Thursday, February 7, 2013
Day Seven: Women's Page History in 7 Objects
The seventh object that represents the women's page is a quilt.
Most of journalism history considers the content of women's pages to be soft news. Yet, a closer examination of the women's sections in the 1950s and 1960s shows more complex content. There was soft news - personality profiles, fashion stories and features. There were also stories about politics, education news and family violence.
The women's page editors created a new kind of news within the social fabric of their communities – a kind of quilted news. Quilts have become recognized as art – largely women’s art – in recent decades. Some credit the counterculture’s arts-and-crafts movement in the 1960s for the renewed attention to the craft. Others view the country’s bicentennial celebration in 1976 as the spark for a renewed interest in quilts. From an artistic standpoint – the real status came when New York’s Whitney Museum featured a quilt show in 1971.
The following explains the art of quilting:
In the production of cloth the sense of personal creation and connection to one’s production is so direct that the exploitation of this kind of work arouses one’s personal core and powers of resistance all the more strongly.
This kind of approach parallels what women’s page editors were doing in their
own sections. Women's page editor Dorothy Jurney explained her approach in an article in the January 1956 American Society of Newspaper Editors’ publication. She suggested editors cover home and health stories from more of a hard news than a soft news perspective. She wrote that the home beat should be “no different fundamentally than the police beat.” She echoed her approach in a 1988 speech at the Penney-Missouri Awards Banquet: “What is generally regarded as ‘soft’ news should be elevated in the editor’s mind. What the community is talking about, thinking about is vital to readers. The story might not be an event that happened yesterday. It may be a lot more nebulous.”
The above quilted was created by Dallas women's page editor Vivian Castleberry with help from her husband, Curtis Castleberry.
Thanks to Addie & The Feminist Kitchen for inspiring me to write about quilts.