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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

White House Journalists

Harris & Ewing, photographer. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt (center) and Ruby Black (second from right). Circa 1940. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In 1931, political reporter Ruby A. Black (1896-1957) told a radio audience that she had experienced less sexism from the politicians and government officials who were her sources than from her male counterparts in the profession: “It is years, usually, before a woman is admitted to the fraternity . . ., years before other newspaper men give her tips and ask her for information in the way they trade with their male colleagues.”38 Historians eager to explore the connections between women, journalism, and politics should turn not only to Black's papers (35,000 items; 1916-61; bulk 1933-45), which cover her career as a part-time United Press correspondent, manager of her own news bureau, and biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, but to many of the division's other journalism collections as well.

Black's friend and colleague, newspaper columnist May Craig (1889?-1975), assembled a collection of papers (12,000 items; 1929-75) concerning her career as a reporter, radio broadcaster, and foreign war correspondent. As an active member of the Women's National Press Club, Craig shared Black's interest in women's rights and also championed children's education and other reforms.

Like Black and Craig, Bess Furman (1894-1969) also covered the Roosevelt White House and became good friends with the first lady. During her more than forty years with the Associated Press and New York Times, Furman wrote about presidential wives, equal rights for women, and women in politics. Her collection (47,000 items; 1728-1967; bulk 1900-1966) includes correspondence with Grace Abbott, Helen Gahagan Douglas, Oveta Culp Hobby, Ruth Bryan Owen Rohde, Frances Perkins, and several first ladies.

Mary McGrory (1918-2004) was a major figure in twentieth-century American journalism. From her earliest reports during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954, to her coverage of the Kennedy presidency, through her Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Watergate and President Nixon's resignation in 1974, and her last columns on the Iraq War in 2003, McGrory researched and wrote about issues of national importance. Her papers (55,000 items; 1928-2004; bulk 1956-2002) cover a range of topics relating to American politics, women's history, and journalism.

Marion S. Trikosko, photographer. [President Gerald Ford talks with reporters, including Helen Thomas...] 1970. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Thank you, Mr. President,” the signature sign off of every presidential press conference since John F. Kennedy's administration was unfailingly uttered by Helen Thomas (1920-2013), a journalist and author of six books on various aspects of journalism, who worked for United Press International (UPI) in Washington, D.C., for 57 years. She began covering the White House in 1961 and was soon appointed UPI's White House bureau chief, a position she held until 2000, when she resigned because of the acquisition of UPI by Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Thomas then joined the Hearst Newspaper Company as its White House reporter, resigning in 2010 as a result of controversial remarks she made on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. During her long career at UPI and Hearst, Thomas was known as the "First Lady of the Press." She was famous for sitting in the first row at White House press conferences and asking the president penetrating and often embarrassing questions. The Christian Science Monitor in 2008 described her style as "outspoken, blunt, forceful, and unrelenting." Thomas was, as Judy Woodruff of NPR described her, "a trail blazer" for women in journalism, a person Andrea Mitchell said "made it possible for all of us [women journalists] to succeed." Thomas was the first female president of the National Press Club and of the White House Correspondents Association as well as being the first female member of the Gridiron Club. Her papers (19,600 items and 260 digital files; 1929-2013; bulk 1980-2005) consist of correspondence, speeches, writings, reports, notebooks, schedules, clippings, printed matter, scrapbooks, video and audio recordings, photographs, and other papers documenting Thomas's long career as a journalist.

Researchers exploring a range of topics relating to American politics, women's history, and journalism will find much of interest in the papers (19,000 items; 1933-2006; bulk 1954-1995) of pioneering broadcast journalist Nancy Dickerson (1927-1997), the first woman member of the Washington television news corps. In 1960, Dickerson became the first woman correspondent for CBS News and the first woman to report from the floor of a national political convention. A well-known Washington hostess, who was friends with many of the most prominent political figures in the city, Dickerson was able to benefit professionally from these associations and secure interviews and information about many of the leading stories of the 1960s and 1970s. After her years at CBS News and as producer of "Inside Washington with Nancy Dickerson" (1971-1973), she published her memoir and formed a television corporation to produce news documentaries, including her 1983 award-winning film 784 Days That Changed America–From Watergate to Resignation.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.


  1. Ruby A. Black interview, Ruby A. Black Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, as quoted in Library of Congress Acquisitions: Manuscript Division, 1984 (Washington: Library of Congress, 1986), 30. Back to text