Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Women in Journalism, circa 1912 According to Wellesley Magazine

Here, two main characters, Mathilda and Penelope, read about the newspaper business - and how that business is too stressful for women!

Scene 4:  We’re once again in the reading room at Royal Victoria College but Penelope and Mathilda, this time, aren’t seated at a table. They are perched on the sill of one of the tall third story windows that look down onto University Street.

The light is strong there. It is morning. The sun in rising in the East.

“Matty, look at this I’ve found just now,” Penelope says to Mathilda, tugging at her sleeve. “It’s a copy of Wellesley College Magazine and it has an article about working in the newspaper business!”

Without being asked, she runs her finger down the page and begins to read out loud: “The news is divided into two fields, local and foreign…blah blah...The term ‘newspaper work’ usually suggests the reporting and editing of a paper although there are other important departments. Blah. Blah.

“There are Managing Editors whose work it is to keep the paper closely in line with the policy laid down by the owners, and the interests of the business office; city editors, right down to desk editors, who read the copy turned out by reporters.

“The City Editor has charge of all the local news; that is within a radius of twenty miles. He keeps a book, the Assignment Book, and in it are recorded weeks and months ahead coming events of public interest.

“His salary, on the five papers investigated, ranges from $1,820 per year to $4,000 per year.”

The girls giggle. It seems a huge amount of money, to both of them.

“Ah, and here’s the rotten part,” says Penelope taking a deep breath, “The newsroom is a maelstrom of hurry and anxiety. Woman’s ability to control such situations is, of course, a matter of opinion, but newspaper people themselves doubt it and point to the fact that there are no people holding such positions in Boston.

“All the editors and newspaper women interviewed feel strongly that the high nervous strain under which the editors must work, especially in the last hour before the paper goes to press, would wear a woman out in short time.

“That man has to have bats in his belfry,” says Penelope, editorializing a little herself.

“Well” says Mathilda, isn’t that good timing.  “I heard at debating club that they are starting a new college paper next year, the McGill Daily and they are looking for Editorial staff and will take on Donaldas -  if they are qualified. 

Miss Cameron  thought that I should apply, but I think you are the real reporter here.”

“Well, I think I will,” replies Penelope, standing up, tossing the magazine onto a table and smoothing out the wrinkles in her pinafore with her two hands.

“Have you noticed the newspaper stories about the Titanic sinking. They all contradict each other. Someone has to set this business straight.”