Great Women of the Press

By Madelon Golden Schilpp; Sharon M. Murphy | Go to book overview

6
CORNELIA WALTER
Editor of the Boston Transcript
[1813-1898]

Edgar Allen Poe called her a "pretty little witch." A fellow Boston editor called her "the brilliant lady editor of the Transcript," and her paper eulogized her as being "in all things fearless, and with no thought save the public good." Somewhere in between stood Cornelia Wells Walter, at age twenty-nine the first woman to edit a daily newspaper in America. Holding the editorship of the Boston Transcript for five years, she supported cultural and literary developments in Boston, urged consideration of abolition of slavery, worked for civic improvements, and took stands which, though not always popular, she believed in.

Cornelia Walter was born June 7, 1813, to Boston merchant Lynde Walter and his English wife Ann Minshull. The seeds of her journalistic career were initially sown on July 24, 1830, when her older brother, Lynde M. Walter, established the Transcript. An evening daily, it was published by Henry Dutton and James Wentworth and, like its contemporaries, was very important to the mercantile interests of the port of Boston. When Lynde Walter developed cancer in 1840 his twenty-seven-year-old sister took her place in the family home on Belknap Street as companion, nurse, secretary, and unacknowledged assistant editor, working at his side and quietly submitting items from her home. 1 She would continue working mostly from her home when she formally assumed the editorship.

At Lynde's death July 24, 1842, exactly twelve years after the first issue of the Transcript, the publishers approached Cornelia's father with the proposal that she

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