The National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) was organized May 6, 1937, when Helen Miller Malloch and other members of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association (IWPA organized in 1885), along with women from five other organized states and the District of Columbia, who met at the Chicago Women’s Club in order to promote communication between women writers, and advance the interests and standards of women in the press. One of the major concerns of these women was that copyright legislation was not being applied equally to women’s creative work. Among the 39 women attending were 24 from Illinois, six from Indiana, nine from Ohio, New York, Michigan, and Washington D.C.. Incorporation of the Federation was effected in 1938 in Illinois. By 1939 nine states had affiliated, including New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Texas, Oregon, and Michigan; and a New England press group. Of these new affiliates, the two oldest were Illinois (IWPA), 1885, and Texas, (the Texas Woman’s Press Association) 1893 – the only two states organized prior to 1900.
This Awards banquet was in honor of Radio broadcasting – at the time just flexing its muscles in the years just prior to World War 2. In 1939, with the New York World’s Fair presenting the World Of Tomorrow – Radio was considered at the cutting edge of technology. And its presence was not only formidable, it was designed to entertain and educate, with the emphasis on Education.
Newly installed Federation President Octavia Goodbar presents citations of excellence to each of the radio networks, on an alphabetical basis (the CBC in Canada was considered “one of us” at the time). And each of the network Presidents all extol the virtues of a medium dedicated to the “enlightenment and understanding of nations” – how radio was able to accomplish what most other media couldn’t at the time; fingertip access to the world and ability to bring us all closer together so that we could learn from each other. Lofty and idealistic, to be sure – but that’s been the promise of all technological advances, particularly in communication and especially in 1939.
But like all promises, they quickly vanish at the harsh light of morning – and radio would only be the predominant media for 10 years until Television took over, also with its promise of “enlightenment and understanding”. Funny, someone once said that about the Internet.
And we still believe them.
Here is a reminder of what those promises were, as delivered by all the Presidents of all the networks, this day in 1939.