, her field reports during the depression, her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt, her six books, and her public relations work.92 She never married and had no children.
The World's Fair feature release about women employees, which was mentioned earlier, concluded:
"Women are making important contributions to the management and ptomotion of the Fair - make no mistake about that," Mr. Whalen concluded. "They are proving themselves valuable and indispensable in many quarters and when the history of the New York World's Fair 1 939, is written, many important chapters will be dominated by the accomplishments of women."
This study has contributed a chapter on the accomplishments and experiences of one of those women, Hickok, who worked as a press agent and implemented strategies of JL ? managerial public relations before it was even known as that. Specifically, in both her publicity and political public relations work, she used boundary spanning, relationship building and maintenance with strategic publics, authence segmentation and message design based on the level of involvement, and the two-way asymmetrical communication model.
Other women in public relations at the time also acted as strategic advisors and press agents; however, they often did so under the auspices of a male associate. 'M As Fleischman had before her, Hickok relied on her contacts and relationships to secure her public relations positions. Also like Fleischman, she enjoyed working as a strategic counsel far more than being a publicist and exhibited a strong work ethic and an independent SpIrIt.''"1
Little is known about women in the public relations field with Hickok's level of influence in the political arena, nor is much known about the earliest women public relations managers. However, some conclusions can be drawn from her letters. She had the necessary level of access to key White House decision makers to have her strategic recommendations heard. Fueled by her knowledge of newsrooms, she understood the strategic power of opinion leaders and the value of forming relationships with influential people.
Finally, Hickok's work provides early examples of many modern managerial public relations functions and of the asymmetrical model of public relations, which represented the dominant form of twentieth-century political public relations practice.'"' Additional research on women's managerial contributions to the field and on the evolution of political communication strategies will help enlarge our understanding of the public relations profession and its influence on society.
"In 1933, after five years with AP, Hickok made the difficult choice to leave because she could no longer be objective about the Roosevelts."
"Despite her fairly high salary, Hickok constantly struggled with money, partly because she lived not only in New York City but also had a place in the country that she loved (in Moriches on Long Island), which she rented from friends. Throughout the time period in this study, Eleanor often sent her gifts, food, and money and abo helped secure government employment for some of her friends and family members. "
"It should be noted that the World's Fair opening ceremony on April 30, 1939, comprised the nation s first formal television debut, which was a broadcast of President Roosevelt's speech from the fairgrounds' RCA pavilion. However, there is no evidence in the World's Fair files or in Hickok's correspondence that she was involved in arranging it."
"Hickok began her Democratic National Committee work on February 1, 1940, with the same enthusiasm that she had expressed when she started at the fair, despite knowing it was only temporary until the November presidential election."
"When both the DNC and the Women's Division were downsized in 1942, Hickok was one of only six employees to be retained, three of whom worked in the Women's Division. She remained with the organization until 1945. "
1 For example, ACEJMC-accredited journalism schools, where many public relations programs are housed, awarded 66 percent of their bachelor's degrees and 65 percent of their masters degrees to women. See "2005 Enrollment Repott: Enrollment Growth Continues, But at Reduced Rate," Journalism & Mass Communication Educator h\ (Autumn 2006): 308.
2 Susan Henry, "Ruth Hale: A 'Passionate Contender' Caught in a 'Curious Collaboration,"' Journalism History Ti (Spring 2002): 2-15.
3 Susan Henry, "Anonymous in Her Own Name: Public Relations Pioneer Doris E. Fleischman," Journalism History!?) (Summer 1997): 51.
4 Ibid. Henry noted she was accompanied by her father, who was concerned for her safety.
5 Susan Henry, "Dissonant Notes of a Retiring Feminist: Doris E. Fleischman's Later Years," Journal of Public ReLitions Research 10 (January 1998): 1-34.
6 Linda J. Lumsden, "The Essentialist Agenda of 'the Woman's Angle' in Cold War Washington: The Case of Associated Press Reporter Ruth Cowan" Journalism History 33 (Spring 2007): 2-13.
7 Kimberly Wilmot Voss, "The National Women and Media Collection at the University of Missouri," Journalism History 30 (Winter 2005): 210-14.
8 See Karen S. Miller, book review of Public Relations History: Prom the 17"' to the 2(fh Century. The Antecedents, in Journal of American History 83 (December 1996): 1003; Diana Knott Martinelli and Jeff Mucciarone, "New Deal Public Relations: A Glimpse into FDR Press Secretary Stephen Early's Work," Public Relations Review 33 (March 2007): 39-57. Also see Robert L. Hearh and Shannon A. Bowcn, "The Public Relations Philosophy of John W Hill: Bricks in the Foundation of Issues Management," Journal of Public Affairs 2 (November 2002): 230-46.
9 For example, see Linda AJdoory and Elizabeth L. Toth, "Gendered Discrepancies in a Gendered Profession: A Developing Theory for Public Relations," journal of Public Relations Research 14 (March 2002): 93-1 16.
10 Mary M. Cronin, "Redefining Woman's Sphere: New England's Antebellum Female Textile Operatives' Magazines and Their Response ro the 'Cult of True Womanhood,'" Journalism History 25 (Spring 1999): 13-25.
11 Peter Johansen, "For Berter, Higher and Nobler Things: Massey's Pioneering Employee Publication," Journalism History 27 (Fall 2001): 94-104.
12 Elizabeth V. Burt, "Working Women and the Triangle Fire: Press Coverage of a Tragedy," Journalism History 30 (Winter 2005): 189-99.
13 Larissa A. Grunig, "Court-Ordered Relief from Sex Discrimination in the Foreign Service: Implications for Women Working in Development Communication," in J. E. Grunig and L.A. Grunig, eds., Public Relations Research Annual (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991), 86.
14 Maurine H. Beasley, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Media: A Public Quest for Selffulfillment (Urbana, III.: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 28.
15 Maurine Beasley, "Recent Directions for the Study of Women's History in American Journalism," fournalism Studies 1 (May 2001): 207-20.
17 Doris Faber, The Life of Lorena HicKok (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1980), 7.
18 See Melvin Mencher, "Journalism Reflects Our Culture," Nieman Reports (Winter 2004): 50; and Berkley Hudson, 'The Mississippi Negro Farmer,' His Mule, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Racial Portrayals of Sylvester Harris in the Black and White 1 930s," fournalism History 32 (Winter 2007): 20 1 - 1 2.
19 Karla K. Cower, "Rediscovering Women in Public Relations: Women in the Public Relations Journal, 1945-1972," Journalism History 27 (Spring 2001): 14-21.
20 Hickok's career and position in the Roosevelt administration, as well as her advice to Eleanor Roosevelt, helped to open the way for other women political reporters, such as Ruth Cowan. Cowan joined the AP's Washington bureau in 1940 and used the woman's angle on the coming war to begin writing hard news srories. When the AP forced her to retire in 1956, she again followed in Hickok's footsteps by moving into a public relations consulting position, conducting research on women's public service for the Republican Patty. See Lumsden, "The Essentialist Agenda of 'the Woman's Angle' in Cold War Washington," 2-13.
21 This study relies on secondary sources about Hickok's life and on primary sources culled from persona] correspondence and telegrams from the Franklin D. Roosevelr Presidential Library in Hyde Park, N. Y. It also relies on business documents from the New York World's Fair files archived at the New Yotk Public Library and on internal documents from rhe Tennessee Valley Authority Headquatters Library in Knoxville. In addition, the Periodical Cuide to Literature was consulted, and the articles about the World's Fair were identified in an attempt to link Hickok's efforts to what was written. The Democratic National Committee was asked to provide any relevant data regarding Hickok's tenure there, but the historical records were unavailable. The majority of primary documents were collected during the summers of 2005, 2006, and 2007 with support from an Ohio University Baker (irant and a West Virginia University Faculty Development Grant. The materials were then reviewed, sorred by year, and sorted into categories according to information relevant to this study. See Matthew B. Miles and A.M. Huberman, Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage, 1994). Because the research is exploratory, rhe findings describe Hickok's overall experience, in the vein of historical scholarship, as can be ascertained via primary and secondary qualitative document analysis. See I. Hodder, "The Interpretation of Documents and Material Culture," in N. K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln, eds., Handbook of Qualitative Research (Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage, 1994), 710-14. A graduate student and a student assistant helped locate, sort, and identify relevant information.
22 Faber, The Life of Lorena Hickok, 14. According to Faber, Lorena's given name was Alice Lorena, but the names were reversed on her birth certificate.
23 Maurine Beasley, "Lorena A. Hickok: Woman Journalist" (Paper delivered