Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dorothy M. Jurney: Herstory 3

By: BettyJean Downing

From “drivel” to substance : transforming the women’s pages of the American newspaper ~Rodger Streitmatter

Dorothy Misener Jurney has been called the godmother of the transformation of the women’s pages in the nation’s newspapers. Jean Gaddy Wilson, a scholar of journalism, has said that Dorothy Jurney “single-handedly changed American newspapers” by changing the women’s pages. Dorothy was born in Michigan City, Indiana, in 1909 and her father, a newspaper man, had a deep influence on her career in journalism.

When Dorothy and I met for her oral history she had recently moved to a retirement community in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Just prior to my visit Dorothy had had a serious fall but, she managed to show me around the beautiful grounds of The Quadrangle and her warm and newly-decorated apartment. We settled into work in the library of the Manor House, a large, wood-panelled room with comfortable and attractive furnishings, a fireplace, and expansive views of the winter scenery.

Under her father’s tutelage Dorothy learned nearly every aspect of journalism, from subscriptions to layout to press type and machinery as well as what made a good story and how to edit it. Dorothy worked on her father’s paper, the Michigan City News, and then through her long career was an editor on the Gary Post-Tribune, the Miami News, the Washington News, the Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As women’s page editor Dorothy influenced an entire generation of women journalists by demonstrating that women’s pages could be more than a compilation of club notices, recipes, and bridal announcements. (See other oral histories in this series.) Dorothy worked to see that her reporters covered such cutting-edge, substantive news stories as pay discrimination against women, homosexuality in the schools, news in the black community, women workers in the auto industry, and women in politics. Her biographer, Sharon Nelton, has noted that the stories Dorothy published beginning in the 1950′s have become front page stories today.

Dorothy’s oral history also reveals that her career as a journalist was deeply undercut by discrimination. Hers is a classic tale of the strong forces which prohibited the advancement of talented women in journalism precisely because they were women. Catherine East has said that Dorothy was born too soon, and Jean Wilson told me that Dorothy would have been a major editor if she had been a man. When the men went to war Dorothy was promoted. But, when they came back, she had to leave. As a result she lost many of the opportunities she richly deserved and it took its toll on her own self esteem and sense of entitlement.

Dorothy was always interested in what made a good story from the standpoint of what people in the community needed to know. As women’s page editor, city editor, or managing editor Dorothy was convinced of the service newspapers owed their readership. Dorothy remains deeply interested in the grand sweep of American journalism, particularly the role of newspapers in educating the public and advancing democratic principles. Dorothy was a founder of New Directions for News, a center of innovative research in journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She was the first woman board member of the Associated Press Managing Editors organization. And, in 1988 Dorothy was awarded the University of Missouri Distinguished Service to Journalism Award.

Anne S. Kasper
1990

I ask that it be noted that this interview was conducted less than three weeks after I had sustained a concussion in a fall on the ice here at the Quadrangle on Dec. 31, 1989. I wanted to do the interview on the January dates, fearing I might be completely incapacitated later. I offer this explanation for the poor quality of my responses and beg the reader’s indulgence.

Dorothy M. Jurney
June 20, 1990

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Elizabeth Blackwell: Herstory 2

Originally Posted on March 2, 2012 by freemenow

Elizabeth Blackwell (3 February 1821 – 31 May 1910) was the first female doctor in the United States.

She was the first openly identified woman to graduate from medical school, a pioneer in educating women in medicine in the United States, and was prominent in the emerging women’s rights movement.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, England and spent her early years living in a house on Wilson Street, off Portland Square, St Pauls, Bristol.

She was the third of nine children born to sugar refiner Samuel Blackwell and his wife, Hannah (née Lane).  Blackwell could afford to give his numerous sons an education and also believed that his daughters should get the same education as boys, so he had them tutored by the house servants.

While growing up, Blackwell lost six of her sisters and two of her brothers. One night when Blackwell was 11, a fire destroyed her father’s business. In 1832, the family emigrated to the United States and set up a refinery in New York City. The Blackwells were very religious Quakers. They believed that all men and women were equal in the eyes of God.

Due to their Quaker beliefs, the Blackwell family was anti-slavery. An opportunity was presented to Samuel Blackwell that allowed him to open a refinery in Ohio, where slaves would not be needed to harvest the sugar, so the Blackwells moved to Cincinnati. Three months after they moved, Elizabeth’s father got very sick with biliary fever and died.

After the death of her father, Blackwell took up a career in teaching in Kentucky to make money to pay for medical school. Blackwell found this work unpleasant. Desiring to apply herself to the practice of medicine, she took up residence in a physician’s household, using her time there to study from the family’s medical library. She became active in the anti-slavery movement (as did her brother Henry Brown Blackwell who married Lucy Stone, a suffragist). Another brother, Samuel Charles Blackwell, married another important figure in women’s rights, Antoinette Brown.

In 1845, she went to Asheville, North Carolina, where she read medicine in the home of Dr. John Dickson. Afterwards, she read with his brother Dr. Samuel Henry Dickson in Charleston, South Carolina.

She attended Geneva College in New York. She was accepted there — anecdotally, because the faculty put it to a student vote, and the students thought her application was a hoax — and braved the prejudice of some of the professors and students to complete her training. Blackwell is said to have replied that if the instructor was upset by the fact that Student No. 156 wore a bonnet, she would be pleased to remove her conspicuous headgear and take a seat at the rear of the classroom, but that she would not voluntarily absent herself from a lecture.

However, most of the faculty and students were not very polite to her. Blackwell’s male peers treated her very rudely. On 11 January 1849, she became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, and graduated, on 23 January 1849, first in her class.

Banned from practice in most hospitals, she was advised to go to Paris, France and train at La Maternité, but had to continue her training as a student midwife, not a physician. While she was there, her training was cut short when in November, 1849 she caught a serious eye infection, purulent ophthalmia, from a baby she was treating. She had her eye removed and replaced with a glass eye.

In New York City, Elizabeth opened up her own practice. She was faced with adversity, but did manage to get some media support from entities such as the New York Tribune. She had very few patients, a fact Elizabeth attributed to the stigma of woman doctors as abortionists. In 1852, she began delivering lectures and published The Laws of Life with Special Reference to the Physical Education of Girls, her first work, a volume about the physical and mental development of girls. Although Elizabeth herself pursued a career and never married or carried a child, this treatise ironically concerned itself with the preparation of young women for motherhood.

In 1857, Blackwell along with her sister Emily and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, founded their own infirmary, named the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. During the American Civil War, Blackwell trained many women to be nurses and sent them to the Union Army. Many women were interested and received training at this time. After the war, Blackwell had time, in 1868, to establish a Women’s Medical College at the Infirmary to train women, physicians, and doctors.

In 1857, Blackwell returned to England where she attended Bedford College for Women  for one year. In 1858, under a clause in the 1858 Medical Act that recognized doctors with foreign degrees practising in Britain before 1858, she was able to become the first woman to have her name entered on the General Medical Council’s medical register (1 January 1859).

In 1869, she left her sister Emily in charge of the college and returned to England. There, with Florence Nightingale, she opened the Women’s Medical College. Blackwell taught at London School of Medicine for Women, which she had co-founded, and accepted a chair in gynecology. She retired a year later.

During her retirement, Blackwell still maintained her interest in the women’s rights movement by writing lectures on the importance of education. Blackwell is credited with opening the first training school for nurses in the United States in 1873. She also published books about diseases and proper hygiene.

She was an early outspoken opponent of circumcision and in 1894 said that “Parents, should be warned that this ugly mutilation of their children involves serious danger, both to their physical and moral health.” She was a proponent of women’s rights and pro-life.

Her female education guide was published in Spain, as was her autobiography.

In 1856, she adopted Katherine “Kitty” Barry, an orphan of Irish origin, who was her companion for the rest of her life.

In 1907 Blackwell was injured in a fall from which she never fully recovered. She died on 31 May 1910 at her home in Hastings in Sussex after a stroke. She was buried in June 1910 in Saint Mun’s churchyard at Kilmun on Holy Loch in the west of Scotland

Emily Warren Roebling: Herstory 1 2012

Originally Posted on March 1, 2012 by freemenow
BettyJean Downing

In honor of Women’s History Month March, 2012 we will be bringing you a herstory every day. Your contributions to our herstory series will be greatly appreciated.

Emily Warren Roebling (September 23, 1843 – February 28, 1903) was married to Washington Roebling, a civil engineer who was Chief Engineer during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. She is best known for her contribution to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband developed caisson disease.

Emily was born to Sylvanus and Phebe Warren at Cold Spring, New York on September 23, 1843. She was the second youngest of twelve children.  Emily’s interest in pursuing education was supported by her older brother Gouverneur K. Warren.

In 1864, during the American Civil War, Emily visited her brother, then commanding the Fifth Army Corps, at his headquarters. During the visit, she became acquainted with Washington Roebling, the son of Brooklyn Bridge designer John A. Roebling, who was a civil engineer serving on Gouverneur Warren’s staff. Emily and Washington immediately fell in love and on January 18, 1865, the two were married.

The Brooklyn Bridge

On their return from their European studies, Emily and Washington were greeted with a turn of fate. Washington’s father died of tetanus, and Washington immediately took charge of the Brooklyn Bridge’s construction. As he immersed himself into the project, Washington developed caisson disease.  The disease affected Washington so badly that he became bed ridden. It was at that point where Emily stepped in as the “first woman field engineer” and saw out the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge.

As the only person to visit her husband during his sickness, Emily was to relay information from Washington to his assistants and report the progress of work on the bridge. She developed an extensive knowledge of strength of materials, stress analysis, cable construction, and calculating catenary curves through Washington’s teachings. For the next fourteen years, Emily’s dedication in aiding her husband in the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge was unyielding. She dealt with politicians, competing engineers, and all those associated with the work on the bridge to the point where people believed she was behind the bridge’s design.

In 1882, her husband’s position as chief engineer was in jeopardy due to his sickness. In order to allow Washington to complete the work, Emily went to gatherings of engineers and politicians to defend her husband. To the Roeblings’ relief, the politicians responded well to Emily’s speeches and Washington was permitted to remain Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge.

With Washington still on as Chief Engineer, the Brooklyn Bridge was finally completed in 1883. In advance of the official opening carrying a rooster as a sign of victory Emily Roebling was the first to cross the bridge by carriage.  At the opening ceremony, Emily was honored in a speech by Abram Stevens Hewitt who said at the bridge was …an everlasting monument to the sacrificing devotion of a woman and of her capacity for that higher education from which she has been too long disbarred.

Today the Brooklyn Bridge holds a plaque dedicating the memory of Emily, her husband, and her father-in-law.

 After the Bridge

After the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Roebling family moved to Trenton, New Jersey. There, Emily participated in social organizations such as the Relief Society during the Spanish-American War and served on the Board of Lady Managers for New Jersey at the World’s Columbian Exposition.  She also continued her education and received a law degree from New York University. Until Emily’s death on February 28, 1903, she spent her remaining time with her family and kept socially and mentally active.