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The Day Women Ran the 'News'

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on June 5, 2004



All-female staff produced one issue, 100 years ago

By Roz Young

            When I was young nearly 100 years ago, my mother and I used to go downtown shopping once a week. We went to Rike's, to McCrory's, which was a dime store, to the Arcade, and before leaving for home, we stopped at the Young Women's League for something to eat.
            I did not arrive in Dayton until 1912, but as a child I can remember people at the League still talking about the time when an entire issue of the Dayton Daily News was edited and written by women. Though I've told this story before, I thought it was worth retelling.
            In the former home of Dr. P.M. Adams, next to the Reibold Building, the Young Women's League had rented club rooms and a very nice dining room.
            The Young Women's League was an outgrowth of the YWCA. In 1895 the YWCA found it necessary to discontinue the activities for young women in their organization, and so 10 of the younger women formed their own group. On Aug. 26, 1896, the YWL was organized, adopted a constitution, and appointed a board of directors with Marie J. Kumler as president.
            Three years later the society felt it needed a building for its classes and a lunchroom. Dr. Adams was asking $23,000 for his home at 34 W. Fourth St. and the board, without any money in its treasury, voted to buy it and to raise the money to pay for it. They held a nine-day bazaar and raised enough for a down payment and furnished it with gifts from the members.
            Charlotte Reeve Conover asked James M. Cox if he would let the League women put out the newspaper for one day and donate the proceeds for that day to the League. He agreed to do so.
            Mrs. Conover appointed the staff. The editor-in-chief was Mrs. Conover herself.
            The city editor was Mrs. Charles H. (Marie) Kumler. The general manager was Mrs. Charles Williams.
            Hortense Fogelson headed music; Katherine Houk Talbott, art; Abbie Campbell, churches; Mrs. Mary C. VanAusdale, Marie C. Durst and Mrs. Carrie Ach, schools; Mrs. Anna M. Shauck, fashion news.
            Mrs. Mary C. Culp was in charge of the telegraph; Lorena Dill headed the women's pages; Mrs. Eva Best, the children's page; Mrs. Annie Phelps headed club news; and Mrs. Emily C. Parrott, sports.
            Mrs. Conover also appointed 15 reporters to cover various city offices, the jail, the courts and the military.
            March 30, 1901, was the only day the entire editorial staff was composed completely of women. The issue contained 40 pages and, contrary to predictions by regular staff members, went to press on time.
            In addition to the regular news, various celebrities of the day at the request of Mrs. Conover sent congratulations, which were published in one section.
            Contributors President Theodore Roosevelt, William Dean Howells, Helen Miller Gould, Booker T. Washington. Sen. Washington Gladden, Dr. Lyman Abbott and actor Joseph Jefferson gave statements.
            `Your membership are all good people and soundly righteous,' wrote Mark Twain. `I know it - otherwise you could not have gotten together that tolerant combination of Protestant, Jew and Catholic. You have all the elements of universal brotherhood except one - the sinner. Mind, he is the largest one of all, and the one that most needs your sympathy and countenance. What you lack to be complete is an abandoned sinner, an old professional. Would I do?'
            `It will be seen,' said Mrs. Conover in an editorial, `that the only prominent persons who are not contributors to the League edition of the News are Edward VII and Carrie Nation.'
            Street sales of the special edition were so heavy that the presses ran several hours overtime to supply the demand. When the accounting department of the paper totaled the day's sale and profits, the League received a check for $1,800 for the building fund.
            The League and its early members have long since vanished, as has the building and the articulate Mrs. Conover. Her sprightly histories of Dayton and the Miami Valley, however, still remain on the library bookshelves and appear now and then in the second-hand book shops. Her style is polished and humorous. She is worth reading when you get a chance.