Washington Press Club Foundation
Gladys Montgomery Singer:
Interview #4 (pp. 40-53)
August 7, 1990 in Washington, DC
Kathleen Currie, Interviewer

Go to Session One | Session Two | Session Three | Session Five | Session Six
Index | Cover | Home
Page 40

[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Currie: I think last time we talked about some of your experiences at Electronics magazine. You also had some other assignments from McGraw-Hill during World War II. I wonder if we can pick up there.

Montgomery: I was getting along very well with my Electronics when a message came from New York, from the editor of Textile World that he wanted me to take over the Washington reporting for their magazine. This meant all of a sudden I would be Washington editor of a magazine for an industry about which I knew not very much, and it meant getting different contacts than I had with Electronics. I must say that my work in Electronics was not heavy at that time because so much on that subject was classified. So there was ample time to take on something, but this was a far cry from what I was doing. However, I made up my mind that there was no choice, and I'd go into it and make a success of it.

The logical thing was to get some outstanding person in the textile industry to give an exclusive interview, which I was able to do with Spencer Love, the acting director of the textile and clothing division of OPA. He was on leave as president of Burlington Mills, and he had given no special interviews. Furthermore, after my going for one interview, he agreed to write an article entitled "War Production: The 1944 Problem in Textiles." This was a real plus for me.

The articles forecast, for example, how much the mill owner could expect in government orders for textiles during the next quarter. Were they going to want more textiles? What particular ones was the government likely to want, and for how long? It couldn't be exact, but this was a much needed forecast of what the mill owners might expect. Therefore, it was with considerable interest that they read these articles, which were rather lengthy.

Currie: Were these articles to help them with war production?

Montgomery: The articles were meant to help them to be ready to fill government orders, or should they cut back on what they were producing, so that it gave them an idea, without being completely accurate, of what they could expect. Somehow or other, these turned out to be accurate. At least the evaluation of them, as expressed, would indicate that. Anyhow, it wasn't an easy job.

When the war was over, there was no need for any forecast article, so I had a very nice letter from my New York editor saying that it was with regret that they would have to do away with this, the reason being quite obvious, but he added, we couldn't have asked for a better Washington editor.

The thing that was coming to mind then for me was atomic energy, but I'll continue and say that about four years later, when there was mobilization going on for Korea and it was evident that we were going to get involved, the then editor of Textile World wrote to me to say that he very much hoped that I would take on again the type of forecast article that I wrote earlier.

However, by this time, I was already involved in something new: atomic energy. So I had to pass up this offer.

Page 40

Page 41

In 1947, I had this forthcoming magazine that McGraw-Hill published later that year.

Currie: That was Nucleonics.

Montgomery: That was Nucleonics. In those early days when the Atomic Energy Commission was not quite a year old, and the discussions were going on as to whether it was too early for even a Nucleonics magazine to be published, there was need of some liaison person so that things would not be in writing, a trusted liaison person to report answers to questions that McGraw-Hill would have and what the Atomic Energy [Commission] might want of such a magazine. So it seemed logical, I guess, to give this unusual assignment to the Washington editor of Electronics.

For several weeks, I wrote or talked back and forth with the Atomic Energy Commission and my editor in New York, Keith Henney. I suppose it was one of the later editors, who, reading the account of this period and what was written, pronounced it fascinating. I never could quite figure whether that was a compliment or otherwise, but I let it go at that.

Currie: It certainly was the beginning of an important new field, a highly technical field. You reported for Textile World during World War II.

Montgomery: Yes.

Currie: In addition to Electronics?

Montgomery: That's what made it doubly hard, to have to get new contacts in so different a field.

Currie: So how did you get those new contacts?

Montgomery: For Textile World, I got the contacts by interviewing persons on whatever subject might look like it would be a story. When I interviewed Spencer Love and he liked what I wrote, I had a very good entré then to others in the textile government setup.

Currie: So you used one to lead you to another?

Montgomery: Often I used one to lead me to another, and often I had a request from New York to see what I could find on a subject on which they particularly wanted to get more information.

Currie: Other than taking you into a different area, was this reporting different than reporting for Electronics magazine?

Montgomery: It couldn't have been more different. This would lead to lengthy articles on something in the textile industry, as my clippings from my magazine would indicate. In Electronics, much of it was classified because it had been rising in importance remarkably, so that a large part of it was a real contribution to the war effort and, therefore, was carefully guarded. It fell under "classified" and then under "secret" and so on, so there was not a lot that you could write, nor could you pry it out of the ones that were doing the work. The big thing was to find out who was who and who was doing this. Then, of course, there was, from time to time, releases that I used as the lead to follow up on, whatever that was.

But somehow the editor found things that he wanted me to do then so that when more information was available, I had many sources already to move in on. As I said, there was a limited amount during the war available in electronics, and that is what gave me time to take on Textile World.

Currie: In electronics, since so much was classified, did they ever read what you wrote before it was published? How did they make sure that nothing was written about what was classified?

Page 41

Page 42

Montgomery: They'd say "classified." I don't imagine they'd read the magazine particularly, but if they had any complaint or if any other reporter wondered how I had certain information, then they would investigate it. But when anything is secret, that's about all you can say.

Currie: Did you have access to classified information but then not write about it?

Montgomery: When I became Washington editor and wondered how I could justify the title, we were not yet having material classified. So I went to the Bureau of Standards, the Naval Research Laboratory, and at one place and another, government sources, and stayed there for a good part of the day interviewing certain persons who seemed to be doing work that might be interesting to me, to follow up on. It proved to be a very valuable thing, because as I got acquainted and had a rough knowledge of what was going on, I was able to identify these persons. But more than that, they identified me. I wanted to get to know them, but, I always said, "not too well."

Currie: What do you mean, "not too well"?

Montgomery: In other words, it was not that I was going out chumming. I never went out to lunch, even, with the source of a story. I decided that I would make business "business," and make pleasure "pleasure." Well, however you define it, I had what I wanted: respect from my sources. They knew me slightly, but they'd mention that they might be going to write a more technical article about what they were doing in electronics. Then I would ask them if they wanted to give me an outline. I'd take that outline and contact New York and find if they wanted any corrections in an article coming out, or if they wanted it to perhaps say a little more of this or that. Then when the article was submitted for publication, it was sure to be what was wanted.

Currie: Did other reporters become very friendly with their sources?

Montgomery: Most reporters were out for quick stories. They weren't out for the technical end of it. I don't remember. I know I was the only woman, seemingly, reporting for a magazine such as Electronics.

Currie: How did your male colleagues treat you?

Montgomery: They treated me very well. As I look back, I can't think of any incident when they failed to be fair. They didn't pull out the chair for me or anything like that, but I had just the same rights at press conferences that they had. There were always a friendly few words, a friendly relationship, between them. I'm very happy to say that the men and the very few women in reporting in this work were friendly.

Currie: Did you receive the same salary as your male colleagues?

Montgomery: Well, there you come onto a touchy subject. No, I did not, nor did I ever receive a salary in any way comparable to men in this work. No. I can't altogether blame McGraw-Hill, because it was the time when women generally were underpaid. What made it even worse for me was the only person in all my eighteen years who was not playing fair with me was the last head of the Washington office, a jovial—well, I guess I'd better not go along, because the adjectives might not get so complimentary as I go along. Anyhow, he was a heavy drinking, jovial person with a distinct desire to keep the office without any women reporters. Since I was the only woman reporter there, of course he set his guns out for me. After the war, in due time, McGraw-Hill decided, with the many inventions that were coming out as a result of these secret instruments, where even a part of one could lead to some rather important use, it was impossible to keep the old Washington editor titles, because the subject required more than one person covering for a magazine. The dropping of the Washington

Page 42

Page 43

titles was not pleasing to Electronics. In fact, I think it was probably the last magazine to conform to it.

Currie: So that meant you were no longer Washington editor?

Montgomery: The reason that it was difficult for me was not the overall dropping of the titles as much as the bureau went into a central news desk operation, where that person could dictate the stories that each one would cover. Promptly, it was ordered that no story on electronics should be given to me.

Currie: You mean the nemesis ordered that?

Montgomery: I should make that more plain. The Washington head of the office, who dictated how the operations in the office should take place, specified that no electronics stories should go to me. That infuriated my editor in New York so much that they would not agree to the setup until it looked like if they didn't—well, let's say they had to conform to it. The managing editor of Electronics in New York even jeopardized his retirement position if he didn't conform. So with my urging, as well as their conforming, I did not cover electronics. However, I never knew what assignments that that was going to lead to. For one thing, the assignments came from the Washington editor. I had no idea that I'd end up with Science Illustrated magazine, which was a very fine science type of magazine which came before its time, and was losing very substantial amounts of money. Nowadays such magazines are frequently financially successful. I never thought I'd get from my background to write a story on bats or that I would be made an "anteater" for a story that I wrote on this subject, nor did I think I would be interviewing a former secretary of the Smithsonian.

Currie: Why did they not want you to cover electronics, since that was your specialty?

Montgomery: I believe I was the only woman reporter left from the war days in the office. Somehow it made the head of the Washington office uncomfortable, because he wanted to get rid of women, and he knew that electronics was where I was doing very well. Because electronics was coming ahead by leaps and bounds, he felt that he wanted that to go to one of the men. He even went so far as to say, "I can get a woman for a third less than a man. Take it or leave it."

Currie: So he said he could find a man for less?

Montgomery: He said, "I can get a reporter, a woman, for a third less money than I need to pay for a man." So he said, "You can take it or leave it."

Currie: Sounds like he gave you a hard time.

Montgomery: When you say he gave me a hard time, it was the only hard time in eighteen years that I had with any person, because I don't even call Signal Corps a hard time. That was just an incident soon passed over. No, he not only gave me a hard time, but he gave Electronics a hard time. The system that they set up did not work for Electronics, but it was too late for me to profit by it. It was too late in my own time for me to profit.

Currie: So it didn't work to have other people assigned?

Montgomery: It didn't work for Electronics, and Electronics set up its own office. They worked independent. They were McGraw-Hill, but they worked independent of the managing editor set up and undoubtedly I would have worked within this new set-up.

Currie: But you never went back to work for them.

Page 43

Page 44

Montgomery: That happened after I had left McGraw-Hill. And why did I leave McGraw-Hill? I left because I reached the retirement age of sixty-five, and therefore it was, in those days, sort of a foregone conclusion.

Currie: What year did you retire from McGraw-Hill? I think it was 1961.

Montgomery: That's when I left. Yes, I left in December of '61. I mentioned some projects, though, that I indicated were in '62, but I don't know whether I worked part of '62 or not.

Currie: So it was early sixties.

Montgomery: Early in the sixties, yes. That's a good way to put it.

Currie: I'd like to go back. During World War II, I think you said before we turned the tape recorder on that there were more women in the McGraw-Hill office. Can you tell me a little bit about what it was like to work there in World War II?

Montgomery: No, there weren't more women reporters in McGraw-Hill. I was the only women when I was hired, and they hired, as I've told you, as an experiment. Therefore, calling me an experiment would indicate that there were no other women. I don't remember that there were any other women until for a comparatively short period when it was evident that a number of the top men in the office had enlisted and were going to war. That wasn't confined to McGraw-Hill; it was apparent that there was a rush of many reporters to get into the war, they had to or they wanted to, one or the other. So that's when they took me on at the very beginning of the wartime, it seemed to me. I think there were two other women in different magazines I've forgotten. The only way, as I told you, I think, already, that they dealt with that after the war, was to say that if your editor wanted you to remain, you could. But anyhow, I was the only one that remained.

Currie: So the other women were asked to leave after World War II?

Montgomery: Yes. There weren't that many to go. That didn't seem to bother the ones that took over the office. I believe there were two before this man came in that headed the office and left for one reason or another.

Currie: What about the women? Did that bother them?

Montgomery: Of course, there were secretaries and that kind of help there, women.

Currie: But the women reporters who were asked to leave?

Montgomery: No. One of them transferred. She was doing part-time reporting, but she was doing some for Aviation Week, and that ran its own show. They didn't go in with us. So she simply was taken full-time over there. I don't know what happened to the other one or two; I'm not sure which. But there wasn't any trouble getting a job then. I had an offer of two government jobs. One, they'd set up all the papers for it. The other one was—it seems as if they were putting a publicist person in the U.S. Coast Guard, but I'd have to look that up. The other one, the person who headed it—and that one I would have to give you—was leaving after several years, and she suggested my name to fill her place. So after looking up all about me, I was notified that I was to report within a few days. But I decided that I wouldn't take it.

In the meantime, my old boss, Roger Babson, came to the front again and contacted me. During the war, he had given up the Washington office and operated from Baltimore on a very limited scale. But he had decided he wanted, sort of a news forecast letter, you know, sort of a Kiplinger type of thing. He wanted the office to operate again with emphasis on a

Page 44

Page 45

twice-monthly newsletter directed to the businessman, which I was supposed to do. But I decided that even with the help of a secretary and whatever else might come up, it was too much of a risk to compete with two other in that same field who had plenty of help. However, not willing to give up, he told me to come to Boston for an interview to discuss it.

It didn't make much difference. I did go to Boston—he had set up a conference in the vault room of one of the banks in Boston, a strange place to meet! But I stayed with McGraw-Hill.

Currie: Why did you decide not to take the government job?

Montgomery: I thought that I was writing in something that had great potential, Electronics, and I loved beginnings. I loved the fact that I believed this was going, one day, to be very important. The government job was a good job. Both of them would have paid much more than I was getting. But somehow I liked what I saw ahead for electronics. At that time, money wasn't so important to me, because I had some family money that I could rely on. I have never regretted my decision.

Currie: Maybe we can go back now and talk a little bit about Nucleonics. I noticed in some of the material you gave me, there was a letter. The editor of Nucleonics sent a letter to the Atomic Energy Commission Director of Information, and it said, "As Washington editor of Nucleonics, Mrs. Montgomery will have the responsibility of interpreting to Nucleonics the Atomic Energy Commission's desire to see this new journal safeguard, as well as promote, the public interest. To this end, we hope you will regard Mrs. Montgomery as working for the AEC as well as McGraw-Hill, since fundamentally we all have the same objectives." This is an interesting statement of purpose.

Montgomery: Yes, I thought it was. I really did think it was, let's say, surprising.

Currie: Let me turn the tape.

[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]

Currie: To me, it sounds like they were setting up—they even use the word "partnership."

Montgomery: As I think about it, the Atomic Energy Commission wasn't even quite a year old. McGraw-Hill's Washington office and reporting had excellent rating. Somehow I think that with electronics being covered by that office, and with what the Atomic Energy Commission was aiming for, the two worked together very well. Of course, as I said, the editor of Electronics was closely allied in this effort with the AEC, so that's how they became, not partners, but interested in working together.

I think I told you that I answered the questions that came up as to whether it was too early to start a magazine in the atomic energy field. For several weeks, I took the questions and answers and so on from the AEC to my editor in New York, and my editor in New York had his own questions, so that it was a back-and-forth exploring.

It finally resulted in a decision to go ahead with the magazine. The first issue came in—I believe it was September 1947. It was a small magazine about the size of Reader's Digest, in no way like any other magazine that McGraw-Hill had. About the size of Reader's Digest, more of a science journal than the other magazines, and about the thickness of the usual Reader's Digest.

I started in working as Washington representative and gradually, as I got more involved, my title changed, and Washington co-editor was an engineer scientist by the name of Robert Colborn. For six years we appeared on the magazine as Washington co-editors. I say six years

Page 45

Page 46

because that was when I left Nucleonics. It seemed that this type of science journal had had its day, and McGraw-Hill was ready to see the subject in a more practical sort of publication. So, therefore, the old Nucleonics was reaching its end and I was in no way qualified to go into this other—well, you say, "You weren't, anyhow,"—but all right, that's a question. [Laughter.]

Currie: No, no!

Montgomery: It was going into an entirely different type of magazine, one with perhaps a more practical turn. Now, when I started with Nucleonics, it was priced at fifteen dollars a year. Before I left, it was up to $750 a year with, of course, an expanded amount of service in it, which I don't recall right now. I only recall that astonishing rise in price. But it did guarantee many more services for the engineer or reader, whoever wanted them.

Currie: What kinds of articles did you do for Nucleonics?

Montgomery: Nucleonics was, as I said, more of the science journal type, and, therefore, for any science journal, as editor, you may not write the science articles yourself. You see that ones are contributing or you follow up on ones that want to contribute, follow up a little on the background to see whether they're ones that would be suitable for the magazine. So it was being a Washington editor who doesn't write the articles always, but who has duties of checking up on the ones that submit the articles or finding ones that they hoped would submit the articles. That's about what it amounted to. It would be ridiculous for me to say I wrote articles for Nucleonics, but I did know pretty well what they wanted. When it got to the more practical subjects, more business type, as it could be interpreted, then it was time for me to leave. The time was close, anyhow, that I was going to retire.

Currie: Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about Nucleonics?

Montgomery: I don't think now. During the years previous to that, I had a reporter from the U.S. Information Agency come to my office and ask for an interview for an article which turned out to say, "Electronics is Gladys Montgomery's beat." This came at a time when I was working largely with electronics. The article went as a release to—well, as I had it, sixty countries, but I don't know whether that's a little too many. It went to their press offices. I remember one woman from Germany, a reporter that wrote and asked me how I signed my articles. She said, "Will they sign them for you or not? If so, how do you sign them?" So I told her that many times information that I obtained was part of a longer technical article, and as such, I was a contributor. I said on others my initials were used, but on rare occasions did I have my name.

Currie: Your full byline.

Montgomery: My full byline. That's what I mean. My full byline, Gladys T. Montgomery.

Currie: I noticed in your scrapbook that some of the articles were signed "G.T. Montgomery."

Montgomery: My name was Gladys Taylor, and so when I married Monty, it became Gladys Taylor Montgomery. But when I married Russell Singer, I kept the "M" for Montgomery only because so many knew me by that name, that I was constantly either being omitted from things that I wanted, because, as someone said, "We don't know any Gladys Singer." So when I checked, I found that it's always better to keep your identification. So, therefore, I kept the "Montgomery" and dropped the "Taylor."

Currie: You had invested a lot in that byline. A lot of your professional work was under that.

Montgomery: Montgomery. Yes. Even on things that I wanted to do. I remember one reporting I did which might interest you. That was an invitation to Mexico when President Miguel Aleman was

Page 46

Page 47

going out of office. A small group of the press were invited for two weeks to see what he had accomplished in his six years, as the guests of the government and selected industries that were operating in that country. A number of this group had been invited when Aleman went into office six years before. That same group, plus a few more—and for the first time it was to include four women—was invited again. I was selected as one of the four, primarily covering for Business Week and other interested McGraw-Hill magazines.

Currie: So this is before you retired from McGraw-Hill?

Montgomery: Yes, in early 1952. My least favorite head of the Washington office was infuriated when he found that he was not included on the list. Therefore, he went to the source and said he wanted my name removed and his put on. Well, of course, with four women, that didn't work. But he was told by somebody who was there at the time, "She has earned it and we will keep her on." So there was no doubt he could not get that trip to Mexico. Of course, you show what you've done. It's going to be a luxurious two weeks. Anyhow, it proved to be a very good experience seeing Mexico in its prosperous years and comparing them with today. I've got a little bit written about that comparison, about a short paragraph, which I can give you.

Currie: That would be good. We can include that.

Montgomery: Because that is good. Then I don't go into it in detail, but we covered the points. We had a busy schedule going to the various points of interest to our group, and it was not all just dinners and the like, of which there were plenty.

But anyhow, when we arrived in Mexico, it was with some concern that I realized McGraw-Hill had a Mexico City office, and I wasn't sure how well I'd be received coming in. Sure enough, the head of the office was there to meet me when we got off the plane. I didn't need to worry, because he said, "We're so glad you're here, and I want you to know I'm just starting a cover article on Mexico. Your help can be very valuable in reporting this with us."

Currie: Great!

Montgomery: So it was a cover story and it came out. I was always happy that not only did I do that, but that I made a very good friend of this reporter and also his wife, who later came to Washington and I had the pleasure of doing something for her in the press. He later became head of all the McGraw-Hill foreign offices—John Wilhelm.

Currie: I wonder if I could ask you a little bit about this trip. It's interesting to me because there are some issues involving what trips journalists should do that I'd like to talk about. You were invited by the Mexican Government?

Montgomery: I was invited by the Mexican Government.

Currie: And they paid for the trip?

Montgomery: They paid in full for the trip, sparing no expense to show Aleman's successful tour of office, you know. That made it a coveted trip, you see, two weeks. Usually a press trip is—well, anywhere from a day or two to possibly three or four, but I remember we had one trip that I went on to the Caribbean area, and we went to Haiti and those countries, Puerto Rico and so on. That was a press trip, however. I don't remember. I guess we didn't pay. I don't know who paid for it. But the one you're talking about now is more to the point.

Currie: Yes, because there is a debate among journalists today about whether or not journalists should take trips sponsored by governments.

Page 47

Page 48

Montgomery: Yes.

Currie: Was there such a debate going on when—

Montgomery: No, I can't remember any such debate. This was an independent project. With everything going so well there, it was likely to be all to the good for all concerned to know about this. It didn't cost McGraw-Hill anything. It was government-sponsored. Whether our government paid anything for that or not, I don't know about. But I don't believe so, because all the dinners and social events—the president, of course, played quite a part in it. I have pictures, one standing next to him. He turns his whole attention towards me and the reporters.

Anyhow, we were briefed. There was a working end to it, too. It wasn't all play; there was a working end. I remember, for example, going and seeing their textile mills and sending in enough for the textile magazine out of that. So it was not only for Business Week; it was for any magazines that anything came out of value to them.

Currie: Today a number of reporters would feel that a government-sponsored trip would compromise their objectivity. Is that something that you worried about?

Montgomery: No, I can't say that it did. If there was friction in those countries, if there was anything within the country or within the relations we had with that country, then it would be a problem. But since everything was rosy at that time, we had very complimentary reactions to what we saw. But remember we never went into the countryside where there was poverty—not probably, but there was poverty—that we can conclude they didn't want us to investigate too much. I've often thought of that afterwards. But we went to all the centers, of course, the big college there. What is that? The University of Mexico, whatever it is.

But this was an invitation that came through the Mexican office here in Washington. I can remember I thought, "Oh, it's another one of those things," and I threw it in the wastebasket. Then I thought, "Well, maybe I should pick that out." I picked it out and found it was the grand invitation to visit Mexico. [Laughter.]

When I returned to Washington, I finally got a copy of a letter of appraisal that was written about me. It went to the head of the McGraw-Hill Washington office, it said to pass it along to the proper authorities. The Mexican head of our office there had written. He said, "It was greatly to the credit of McGraw-Hill that you sent this Mrs. Montgomery here. She was very helpful in our article and she was well received and well liked wherever we went." So afterwards, they told me that he said, "You know, she would make a good head of the press office in one of these smaller countries." [Laughter.]

Currie: That would have been fun.

Montgomery: Yes, wouldn't it? I wish I'd—well, what could I do? I ought to show you. I've got no end to certificates and everything else, but medals and so on. I thought, "I'm just going to give that to George." So I came back with all these medals on me, two or three big things. I pinned it on the front and walked in. [Laughter.] That was my archenemy who wanted no woman reporter in the office. I was the only one.

Close to the ending of my career, there was an interesting invitation. NATO had decided, for the first time, to have a briefing for women, with the selection of one woman from every NATO country meeting in Paris, France. The State Department called to say that I was the one that they were selecting to represent this country. So I considered that an honor. The briefing was matter of fact. We visited and had things pointed out to us, but getting acquainted with the women representatives of those NATO countries was indeed worthwhile. They were the most interesting individuals that you could ask to meet.

Page 48

Page 49

Currie: These were reporters?

Montgomery: Yes, women writers from each NATO country.

Currie: That sounds like a very interesting cap to your career.

Montgomery: That was, really, quite. After I left McGraw-Hill, I wasn't looking to take a full-time job, though I did go briefly into the General Federation of Women's Clubs for public relations. I only stayed a few months because it wasn't the kind of writing I was really—I was supposed to kind of nose around up on the Hill, you know. Well, I guess I was supposed to be watching congressional developments. Anyhow, I didn't want to take anything as much as that.

I got interested in the talk about the Kennedy Center, an arts center which was supposed to be a national arts center. I was then on Nixon's Arts Committee.

Currie: You were working in his campaign?

Montgomery: Yes, but I was on that end of it. That was my one and only political thing. But it never occurred to me it was going to amount to anything much. To my surprise, I received notification that I was invited to become a member of the President's Advisory Committee on the Arts.

This was challenging, because the head of this committee was one intent on making it worthwhile. The first worthwhile activity was raising money, as you can always imagine it's going to be. The next took us to the opening of each one of the halls, and I was interested in the mass which was the opening, Bernstein's "Mass," and the reactions to it. Then it returned a second time sometime later. I go on to analyze why I only half-agreed with the decision made about it.

Currie: It's very interesting that you had a second career in the arts. I wonder if we could go back and I could ask you a little bit about McGraw-Hill. In looking back, you spent eighteen years there.

Montgomery: Eighteen years in the Washington office of McGraw-Hill.

Currie: Can you tell me what was the thing that you enjoyed most about working there?

Montgomery: I'll tell you what I enjoyed. In the war years, McGraw-Hill had its top editors or whoever was selected, and Mr. McGraw himself would come, top officers in the McGraw-Hill setup and some of the top editors would come to Washington frequently. In it included anyone who was a Washington editor in the Washington office. It was a two-day session getting closer into the war problems as they affected our government agencies and others, including, of course, McGraw-Hill publications.

Currie: Let me turn the tape.

[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]

Montgomery: Anyhow, Washington editor made me eligible to attend these two-day meetings, and it was then that I got acquainted with some of the top officers in McGraw-Hill that I would never have known had it not been for this title that I had, persons that became my friends always, although seldom did I see them after these meetings were over.

Currie: Is there anything else that you remember?

Page 49

Page 50

Montgomery: I remember those meetings as something that was extremely worthwhile for me and extremely valuable.

Currie: Is there anything else that you remember?

Montgomery: You know, I haven't hit at all, and I would say that perhaps there should be a little bit about my presidency in the Press Club.

Currie: Yes.

Montgomery: For instance, it was a piece of luck and not any great credit to me that I was president when Queen Elizabeth made her official visit to this country. The other press club, the American Newswomen's Club, didn't have the same professional rating, because it included some who were not newswomen. They didn't have as strict a membership requirement. I belong to both clubs.

But anyhow, my presidency of the WNPC was the reason that I was the one who got the attention, because I was the one officially designated to meet the queen when she got out of her limousine. I have a picture of me shaking hands with her. I can remember that they had a fabulous reception. First of all there were welcoming remarks by Paul Wooten representing the National Press Club, myself, and then the queen's response.

After that, there was a reception where all the members that were on the accredited press list had a chance to shake hands with her. It was the queen, and next to the queen on one side was Prince Philip. Next to Prince Philip, I stood. I don't remember who was on the other side. Anyhow, Prince Philip asked me if he could ask a question of these. Imagine asking me if he could ask a question of the press! I said, "Oh, yes." So this rather belligerent member in the club came along. She said, before he had a chance, "Oh, your highness, I met you when you were here six years ago." And he looked at her. He said, "Yes, and you haven't changed a bit!" [Laughter.] In kind of a caustic way. Really, it was funny, you know.

And I remember the next day the reception was the big thing. I think they limited it to about a hundred in Washington. I had an invitation. I remember the queen had on a beautiful dress, but she had dark gloves as a protection from all that hand-shaking. I think that was the reason.

You don't curtsy unless you're in their country, so a curtsy was not required. It doesn't mean you can't, but it's not required. So I got through the line, and I decided I'd stand over at the side and watch. One or two of the men from the British Embassy were there. Sometimes you'd see one of these women, a little outsized, too, trying to make a curtsy and almost losing balance, but they did make it. It was amusing. So whether it was because of that or whether it was the whole thing, one of them turned to the other, and I heard him say, "Oh, this is worth a guinea a minute!" [Laughter.] And that's what I always remember, so I've used that sometimes. "This is worth a guinea a minute." [Laughter.]

Currie: You mean the show of all the people.

Montgomery: I mean those words, you know. Just generally speaking, for interest. Then maybe just putting in this is what one of the Britishers said as he watched the receiving line for the queen years ago. I'm going to borrow his sentence and say, too, "This is worth a guinea a minute." You know.

Currie: It must have been quite a show. Can we go back? How did you join the Women's National Press Club?

Page 50

Page 51

Montgomery: I joined in the early twenties. There weren't many reporters in the club then. Had I come through the requirements that were set up a little later, why, I would have had to have more years of experience.

I joined, I'd say, in the early twenties. That was when Cora Rigby was president. I've told you how I met her, and I told you her last days with the wastebasket, throwing the mementoes of her life into the fireplace, and how I said, "Oh, don't. Don't destroy those." We've got down about that room in the library of the National Press Club named the Cora Rigby Archives room.

Currie: Yes, I've used those archives. What did being a member of the Press Club provide you with?

Montgomery: It provided us with outstanding speakers. I remember Mrs. Roosevelt, for instance, having her for a speaker. As I remember, she was a member. I've got one or two stories in there about those beginning days. I'm trying to think. I have several in the Coolidge time. One is an invitation from Helm, or whatever it was, the social secretary, just a little informal—"Mrs. Coolidge would be delighted to have you join her for an afternoon sail on the Sequoia yacht," such and such a date. Then she had written, "If it rains, call before eleven to find out whether it's going to be." Well, I thought that was so informal that you wouldn't even send it to your friends like that half the time. I have several in the book, little stories that came with Mrs. Coolidge.

Currie: Did you maintain your membership in the Press Club?

Montgomery: Yes, but came on the non-active list for some years, but I was always willing to do what the active ones didn't have time to do. They looked forward to, "Well, let's get Gladys to do this."

And I think I told about when we had the president of some country. I was head of the Hostess Committee. We were having luncheons then in the Willard Hotel. They had a top floor, sort of a big room for such things. Being the hostess, everybody was fluttering around over this president of whatever country—I can't tell you. I think it was King Paul of Greece. So I was a hostess. I was the one that was supposed to meet him and bring him up in the old elevator and take him to the president of the club. I met him, and it was one of those ferociously hot days. As he got in the elevator, he said, "I hope you have air-conditioning here." And I said, "Your majesty, I hope so, too." We didn't! [Laughter.]

I took him to meet the club president and the officers. I turned to leave, when his top aide motioned to me and said, "Whoever meets the king is the hostess as long as he is there. Are you going to be rude and leave?" What was I to do? I said, "Oh, no, no." As I stood by him, I saw the president and the vice president looking at me and wondering why I did not leave. He didn't stay very long because it was so hot in that room, and after he left, I said, "If he was hot from the heat, I was hot from the occasion." [Laughter.] You can see me trailing up there so helpful and all that.

Currie: At this time there was a National Press Club and a Women's National Press Club?

Montgomery: Yes.

Currie: Women did not belong to the Press Club, is that correct?

Montgomery: No. I can go on with these stories, but I wanted you to see that.

Page 51

Page 52

Currie: Maybe we'll stop for today and we'll take up with the Press Club the next interview. Is that what you'd like to do?

Montgomery: Yes. I told you about, of course, the remarks that Nixon gave the day he got back from that South American trip?

Currie: I read about that in your memoirs.

Montgomery: That is quite interesting. It's interesting today, because I believe that occasion was perhaps the time when Nixon was so popular, universally popular, that even the press were eager to shake hands with him.

Currie: Wasn't that after he came back from his goodwill tour to Latin America?

Montgomery: That was the day he got back.

Currie: And he was attacked by mobs?

Montgomery: Yes. He sent word. He said, "Send word to Mrs. Montgomery that I will fulfill my obligation for her dinner, but it will have to be the cocktail hour and not the main dinner. But I will make the speech then that I was going to make, the reason being the president has sent word he wants a stag dinner that night to hear a report on my trip." So he came, and Pat Nixon came with him.

One of the criticisms I had was that he didn't pay enough credit to Pat Nixon. It seemed like she was kind of brushed off. But years later, a friend who knew them very well told me that when he made that speech resigning, that she had begged him, as she did before, not to mention her in it. Because I was mad that he took his mother and this one and that one and didn't name her when he made that famous speech.

But anyhow, that night he heaped praise on her, and he said, "Long after I've been forgotten, many of those youngsters in the hospital that she visited with a comforting word or a little present will remember her."

But when the reception was over, the press, as many as could, crowded up to speak to him, and there was the feeling of a hero. I say that perhaps whatever came after, this time was the height of his popularity in this country.

Currie: Of course, you worked for him later in his campaign.

Montgomery: In the campaign, I didn't work for him; I was just on the arts committee. But I got my appointment to the Kennedy Center. I got my appointment to the Advisory Committee of the Kennedy Center probably through my work on the Arts Committee during the campaign.

Currie: Had you been an admirer of his?

Montgomery: Well, we all thought he seemed to be very popular. I wasn't involved in politics until after I left McGraw-Hill. It just looked like something to busy myself with, you know. I have always been a Republican. I wasn't against him, but I don't remember that I went out making any speeches for him or anything. And I must say if you believe in resurrection, he has resurrected himself quite remarkably now.

Currie: More than once.

Page 52

Page 53

Montgomery: Yes, but now, I mean, I really do think he has always shown his superior knowledge of how to get along in these foreign areas like China. There's no doubt in the world. They tell me you go to France now and they don't know what kind of a country this is that we didn't treat him better. So he had that devastating phlebitis, whatever it was that lots of people die from, and he had the shock of doing what he'd done, and I do think it's quite a good thing the way he pulled himself up first with very knowledgeable pieces that he'd write for the paper. I read them and they did sound quite knowledgeable, for Foreign Affairs and so on, up to his library where he was willing to put two million dollars into it and said that he wanted to prove that he was a real American, and he wanted this to be left as such. I heard it on TV and saw him, and I thought he spoke with sincerity.

Currie: Maybe this is a good place to stop.

Page 53

Go to Session One | Session Two | Session Three | Session Five | Session Six
Index | Cover | Home

© 1991, Washington Press Club Foundation.
Washington, DC. All Rights Reserved.