By Kimberly Voss
More than three decades ago, there were few archives that documented the work of women journalists. Today, much has changed. In 2022, the State Historical Society of Missouri celebrated its 35th anniversary with an elaborate exhibit exploring over a decade’s worth of women in journalism. In Their Own Words: Celebrating the National Women and Media Collection features diaries, photos, letters, and interviews from the Collection.
The collection includes documents of media organizations and professional and personal papers of more than 120 notable women from across the country who worked as reporters, editors, publishers, press spokespersons, and other positions in mass communication. They addressed the changing roles for women in the media industry, trends for the future, and how they were able to navigate careers in a typically male-dominated industry.
- Established in 1987, the National Women and Media Collection is housed at the State Historical Society of Missouri. The papers and other materials document the roles women played in various media fields, both as employees and the coverage of women. It includes how those roles have changed over time.
- “By drawing attention to the anniversary with a large-scale display, we hope the collection will grow and be supported by the voices of additional women in the media today and in the future,” said archivist Elizabeth Engel, who oversees the collection.
- The National Women and Media Collection includes materials from the NWMC, including correspondence, diaries, and interview clips. Many of the items have been digitized. The National Women and Media Collection documents the many roles that women have played and are playing in the field of mass communication, both as media representatives and as objects of coverage. The collection offers opportunities to study how those roles have been altered over time and how attitudes toward women have changed. The primary sources are valuable to researchers and the press.
- There were podcasts about the anniversary available through “Our Missouri” on Apple Podcasts during June and July. The episodes examine the history of the Collection and how its documents had been used by historians.
- There was also a panel in honor of the exhibit and the Collection’s anniversary. The panelists included Betsey Bruce who spent 46 years covering St. Louis area news. She was the first woman assigned to daily hard news TV reporting in the area when KMOX-TV (now KMOV) hired her in 1971.
- Sheila Gibbons is a communications executive with extensive experience in journalism and public relations. She is the longtime editor of the quarterly publication Media Report to Women about the relationship between women and media.
- Andrea Stone spent 24 years at USA Today where she covered national news, presidential and congressional politics and foreign affairs. In 2009, she became Washington bureau chief for AOL News and, in 2011, The Huffington Post hired Stone as senior national correspondent in politics. In 2013, she launched the website of Al Jazeera America as a senior online executive producer.
- Elizabeth Engel is a senior archivist for the State Historical Society of Missouri and manages the National Women in Media Collection. Engel was instrumental in helping to put together the current exhibit for the collection. Engel, an Iowa native and a University of Iowa graduate, holds a master’s degree in library and information science. She has been with the State Historical Society since 2006.
- As the NWMC moves into its 36th year, the Collection continues to collect papers – including working with JAWS. The Journalism And Women Symposium (JAWS) works to advance the empowerment of women in the field of journalism, as well as advocating for more inclusive coverage of diversity. According to Jean Gaddy Wilson, a founding member of JAWS and the National Women & Media Collection: “As all communications’ structures shift their shapes, the mission of the National Women and Media Collection to gather the insights and materials of media women, and stand strong as a witness to our shared worlds of information and news, becomes even more important.”
- Many of the organization’s members are JAWS members and can help with that mission. NWMC seeks to document more about JAWS’ women’s careers and careers of women of color whose work is not being preserved in other archives. For those interested in donating, here are a few tips to donate materials:
- Do not throw away any materials. After all, rough drafts can be as important as the published article. The NWMC archive will help with the organization.
- Browse through the current holdings by clicking on the “finding aid” by each woman or organization’s name.
- Contact Elizabeth Engel (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your donation.
Kimberly Voss is a Professor of Journalism at the University of Central Florida.