Pauline Periwinkle and Progressive Reform in Dallas

Pauline Periwinkle and Progressive Reform in Dallas

Pauline Periwinkle and Progressive Reform in Dallas

Pauline Periwinkle and Progressive Reform in Dallas


Until journalist Isadore Miner Callaway (using the pen name Pauline Periwinkle) began writing for the Woman's Century page of the Dallas Morning News, Texas newspapers offered only fashion and social news to their women readers. Periwinkle's weekly column changed all that, encouraging women to take part in the reform efforts of the Progressive Era.

In Pauline Periwinkle and Progressive Reform in Dallas, Jacquelyn Masur McElhaney weaves together the development of women journalists as reform advocates, a chronicle of Periwinkle's life describing her talents for raising public consciousness about various problems and promoting solutions, and excerpts from her columns. She creates an informative and moving story of a resilient woman who expressed her opinions to a generation of Texas women just beginning to find a political voice.

As the first woman's editor for the Dallas Morning News, Periwinkle was a catalyst for numerous reforms. Viewing women's clubs as an ideal vehicle for familiarizing women with community needs, she was a driving force behind the establishment of the Women's Congress, the Dallas Federation of Women's Clubs, the Equal Suffrage Club of Dallas, the Dallas Women's Forum, and the Texas Women's Press Association.

Those interested in Texas history, women's history, and the history of journalism will find Periwinkle's writings and the author's analysis valuable for understanding how women journalists furthered Progressive Era reform.


Writing a biography imposes certain obligations upon an author: to bring to life an individual that few readers have known personally; to place that person in the context of his or her times; to determine how the times affected the person; and, finally, to assess what sort of legacy he or she left. Meeting these obligations is made easier when an author can determine a subject's beliefs, views, or opinions as expressed in letters, diaries, and written reminiscences or through interviews with people who have known the subject. Nineteenth-century subjects who were literate generally left a paper trail that can be found by a diligent searcher with the help of descendants or knowledgeable librarians. Twentieth-century subjects have been less dutiful in permanently recording their innermost thoughts, thanks to the telephone, computer, and fax machine. How different the task will be for the biographers of the twenty-first century, who will find more faxed memos and floppy disks than descriptive handwritten letters and diaries of earlier eras. the emotional connection that an author can sometimes make with a subject when holding a personal letter or diary may prove more elusive.

Doris Kearns Goodwin understood the emotional connection well when she observed: "We rummage through letters, memos, pictures, memories, diaries, and conversations in an attempt to develop our subject's character from youth to manhood to death. Yet, in the end, if we are honest with ourselves, the best we can offer is a partial rendering, a subjective portrait of the subject from a particular angle of vision shaped as much by our own biography--our attitudes, perceptions, and feelings toward the subject--as by the raw material themselves."1 I now better understand and appreciate Kearns's view of the difficulties in keeping one's feelings from affecting the final product.

In 1985, a chance discovery of one of Isadore Miner Callaway's weekly columns in the Dallas Morning News piqued my curiosity. Who was this . . .

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