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American Women: Resources from the Serial & Government Publications Collections

Women in the News Business

Women have been present in the newspaper business since its colonial beginnings. In the early eighteenth century, women often worked alongside their husbands and brothers to publish a newspaper as a family business. In some cases, a wife became a publisher upon her husband's death, usually until a son could take over the paper. The Library of Congress' newspaper collections also represent the gradual emergence of women as reporters and columnists. By the nineteenth century, women begin to establish reporting careers in their own right.

Women in the news business are highlighted under the categories below. Links are provided to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog for noted newspapers, digital access to primary sources, subscription databases, and reference resources created by the Serial and Government Publication Division.

Katharine Graham, half-length portrait, sitting at desk, facing front. 1967. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Elizabeth Timothy (ca. 1700-1757)

Mary Katherine Goddard (1738-1816)

  • Printer and publisher of the Maryland Journal (Newspaper Vault) of Baltimore, during her brother's absence from 1774-1783
  • Printed and distributed the first official copy of the Declaration of Independence, and published "extraordinaries" that chronicled American successes during the Revolution, among them her July 12, 1775 account of the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Anne Newport Royall (1796-1854)

  • Considered to be one of the first American newspaperwomen. 
  • In 1831, began to publish the newspaper Paul Pry (Washington, DC), which was later succeeded by The Huntress (1836–54). With these newspapers Royall crusaded against government corruption, promoted states’ rights, and tolerance for Roman Catholics and Masons.

Cornelia Walter (1813-1898)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893)

  • American expatriate, abolitionist, and free woman of color who published newspapers in Canada.

Eliza Jane Nicholson (1843-1896)

  • Credited with being the first woman in the United States to own a major newspaper when she inherited the New Orleans Daily Picayune (Newspaper Microfilm #1167) in 1876 after the death of her husband, who had been the owner. 

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)

  • Became part owner and editor of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

Eleanor "Cissy" Patterson (1881-1948)

Helen Rogers (1882-1970)

Alicia Patterson (1906-1963)

Katharine Graham (1917-2001)

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)

Jane Cunningham Croly (1829-1901) a.k.a. Jennie June

Presidential Wives also found self-expression as columnists:

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

  • "My Day" was syndicated nationwide.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994)

Hillary Rodham Clinton (b. 1947)

  • Her syndicated column "Talking it Over" focused on her experiences meeting women and children around the world as First Lady.

Investigative Journalists were inspired by their experiences in the field to support reforms:

Teresa Howard Dean (d. 1935)

Genevieve Forbes Herrick (1894-1962)

The "Sob Sisters" were known for their undercover reporting that often led to reform of public institutions:

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)

Victoria Earle Matthews (1861-1907)

The "Mosquito Patrol" (so called for their slender frames, rapidity of movement, and accuracy of reporting) reported on segregation and discrimination at home for the Baltimore Afro-American (Newspaper Microfilm #1182 and on-site digital access) while their male colleagues covered World War II.

  • Ruth A. Jenkins (1921?-1997)
  • Louise Hines
  • Mae Medders (1923?-1996)
  • Audrey Weaver (1913-1996)
  • Frances Murphy

Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961)

Frances Davis

Comprehensive histories of U.S. newspapers document the progress of newspaper publishing and offer a good introduction to the topic. Most major newspapers have a published history compiled by the newspaper itself or by independent historians. Individual newspaper histories may be useful starting points to finding information about women journalists—as long as the researcher knows the newspaper for which these particular journalists worked.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.