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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Gentry: Can we continue with our conversation about your work on United Press in Lincoln, Nebraska? I'm curious. How did you make it on $25 salary a week? How did you live? How did you rent a room and pay your food?
Paxson: The room was in an apartment. Let's see. Out of that $25, there was a little bit of withholding tax and I was saving $2 a week in war bonds. And that left me $19.65.
Gentry: Oh, no!
Paxson: Yes. You've got to remember prices were a lot cheaper then, of course. The room couldn't have been very much. The woman I rented it from was the librarian at the paper. She ran the morgue. Her desk was right opposite the chicken wire that separated our office from the morgue. And she had a spare bedroom so I probably paid her a couple of bucks a week, something like that. Ate with her.
Gentry: Oh, that helped.
Paxson: We shared the expenses and of course I got rationing coupons which I gave to her so that —
Gentry: And food, of course, was much, much cheaper.
Paxson: Food was much, much cheaper. I didn't have a car so there was not any of that expense. Mostly I suppose I spent money on clothing, occasionally would ride the train back up to Omaha because I had some friends up there. And that wasn't very much. It was sixty or seventy miles and that was the way to get there. And that was it.
Gentry: And you didn't feel you were tight on your finances, that it all worked out, you had plenty?
Paxson: I had plenty. Didn't live very luxuriously but that was all right.
Gentry: You were young.
Paxson: I was young. Got a raise at the end of — oh, six months, I think, was the probationary period. And it went up and by the time I left the UP two years later, my salary was up to $45 a week so that was quite an improvement.
Gentry: Almost double.
Paxson: Yes. Yes.
Gentry: Did you experience as you covered all these stories as a woman any kind of harassment from men?
Paxson: Not from the people you'd expect. Let me put it that way. The papers would use men from the Lincoln Army Air Base as stringers on things and these were young guys, you know. They were always very helpful and they were not the ones who would make passes, surprisingly. The first brush that I had with sexual harassment, if that's what you want to call it, was with the clerk at the Supreme Court. He liked the ladies and he liked to pat you and stuff like that. And Marguerite had warned me to "just keep your distance," is what she told me. And I found out about the second time that I went in there to pick up Supreme Court decisions — because he came around from the other side of his desk and put his arms around me. I tried to move away and he was following me through the stacks.
Gentry: How old was he?
Paxson: My guess is that he was in his late sixties or early seventies. He was an old man.
Gentry: A dirty old man.
Paxson: Dirty old man, okay. You said it.
Gentry: I call a spade a spade.
Paxson: That's right. Well, he was.
Gentry: How did you stop him or didn't you? Did you just put up with it or run?
Paxson: You just had to put up with it, spend as little time as possible in his office, make a point of always keeping the desk in between you. If he started to come around the desk, you picked up those opinions and left.
Gentry: I want to go into a little more about signing that waiver. Your boss, Marguerite Davis, apparently did not sign that waiver because you said she stayed on at the UP. How did she get by with that?
Paxson: I'm not exactly sure when Marguerite went to work for the UP but she had been there long enough that she didn't have to sign the waiver. That is, she was probably there before the war began. She was very good friends with the bureau manager, the state manager and his wife, and I got to be good friends with them, too. His name was Gaylord Godwin. When the war ended and the news began to come out that a lot of the women were going to be let go, both Gaylord and Maggie talked to me saying that they thought it was going to come but he was going to try to keep me on. And I think he did try. And I knew that it was coming — oh, well, that was end of September, first of October in '46. They probably talked to me about it first in May or June.
Gentry: You had signed the waiver so you expected to be replaced.
Paxson: I had signed the waiver and I had expected to be replaced but Gaylord kept saying, "I want to try to keep you." And eventually it came down to the UP basically wanting to cut expenses. In the central division which had its headquarters in Chicago and covered most of the Midwest states — they had three or four divisions over the country so they were pretty big — the word went out and there were forty-six women let go in that division the same week that I was let go.
Paxson: As I said earlier, I was then replaced by a man at a lower salary because I was at $45 and he came in at the beginning salary — it was still $25.
Gentry: Originally when you got in, had you replaced another man? Had you taken his job when he went to war?
Paxson: Yes, I think I had.
Gentry: But he didn't come back.
Paxson: He didn't come back to that job.
Gentry: Do you remember the day that you were fired? Do you remember what was said to you? Was there a speech?
Paxson: Oh, no, it was just Maggie and me, you know. She was upset about it and so was I. That was it. However, it was not as grim as it looked because, as I say, I think part of this was UP cutting expenses. An opening had come up in the Associated Press bureau in Omaha. And I guess the day before I finished with the UP and then got my three-week severance pay, the bureau manager of the AP called me and said they had this opening that was coming up in three weeks. Luck, yes! Luck plays a big part. And they had really looked around and they knew that I knew the state of Nebraska and that was a big plus and they offered me the job.
Gentry: Now, what was that job? What were you doing on AP? Similar work?
Paxson: No, that was totally different because this was a job on their radio wire.
Before we get to that, one more thing. In those three weeks, which was paid vacation as far as I was concerned, in those three weeks the AP signed a new American Newspaper Guild contract and I had left United Press at $45 a week and I went to work for the AP at $55 a week because I had the wire service experience and so I got the new rate. So I came out of that very good and in two years' time I had doubled my salary.
Gentry: That's great. Were there a lot of women at that time in journalism that you knew that were just struggling, I mean they couldn't find anything because the jobs were so tight with the men coming back? You were one of the fortunate few, I assume.
Paxson: Yes. My friends from J school had gone to work mostly for smaller papers and some of them who had been on the news side, where they're not advertising but in the news sequence, had already gone into PR.
Gentry: And they could last there?
Paxson: Yes. And one in particular who went to work for a small newspaper stayed on — a real good friend. But there certainly were a lot of women who were looking — they didn't happen to be any of my close friends from college.
Gentry: Of course, in the war when you were at the United Press, as you said, you were covering so much, so much variety, now when you got back to AP — I assume there were men in the office, too — did you get lesser stories or lesser responsibilities?
Paxson: Well, that job was totally different. It was the radio wire. The hours on that shift were from 4:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. And basically the radio wire was rewriting the news stories and then putting together reports of the weather forecasts, the livestock markets, these kinds of things that in an agricultural state all the farmers wanted to hear on the 12 o'clock news. So that it was that kind of writing.
Gentry: Strictly radio writing.
Paxson: Strictly radio writing.
Gentry: You were not going out to report on anything.
Paxson: No. No.
Gentry: Like you were at the UP.
Paxson: No, I was in the office. I did do one news story, however. One morning I left the boarding house and walked about a third of a block to the corner to get on the street car, the first street car of the day. And the operator knew that I would be there, so if I wasn't there he would wait a second — you know, a couple of minutes. At any rate, I got on the street car and we trundling down to Main Street, got into the center of town and there was this thick smoke coming across the street. I got up to the office and checked with the fire department to find out that one of the oldest buildings in town was burning down. It was about three blocks away from the Omaha World Herald building. There were two of us in the bureau — the teletype operator and me — because the Omaha bureau was much bigger and so we didn't punch tape like we did in our little Lincoln bureau. The operator punched the tape. And this was union. We were in the guild and they were in the — whatever their —
Gentry: Similar equipment but you weren't having to do that.
Paxson: We didn't have to do it, no. No. All we did was write on the typewriter and give him the copy. And Howard and I were the only ones there and I said, "We have an hour until the 5:30 split. I'm going to go see about that fire." So I walked over three blocks and talked my way through the fire lines and got to a fire chief or one of the deputy chiefs, told him who I was and he gave me information about the fire. And then I got to a phone and called the office and we broke every union rule in the book that morning. But I dictated a story to the telegraph operator and he put it on the 5:30 split while I was coming back to the paper.
Gentry: And you weren't supposed to go out and report a story like that. It was against the rule.
Paxson: Well, I could go out and get the story, sure, but we broke every union rule because he was taking dictation and he was writing it, you know, and all this. Those were the rules that we broke. The World Herald couldn't get over that on the wire when they began to come to work was a story about the fire. So that's my fire story.
Gentry: You scooped them.
Paxson: I scooped everybody. Yes. Yes.
Gentry: And that made you feel good.
Paxson: Oh, yes. It was not that we weren't supposed to go out and do it, it was just that there was so much stuff you were supposed to go through at the office to get that fifteen-minute split ready, that you didn't have time. But I just felt like that's an awful big downtown fire in Omaha and everybody in the state is going to be interested in it, so down I went.
Gentry: That's great. You said the AP bureau was quite a bit bigger than the one you had experienced in Lincoln, the two-person. How big a staff was it and how many men and how many women? Do you remember?
Paxson: There were two women in it and both of us were on the radio side. Then there were four or five telegraph operators. There was the bureau chief, assistant bureau chief, I think there were two other reporters.
Gentry: Most of them were men except for the two women?
Paxson: Everybody was a man except for the two women. Yes. Yes.
Gentry: Do you remember in those post-war years anybody covering stories on the demobilization of women, women going away from their jobs, their work place, and coming home and having families? Was that a story of the times, women losing their jobs in the work place and coming home?
Paxson: I don't really remember any. There probably were some, yes.
Gentry: There were women everywhere going back to the home.
Paxson: But I don't recall any specific stories that I could talk about.
Gentry: Did you see a significant change in news coverage from the war years to the post-war years?
Paxson: The subject matter shifted, of course, once the war was over and we got everybody back. I think pretty much though things went back to what had been covered all the time before the war.
Gentry: Just went back to normal.
Paxson: Yes. During the war, for instance, in the society sections there would be food stories. There were always food editors on the papers. But they would talk about recipes not using sugar, you know, sugarless cakes and this kind of thing. And how to stretch your ration coupons. They applied very much to the life of people.
Gentry: Making a sugarless cake would be quite an art.
Paxson: They come up. You'd be surprised. So that coverage shifted back to normal coverage.
Gentry: On AP when you had male bosses was there any difference? Did you get along fine? Did you have any problems with them, compared to Marguerite, a female boss?
Paxson: No. No, we didn't have any problems. Speaking of bosses and problems, I was a little bit undone that I was ending up with a woman boss for my first boss. But she just turned out to be terrific.
Gentry: You were reluctant. I presumed you would have preferred it.
Paxson: At that point I didn't. But I changed my mind. It was — women just weren't supposed to be bosses, that's all.
Gentry: The mind-set of the times.
Paxson: They were supposed to stay home and not work and have children.
Gentry: But you weren't doing that.
Paxson: But I fully expected to at some point, probably.
Gentry: Oh, you did. I was going to ask you, as a young journalist, did you fully think of yourself as always being a career woman? But you didn't. You thought you might marry and have kids somewhere along.
Paxson: Yes, somewhere along the way. But I was going to have a good time in journalism until I did. That was my approach.
Gentry: Did you have a camaraderie with the people on the staff at the AP?
Paxson: The other woman and I became very good friends. The group as a whole didn't do much together. The shifts were so split. I mean, 4:30 in the morning till one, or one to ten, and then the news people would come on at 7 o'clock, I think it was, in the morning. And we worked such different hours that — we could get together occasionally but we didn't leave at the same time.
Gentry: It wasn't too normal a life with those kind of hours, either.
Paxson: No. No.
Gentry: Not the normal hours for most people to get together.
Paxson: No. But I solved it by coming home — particularly when I had the early morning shift, coming back to the rooming house where I lived — we ate in a boarding house across the street. And I would take a nap for a couple of hours. And then get up, then everybody else and the people who lived in the boarding house and also the rooming house where I was were a very congenial bunch and all sorts of occupations, mostly young. So I was rested and ready to go with them.
Gentry: I see. When you say "rooming house," this is a lot of different rooms, almost like a hotel? Were there a lot of people?
Paxson: It was a big old mansion in a part of what had been the elegant old part of Omaha and, you know, the original families had sold out and here were these big houses. And so the people who bought them lived on the first floor, and the second and third floor of this house that I lived in had great big bedrooms and they would just turn it into a rooming house.
Gentry: Oh, that sounds perfect.
Paxson: And you didn't have to pay too much rent and they kept it clean and changed the sheets once a week.
Gentry: Were there men and women in it?
Paxson: Men and women. Men on one floor and women on another. That's the way they divided it up.
Gentry: I see. I see.
Paxson: The boarding house across the street was the same way except that the woman there liked to cook. So she served the meals. She lived on the first floor — she had a basement and so there were a couple of fellows in the basement and then her second floor was women and third floor was men.
Gentry: And I assume this was a very reasonable price to live in this kind of place.
Paxson: Yes. Yes.
Gentry: How much, do you remember?
Paxson: Gee, I'm not going to remember that.
Gentry: You said the other one was a couple dollars a week.
Paxson: This probably was, you know, five, ten, something like that.
Gentry: So you could still save money on your $55.
Gentry: Editing radio copy, did you learn something in that job that carried over in some of your other jobs? Editing skills?
Paxson: I think it was more in writing skills because the radio copy had to be very simple, very direct and very straightforward. I think learning how to do that helped me a lot later on, particularly when I had to write so many speeches.
Gentry: I'll bet.
Paxson: Nobody edited after me. The bureau manager checked everything after the fact and he would make suggestions every now and then, but basically it was up to me. He would check the news stories ahead of time but as far as radio, we were simply rewriting what the news stories said.
Gentry: But very concisely.
Paxson: Very concisely and directly.
Gentry: Which is a good trait for a journalist.
Paxson: Yes. Yes. So from that standpoint, I think it did help my writing.
Gentry: Now, you stayed on for two years, correct, in that job? And you left Omaha in 1948 to go back home to Houston.
Paxson: Go back home to Houston, yes.
Gentry: Did you just tire of the job or —
Paxson: Yes. Very simply.
Gentry: How did you happen to find the job in Houston? Did you know about it before you left?
Paxson: No, I just decided that I really didn't like these wild hours and after two years of it and everybody in the AP was pretty set, there was not much turnover, so I thought the thing to do would be to go back to Texas, closer to home. And I wrote the major papers in Texas — Dallas, Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Houston.
Gentry: Before you left?
Paxson: Yes. I had the job lined up before I left. And got the offer from the Houston Post to go down there and be society editor and that was fine.
Gentry: Now, a woman going onto a newspaper from a wire service position as you did, there was really no chance to go into anything else but society, was there, at that point?
Paxson: At that point, no.
Gentry: So you were perfectly willing to make that shift from hard news to —
Paxson: Yes, because I wanted to stay in the business.
Gentry: Sure. Sure.
Paxson: And being society editor sounded like it might be fun.
Gentry: You were very young to be society editor. You were what, twenty-four, twenty-five?
Gentry: That was a very good position, for someone of that age, I would think.
Paxson: Well, I think it helped that I had grown up in Houston and knew a lot of people.
Gentry: Set the scene of Houston back in 1948, the early fifties. How big was it, what was the social life like that you were reporting on?
Paxson: Let's see, Houston then, I suppose was maybe 700,000. It passed the one million mark while I was working on the Houston Chronicle. That would have been '54, maybe somewhere in there.
Gentry: Was Houston very much an oil economy at that time?
Paxson: And it was an oil economy. The oil industry was expanding, the whole town was expanding. We were getting into the expansion after we came off the war. It was a very exciting time for Houston because we had some very flamboyant new-rich oil people there who made all kinds of headlines, the most famous of which was the oil man, Glenn McCarthy, who had struck it rich and then got into the movie business and then decided he would build the Shamrock Hotel.
Gentry: In Houston?
Paxson: In Houston. That was going to be a glamorous hotel, which it was. And there were just a lot of things going on. We had a lot of prominent visitors coming to town. I had to do things like cover the Duke of Windsor who came to town once. Wally [Simpson] wasn't with him but he came. The King and Queen of Greece visited there once. We had all kinds of princes from the Middle East. There were big names and there were exciting things and there were always parties and that's what we covered.
Gentry: Now, as society editor, how big a staff did you have at that point?
Paxson: Well, we were part of what was called the women's section. And the fashion editor was head of it. Then there was a food editor who also doubled as garden editor, myself as society editor and two other people. So there were five of us. By the time I left it expanded to six.
Gentry: Did you have any help when you covered all these parties? Did you personally cover each party yourself?
Paxson: We did a lot of it by phone but I did personally cover a lot of it. There was one assistant. We also had to worry about weddings and engagements and all the prenuptial parties for the brides-to-be. We had the club news — the food editor was also the club editor. We kept up with all the women's organizations and sort of the icing or the froth was the coverage of all these parties, particularly in the winter season.
Gentry: It was really your beat.
Gentry: You told me at one time you had fourteen evening dresses in your closet?
Paxson: That's right. Because you had to dress, you couldn't wear the same one, besides which you might spill something on one occasionally. And you had to look the part. Now my salary didn't cover it.
Gentry: What was your salary at that time?
Paxson: I went to work for the [Houston] Post at $75 a week.
Gentry: You're coming up.
Paxson: So I'm coming up.
Gentry: It doesn't cover a whole lot of evening gowns.
Paxson: No, it doesn't.
Gentry: Fourteen must have taken a great deal of that salary.
Paxson: Well, I said earlier that my mother sewed all my clothes and she made a number of these evening gowns.
Gentry: Oh, she could do that. She was really good.
Paxson: She thought they were very easy to make.
I mentioned the Shamrock. We can get to that, simply that — let's see, '56. Let me count this back now to when it would have happened. It was '51 probably. And Glenn McCarthy threw a bash that went on for two days, I think. And he brought in all kinds of movie stars — Sonja Henie was there, Dorothy Lamour. There were eight or ten big-name movie stars, a couple of big-name bands, the entire first floor of the hotel was given over to the opening night party. He had a great big nightclub there called the Cork Club because he played on his Irish heritage. The dining room, the lobbies, the halls — there were tables for guests all over the place. It was a formal occasion. And the papers got the word that all of the reporters — and the coverage of this was organized just like a paper today would organize the coverage of a presidential visit. You will do so-and-so and will get this angle here and somebody else will get —
Gentry: Did he organize that?
Paxson: No, the papers did.
Gentry: Oh, the papers did. So you had a lot of people going to this party, not just you.
Paxson: Yes. We had four or five reporters and I think four photographers.
Paxson: Which was the photography staff. It's a good thing nothing else happened.
Gentry: All you need is a fire.
Paxson: That's right. At any rate, the paper rented tuxedos for the photographers. But of course it never occurred to them — the women had their evening dresses and so we don't have to do that for them. You know, this was going to be a pretty big event so my mother made me a new evening dress. And this is the kind of thing that she could do very well. She went to the drapery department in one of the furniture stores and she bought beautiful chintz with big cabbage roses on it — a yellow background with pink cabbage roses. And she made a very simple long skirt. It had green leaves on it and so she went from there to the fabric department to the satin and she found a green satin that matched and she made an off-the-shoulder top and that was my evening dress.
Gentry: That was clever.
Paxson: It was a beautiful dress. It was one of my favorites.
Gentry: Oh, that's great. Now, how old was your mother at that point? Let's see, you were still in your twenties, weren't you? Probably late twenties?
Paxson: Yes. Late twenties.
Gentry: So she'd be what, about fifty?
Paxson: Oh, yes.
Gentry: So she was still a very active woman at that point.
Paxson: Oh, yes. She was active throughout her life.
Gentry: One thing you told me off the tape yesterday that I thought was very interesting is that you lived with your parents all the time you were in Houston which was '48 through — '56.
Paxson: '56, yes.
Gentry: And that was the thing to do for a woman at that time if you were not married.
Paxson: As far as my family was concerned, that was the thing to do. And that made it easier when it came to the clothes, by the way. But my father was just adamant that his daughter was not going to live in an apartment. And my mother backed him up totally on that. Furthermore, he was adamant that I would not pay room or board.
Paxson: It just was not going to happen. Now, my mother didn't quite agree with that. She really thought I should have been — you know, I was making this — it was beginning to be a good salaray, up to eighty or — goodness, maybe eighty-five dollars a week, whatever it was by then. She was not in favor of this. But when my father put his foot down, that was it. And he was not going to have it. So I would have to find other ways. I bought my mother a new stove for the kitchen one time for Christmas. This is the way I tried to make up for it. But I didn't pay anything.
And as far as my parents were concerned, I could have stayed right there the rest of my life. In fact, I had two good friends that I had been in high school with and then gone off to college and they went somewhere else to college and then came back, whose parents still lived in Houston. One had established her own travel agency downtown and was doing very well with that. The second one was special events director for Foley's Department Store. And these two friends had moved out of their parents' houses and into their own apartments. We would get together occasionally. And I never mentioned their names that my mother didn't say, "I wonder what happened, why they aren't living at home." It was automatic. I can still hear her saying that.
Gentry: Was this a trait in your family or was this pretty much common?
Paxson: No. This was southern tradition.
Gentry: Southern tradition?
Paxson: Not necessarily. I shouldn't even say that because they were not from the Deep South certainly. It was just the tradition of the time.
Gentry: So your two friends were unusual in going to their own apartment.
Gentry: Did that cramp your style at all, living at home at that age? I mean were you able to date or —
Paxson: Oh, sure.
Gentry: They didn't mind that.
Paxson: No, no, no, no.
Gentry: They didn't try to run your life or anything else.
Paxson: No. No. You know, when you went to all these parties, you could always bring a date. So there were a lot of them that I went to with a date.
Gentry: And might do that while you were working.
Gentry: I thought it was all work and no play.
Paxson: No, no, no. It really was fun, up to a point. And I would say that my folks certainly didn't dictate my life or anything like that. I came and went as I chose. But eventually it did begin to kind of bother me. I looked at these two friends and thought, "Gee whiz."
Gentry: But you didn't want to hurt their feelings by moving out.
Paxson: No. No. No. But I began to think about it. We did things according to a schedule at my house. And this is the old traditional schedule that you washed on Monday and ironed on Tuesday and whatnot. And on Friday you changed the beds and cleaned the house. And then everything was set for the weekend. And that's the way it was and that's the way it had been from time immemorial.
Well, it wasn't so bad working on the Houston Post because my parents had been in Tulsa during the war and come back to Houston and regrettably they had sold their house so they were living in a small apartment. So there wasn't that much to be done around the house, this kind of thing. But then they bought another house about the time that I went to work for the Houston Chronicle and then we got right back into our rigid schedule.
Gentry: But it was bigger.
Paxson: But it was bigger. But in both those women's sections on the Post and on the Chronicle you have a big Sunday section and you put that Sunday section together on Fridays. You got the page dummies in the morning and you dummied the pages and then they got made up in the composing room and then you read page proofs. If there was a big party Friday night, you went to the party, covered the party, came back to the paper and wrote it up. And this could be midnight. You might not get home until three in the morning. And you started at eight. And of course, there was no overtime. There were laws in Texas that women weren't supposed to work more than — I believe it was ten hours a day but nobody paid any attention to that. And we all worked and we got those Sunday sections out.
Gentry: So you couldn't change the sheets.
Paxson: That's exactly what I was leading up to. I would get up early and be gone and I didn't change my sheets. And Saturday morning I would hear about it.
Gentry: But didn't they understand?
Paxson: Well, I finally pointed it out to my mother, "Look, Friday is the busiest day of the week. I have to get up early. I have to work late. Why can't I change the sheets on Saturday?" She finally — she accepted it. I'm not sure that she ever liked it. But the more I thought about that, the more I thought about the fact that you're going to have to get out and there's only one way you can get out and that's move someplace else.
Gentry: Right. And that's what you eventually did.
Paxson: That's what I eventually did, yes. All because I didn't change the sheets on Friday.
Gentry: The Houston Post at that time, was it a fairly conservative paper or did you have quite a bit of freedom in your work?
Paxson: We actually had a lot of freedom. The Post was owned by the Hobby family. And that is former Governor William P. Hobby and his wife Oveta Culp Hobby who was head of the WACs during World War II and then was in Eisenhower's cabinet, a very brilliant woman. The governor was supposedly in charge but he was pretty old and actually Oveta ran the paper. And she was willing to try new things. Of the two, the Post was not nearly as conservative as the Chronicle. We're getting ahead of our story there but the Post was not that conservative.
Gentry: Did you have a personal contact with her?
Paxson: Only rarely. She was so prominent by that time. She sort of stood at attention. She was a very formidable figure and so well known. But she was always very pleasant. One of the great things that we did at the Post while I was there was manage to get the pictures of brides off the front page of our Sunday section. Now, all of us in the women's department really wanted to get into feature stories and to do more than just the routine that we were in. And occasionally we could do it. There were no restrictions. It was just that the priorities were set in such a way that these special features were pretty low on the totem pole.
But we did campaign with the managing editor and we got it to the point that once a month we could put the special feature on there. And then we began to campaign that, you know, there were a lot of people who really weren't interested in these brides and it would be much broader readership and there were all these great things that we could cover about what was going on. And we persuaded the managing editor — and he took it, I'm sure, to Mrs. Hobby and the governor. Then the word came down that yes, beginning two weeks from today or whatever we could move all the brides inside the Sunday section.
Gentry: Do you remember what year that was?
Paxson: Well, I left the Post in '52 and I suspect that that was early '52, late '51. So we proceeded and we planned these section fronts. And of course it's still done today. You plan it four weeks in advance and really you want to do a very good story, whatever the subject is, whether it's health or working women or some big organizational event that's coming to town, whatever. You really work on it.
Gentry: So you were doing really good stories.
Gentry: Some pertinent features about what was going on.
Paxson: And I think we had done it maybe a week or two when a big wedding came up and the bride's mother brought it in and of course she wanted the picture on the front page and we told her that we weren't running brides on the front page any more. And the bride's father called me and I told him the same thing. And then he called Governor Hobby. And Governor Hobby called me and he asked me if I couldn't make an exception for his friend. I don't know where I got all the courage from, but I was devastated that we were going to break this policy. I told him that we had just started this. It was a new step and we just couldn't stop. Well, he would speak to Mrs. Hobby about it.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Paxson: Later on in the day, Mrs. Hobby called me and asked what this was about. I told her that the wedding had come and they had wanted it on the front page and that I'd told the parents we had adopted a new policy that brides were not going to run on the front page any longer. She backed me up.
Paxson: And I heaved a sigh of relief and I think that's the last time that brides were on the front page of the women's section of the Houston Post.
Gentry: Did you get any repercussions from the father of the bride?
Paxson: No. No. Apparently, I don't know — she or the governor called him and talked to him, something like that.
Gentry: Did you have much trouble with some of the families you covered? Were they in any way difficult for you after covering these parties? Maybe not running it long enough?
Paxson: We didn't get it as much from the people whose parties we covered as from the brides and engagement announcements because at that time there was a very strict order of ranking. If you were prominent enough you got a two-column, less prominent you got a column and a half. Then you went down to one column and then we went down to eight picas which meant three in two columns. It was an arbitrary decision. The big ones were pretty easy to make because, you know —
Gentry: Was it graded by their wealth?
Paxson: No, by their prominence in the community. Wealth, of course, but they were the prominent people. But it was the daughter of the president of the Chamber of Commerce, yes. The daughter of a department head at Rice, somebody who was in the news. That's the way we tried to do it. But then you get to the point that you can't. And that was just very arbitrary and the whole thing was ridiculously artificial. Most papers now give them all the same size picture and a very brief announcement and that's it.
Gentry: You mentioned feature stories you were finally able to do and you planned for them and they were the important things of the times. There were a lot of things going on in the early fifties. One was the baby boom and the other was people starting to go to the suburbs from the inner city. Did you cover things like that?
Paxson: As time went on, we did. When we first began, the features were mostly personality features, some local people, the background of a special event that was coming up, occasionally we would do a major food story — the garden editor was terrific and, you know, you do stories that —
Gentry: It could come from all sorts of angles.
Paxson: It came from every — yes. Yes.
Gentry: Food, gardening, society.
Paxson: And fashion. Fashion was very heavily covered.
Gentry: Did you actually write some of these stories yourself?
Gentry: What was your primary responsibility? You said covering all these parties. And then editing was a primary responsibility in that job, I assume?
Gentry: What about layout?
Paxson: We had to do the layouts. I didn't do all of it. Everybody on the staff had to learn to do everything.
Gentry: And ended up doing everything.
Paxson: And ended up doing everything and then, you know, after the pages were made up, then everybody read proof. Then you went back to the back shop and read the type upside down and backwards on the turtle —
Gentry: On the turtle?
Paxson: That's what they called big heavy tables that the pages of type — this was back when we had hot lead.
Gentry: That was what I was going to say. What was the technology in the fifties?
Paxson: This was the big heavy table on wheels — well, the linotype machine set the type and then the pages were made up by hand. And then when we read the page proofs and the last thing was to go out into the composing room with the page proof and the compositor and read the type upside down and backwards to check that the corrections were correct.
Gentry: That's unique.
Paxson: That's the way it was done. It could get tricky. And there were times that I was out there in an evening dress.
Gentry: Oh, no!
Paxson: Oh, yes. One time the heavens nearly fell in. One of the more flamboyant people in town had a cocktail party. And the word got hyphenated. And the last four letters were dropped and I didn't catch it.
Gentry: What word?
Paxson: Cock got in, the rest didn't.
Gentry: Oh, no!
Paxson: It was a man and he had a cock party.
Gentry: And what happened after that? Did he call?
Paxson: He didn't call me. He called the managing editor. You know, those things happened and I got the little lecture about being more careful in proof reading. That's the kind of thing we were up against.
Gentry: Were your bosses at that time, the direct bosses you worked with, mostly men? On the Post?
Paxson: They were all men.
Gentry: They were all, except for Mrs. Hobby, as the publisher.
Paxson: But I rarely had —
Gentry: You rarely saw her.
Paxson: I rarely saw her. The news editor, the managing editor and the city editor were the ones that I had the most contact with.
Gentry: Was that ever a problem, to be working with men, or did that go smoothly? Did they understand what you were trying to do?
Paxson: No. Very simply no. There was a wire story about the state PTA convention in another Texas city. The fashion editor had given up being women's editor and I got the job. And we were trying to get more things into the women's section. When it came across the wires, I wanted it for the women's section. And I went to the managing editor and he had no objection to it but he said just go talk to the news editor — who checks the wires — and you ask him and he'll send it over. And I went over to the news editor and told him what I wanted. He looked me straight in the eye and he said, "I'll never give a news story to the women's section."
Paxson: Period. When the story came out, it was one that we could have probably given a two-column headline to and ten or twelve inches. He gave it three paragraphs. But he would not give it to me. And I never cracked that. That went on — well, that was the last year that I was there. But I never could get anything out of him. This was the old-fashioned idea and some of them were not about to change. I should probably mention another attitude about the women's section — society section. It was called one or the other all the time.
Gentry: At the Post was it called the society section?
Paxson: It was society and then at some point the name was changed. But if you said women's section it was equated with the society section. We could get things in there that did not get into — couldn't be used in other sections of the paper. One of the things was an advice column by a man named Dr. G. W. Crane.
Gentry: This is a syndicated column?
Paxson: This is a syndicated column. This was an advice column. He was a psychologist, I guess — psychiatrist, one of those. A great deal of his advice dealt with what went on in the bedroom. Now, he was never explicit. I don't mean that. But you sort of read between the lines and you knew what Dr. Crane was talking about. It was great fun to read. We loved it. And the managing editor was perfectly happy to have us run it because he said, "You can run that kind of thing in your section where we couldn't run it in the rest of the paper."
Gentry: Oh, boy!
Paxson: That was just one of the attitudes at that time.
Gentry: Some big stories were happening while you were at the Post in the fifties, big general stories. I know you weren't covering them in the women's section but I wonder if they had any effect on you. It was the [Joseph] McCarthy era, for one thing. People were labeled Communist right and left. Do you remember anything about the paper's coverage of that or were you affected by it? Did you know anybody who came under that scrutiny?
Paxson: I didn't know anybody who came under that scrutiny. And of course, I really didn't see any of those hearings because we were working and at that time there were no TV sets in news rooms.
Gentry: Certainly there must have been prominent people in Texas that were probably labeled. John Henry Faulk was one of them. I don't know exactly how.
Paxson: That's right.
Gentry: And I don't know where he lived. It might have been Austin.
Paxson: Yes, I think so. It really wasn't something that impacted me.
Gentry: Or impacted Houston that much.
Paxson: Not that I recall. And certainly I wasn't covering any of it.
Gentry: And you didn't know of anybody who lived in fear of anything like that?
Paxson: No. No. Only thing, we had to be careful when we talked about McCarthy because there was a famous Houstonian named McCarthy — Glenn. Totally different from Joe.
Gentry: Very different.
Paxson: But once you got that cleared up as to which one you were talking about, it was a great topic of conversation, of course.
Gentry: Was your dad still in the oil business during this time you were in Houston?
Paxson: Yes, he stayed in it.
Gentry: So he knew a lot of these people, too, that you were writing about, I suppose. The families.
Paxson: Oh, yes.
Gentry: These were segregated times that you were on the Houston papers. Did you ever run any pictures of black brides, any stories about black women who were prominent in the community?
Paxson: On the Post we didn't. And that's simply — when it comes to brides because we never got any. We did not go out and ask anybody for a wedding picture. The families just automatically brought in the wedding pictures and there was a form that they filled out with all the information about the date and the attendants and the reception and what the dress looked like. And we wrote the stories from that. And we simply never got any blacks.
By the time I was on the Chronicle, the civil rights movement was getting underway and we began to get occasionally — maybe once every three or four months — a black bride. And we ran them. And that was the beginning.
Gentry: The first in the city, probably.
Paxson: Yes. Neither paper got them so there was no conscious —
Gentry: In time the Post was running them also.
Paxson: Yes. Yes. Because if they took it to one paper, they made a point of taking it to all three. At that time there were three newspapers — dailies — in Houston.
Gentry: Another trend of the time was the migration of Southern blacks to the North. Was that a story that you can remember the Houston papers ever dealing with?
Paxson: Not that I remember, unless there was some hard news angle to it, some kind of confrontation, something like that. But that was another trend that got overlooked.
Gentry: I was going to ask you also about the competition between the two Houston papers. They were both large papers. Actually, you said there were three. In the women's section and women's news, how much competition was there between those papers.
Paxson: Well, we worked very hard to get some angle that the competition didn't have. I should explain. There were three papers. The Houston Post was the morning paper, the big one. The Chronicle was the afternoon paper, it was a little bit larger than the Post in circulation. And the third paper was the Houston Press which was a Scripps-Howard paper. It has since folded. That was also an afternoon paper. The Post and the Chronicle had Sunday editions; the Press did not.
All three had society editors, women's sections, and there was a lot of competition, particularly on the coverage of the society news and the parties. And the timing was all important because when I was on the Post, if something happened early enough that I could get back and we could make over for the late edition, then we would get this story in ahead of the two afternoon papers. Otherwise we had to follow them and we didn't like that.
Paxson: We stayed on the phone a lot calling some of the prominent socialites, if somebody was going to take a trip to Europe, we would get the itinerary and everything.
Gentry: Oh, my.
Paxson: And if I could beat the opposition, that somebody was going to Europe, that was good, that was the way we competed with each other. Nowadays, of course, you don't even report when somebody goes out of town.
Gentry: No. No. That's pretty small-time now.
Paxson: Besides which you don't want your house robbed.
Paxson: That's advertisement for it, yes.
Gentry: At the Houston Post, did you have women or men whose work you really admired that taught you something along the way?
Paxson: The Post had some very good writers and one in particular who was on the editorial page but who wrote a column which ran in our section. It was a woman named Marguerite Johnston. She was a joy to work with and a very pleasant person to be with and reading her columns could teach you a lot about good writing. She was a superb writer.
Gentry: What did she write about, what kind of columns?
Paxson: She had very much a general column. She had free rein, she could write about whatever she wanted to.
Gentry: She had been on the staff long enough to really have a position? You said she had free rein.
Paxson: Well, in this column. Now, she worked on the editorial page. She was not editor of the editorial page but she was up there in the editorial department. She did write some editorials and op-ed pieces, things like that. I think mostly she was just a good writer and when she began to do the column, Mrs. Hobby and the managing editor realized that she had a talent and let's use it.
Paxson: I don't know any other reason. I always figured that was it. The column had started before I got there. She wrote about personal things and sometimes would express opinions about events in the city, personal opinions that didn't reflect the editorial stand of the paper. It was a fascinating column.
Gentry: You all in all at the Houston Post had a good staff to work with.
Gentry: But yet you decided back in 1952 to switch to the Houston Chronicle. Why was that?
Paxson: Well, that's very simple. The Chronicle women's editor retired and they contacted me and offered me the job and a little more money and so, that's all it took.
Gentry: Do you remember what your salary was by then? '52.
Paxson: '52. It was up to a hundred a week.
Gentry: Well, you're getting there.
Paxson: I'm getting there, that's right.
Gentry: Quadrupled your salary from when you started.
Paxson: It took a little while but yes, it moved up steadily.
Gentry: As women's editor — you said women's editor, right?
Gentry: What were your responsibilities?
Paxson: Well, this was when I began to really at the Chronicle get into the management a little bit, you know. I had the department of seven people. That included the society editor, the fashion editor, a food editor, a couple of feature writers. We eventually got a copy editor but that was about two years after I began. And so my job was to make sure that they were all busy, to give the feature writers assignments, to make sure they had their photo assignments in if they were going to get pictures, to keep track of what all the society editor was covering. Occasionally I covered some of it myself when things got very busy, do the page layout, do the editing, write headlines, read page proof.
Gentry: Did all that.
Paxson: Exactly the same thing, the operation of the Post and the Chronicle were very similar. And you did everything.
Gentry: Did you have male bosses you had to deal with on a day-to-day basis?
Paxson: You kind of touched base frequently would be it.
Gentry: They scrutinized your work?
Paxson: The managing editor and the editor who was really in charge of the whole paper, you know, looked at things very closely. They always wanted to see the Sunday front page layouts.
Gentry: Where you would again have your main feature story?
Gentry: Were you at the time doing anything — it's probably too early — doing anything about major social problems or problems of women, getting into more of the hard news type of story?
Paxson: By the time I left there, we were somewhat. When I first started in '52, we weren't. We would do feature stories on things but there was no particular hard edge. That came a little bit later.
Gentry: You told me that Ann Landers had started to write her column during the time you were there?
Paxson: Yes. Ann Landers started the column and the syndicate salesman came around and brought it to me as the woman's editor and gave me several copies of it. I read it and I just thought it was terrific. And so I had to go down and see the managing editor because he was the one who approved expenditures for things like that. And I told him that here was this new column and that I thought it was terrific and that we ought to take it. Well, he wanted to know what it was about and so I told him it was an advice column. Well, particularly lovelorn? And I said, "Oh, no. She covers all sorts of subjects. In one of these she takes up the subject of whether teenagers should kiss on the first date." And he looked at me with a frown on his face and he hesitated for a minute and he said, "Well, I'm not really sure we should give advice on things like that." But I talked a little bit longer and finally won him over and the Chronicle was one of the first papers that began carrying Ann Landers.
Gentry: In the country?
Paxson: Yes. It was when she had just come out. They were signing people up, yes.
Gentry: That's great. Were you doing much writing at all in the Chronicle? You were too busy as an editor, probably.
Paxson: I filled in a lot on social coverage because the society editor that we had was — well, how do I say it? She was getting pretty old. And there was a lot of it going on.
Gentry: She couldn't keep up with all that was going on?
Paxson: She couldn't keep up with everything and she had her own little column which was fine. But not as much as I had done on the Post. Of course, I was expected to fill in whenever there was a vacancy anywhere. If we were without a fashion editor and there were big fashion shows, you know who covered it. I did. The same thing with the food editor. We had one feature writer who specialized in home furnishings and when she was sick or having a baby, I covered the home furnishings market in Chicago one year. I really was sort of a jack-of-all-trades there and got to be very versatile and learned a lot about a lot of subjects.
Gentry: But you really got your first taste of management there, didn't you?
Paxson: Yes, because I did have to manage the staff and we had a couple of people who could be difficult and this is where you begin to learn how to handle people.
Gentry: Dorothy Jurney when I talked to her said that one of your greatest attributes is the way you can organize people and handle people without them getting mad, you know. She said you had a real ability, a diplomacy with people.
Paxson: I guess that's where I began to learn it.
Gentry: And you loved management, I think, from the start, didn't you?
Paxson: Yes. I like to be a boss, let's face it.
Gentry: You found your niche after that?
Paxson: Yes. It was a little bit difficult at times but I learned a lot on that score.
Gentry: How was it difficult?
Paxson: Well, because I was so unsure of myself and didn't quite know how to handle things and you'd have to try one thing and then try something else.
Gentry: You were still pretty young.
Paxson: Yes. In my early thirties, yes.
Gentry: Did you ever have to fire anybody?
Paxson: No. No, that's one thing, of course, the women's editors didn't have the authority.
Gentry: They did not have the authority.
Paxson: To fire. And when you talked to somebody, you really didn't have the authority to hire. You could make the recommendation to the managing editor, but he did the final interview.
Gentry: That's not the way it is now. That's the way it was then.
Paxson: I don't know how much authority women's editors have now because I've been out of the business now for four years and things may have changed. It depends on how far down you are how much authority you have, particularly on hiring and firing.
Gentry: You think at the Chronicle you were a little freer on stories you could run on women than you were on the Post?
Paxson: Oh, I think I probably had a little more confidence and tried a little more. And of course, then we began to look at the Miami Herald and the just revolutionary things that they were doing for that period on the trends, on the things that affected women. By now, a lot of women were going back to work and they began to get into the problems of working women and taking care of the children and the food editor began to focus some of her articles on cooking for the busy woman who was carrying two jobs and trying to be superwoman and all — that came up a little bit later. But we looked at those stories and just began to try more. It's not that we didn't have the freedom on the Post, it's just simply that we didn't know enough to know we ought to try. You feel your way and get better as you do it.
Gentry: Was that going on just in Miami at the time, doing these kinds of stories or were other papers —
Paxson: I think other papers were beginning to try them. Way back at the Post we tried to get out from under it when we got rid of brides on the front page. And we thought we were all alone when we did that. It wasn't until on the Chronicle when I began to get to statewide meetings of women's editors in Dallas and Austin and San Antonio and Fort Worth that we began to discover that all of us were facing the same thing and trying to break away from the stereotypes and the rigid pattern that we had been in. The beautiful thing was that the Miami Herald came along and showed us so many things that could be done. All my life, I think, I have preached the theory that you should plagiarize and localize, steal an idea wherever you can and make it work for yourself. And we stole a lot from the Miami Herald.
Gentry: I'll bet that you weren't the only ones, either.
Paxson: No, we weren't the only ones. And of course the newspaper got exchanges. We always subscribed to major papers across the country and they went to the editor and he would skim through them, probably. And then his secretary took them apart and all the women's sections came to me and all the sports sections went to the sports editor. So he wanted us to get new ideas, too. And this was one way to do it, to look how other people were doing it, to see if the situation fit Houston.
Gentry: And you had a good staff there, too, then?
Gentry: That were willing to try new things.
Paxson: Oh, yes. We all wanted to. We were beginning to feel our oats, so to speak.
Gentry: But you ended up only staying two years at the Chronicle. Why was that?
Paxson: No, it was four. '56. From '52 to '56.
Paxson: That goes back to the story about something else. I had been living at home. And this was all very nice and very comfortable. My father was very insistent on one thing, that no daughter of his would pay room or board when she lived at home. And furthermore, she wouldn't live anywhere else. My mother agreed with him totally on the business of I shouldn't live anywhere else, that there was just something wrong if I had my apartment where my parents lived in the same town and when I was not married. But she thought I should have paid room and board. But Daddy decided, so okay.
So that was the way things were and it was really a very comfortable arrangement and I came and went as I chose. But we did things the way they'd always been done when it came to housekeeping. We did the wash on Monday and you ironed on Tuesday and on Friday you cleaned the house and changed the sheets. Well, Friday is the busiest day for anybody who works on a women's section because you have the big Sunday section to put out. I would go into work shortly after 8 o'clock in the morning and I might finish up at midnight. Or if there had been some big fancy event, it might be 3 a.m. And I didn't always get the sheets changed.
And my mother would say something about it invariably the next day, that you didn't change the sheets. I finally straightened her out to the fact that look, Friday is the busiest day of the week for me and I just don't have time and what difference does it make, I can change them on Saturday. But I began to think about this and to come face to face with the realization that this was a very comfortable arrangement but if I didn't get out pretty soon, I would never get out.
Gentry: Just too comfortable.
Paxson: It was too comfortable and of course, it was my old home town and everybody knew me as Roley Paxson's daughter, or a lot of people did, you know. But I just thought, if you're ever going to make the break, you're going to have to do it. You've been with the Chronicle four years, you're not unhappy with anything, but the time has come. And so I wrote all over the country. By this time I had a track record and a resume that I could send out.
Gentry: I assume you did this quietly and the Chronicle didn't know that you were doing this?
Paxson: No. No, they didn't. I got a response back from Dorothy Jurney at the Miami Herald and they were looking for a copy editor on their women's page desk. So she wanted me to make arrangements to come to Miami for a job interview. So we worked it out. Our food editor was busy having twins at that particular point and the food editors' conference was taking place — this was in September — in New York City. So I went to New York City and covered the food editors' conference for the Chronicle and then instead of coming back to Houston on Friday, I went to Miami and interviewed there and took all their tests — you had to take these psychological tests —
Paxson: Oh, boy. Would you rather be —
Gentry: At all the papers or just Miami?
Paxson: The only place I took it was Miami.
Gentry: What were they like?
Paxson: Oh, you know. Would you rather be a carpenter or a conductor or a bricklayer, this kind of thing here.
Gentry: You take those in grade school.
Paxson: Well, I took it at the Miami Herald. And at any rate, got the job with the Herald.
Gentry: I'll bet you were delighted because here is the paper you admired most in the whole country and finally you were getting to work there.
Paxson: I'll tell you, yes, yes. It was exciting.
Gentry: How did your parents feel about you leaving town? Were they crushed? Or were they happy for you?
Paxson: Well, they thought it was a career advancement but they weren't real happy about it. But I think they understood, really, that if I hadn't gotten out soon I would never have made it.
Gentry: How big a staff did Dorothy Jurney have at that time on the Miami Herald when you came? It was a very large staff of women, wasn't it?
Paxson: Let's see. I think it was thirteen or fourteen at that point.
Gentry: Much bigger than you had at the Chronicle.
Paxson: Yes. We had seven — well, we had eight by the time I left. Yes.
Gentry: What was the circulation of the Miami paper?
Paxson: They were well over 300,000 and the Chronicle was under 200,000. So it was a bigger paper. It was a promotion all the way around.
Gentry: A wonderful promotion.
Paxson: A wonderful opportunity.
Gentry: I assume your salary also went up again?
Paxson: Yes. Of course, I wasn't a department head or anything then but it seems to me it went up to $110, $115.
Gentry: Now, as copy editor, did you do any writing or were you strictly editing copy?
Paxson: This was editing copy and doing page makeup and writing headlines and going down to the composing room and supervising the makeup of the page. And this was still hot lead. And then reading page proof.
Gentry: You were doing much the same thing in Houston, weren't you?
Paxson: Yes. Along with some writing.
Gentry: Along with some writing.
Paxson: Although at the Herald, I had the supervision from Dorothy Jurney. And this woman was terrific.
Gentry: Tell about Dorothy Jurney.
Paxson: She's just one of my favorite people. You've used the word "mentor" and she fits into that category for the two and a half years that I worked under her before she was transferred to Detroit.
Gentry: Oh, it was only two and a half years before she was transferred. How did she mentor you? How did she teach you or work with you?
Paxson: Dorothy always wanted to see all the headlines. And if the headline wasn't right, she could usually have some kind of a suggestion of a word that would make it better or make it stronger. She was tremendous when it came to criticizing it because she never started out by saying why did you do a dumb thing like that? You should have done so-and-so. She always started out with a compliment; then she would tell you but it would have been better if you had done it this way. But on the whole — and she had another compliment. She used the sandwich technique just beautifully. She was marvelous.
Gentry: So she never hurt anybody's feelings. Not really.
Paxson: Not really. No. She could be very firm and very strict but I just thought she was terrific.
Gentry: And what were some of the other big women writers under her staff at that time? Was it Marie Anderson?
Paxson: Marie was assistant women's editor. Marie was in charge of all the makeup and I was sort of Marie's assistant was the way it worked out.
Gentry: I see. Was she also a mentor figure?
Paxson: Yes, but in a totally different way. Where Dorothy could be very strong and forceful, Marie was very low-key. But she got things done just the same.
Gentry: How did Dorothy get in there and make these changes when virtually no one else was making them? How did she do it? How did she get the good stories in?
Paxson: She was in sync with Lee Hills who was the — I guess he was managing editor at that time and then he became editor and he moved to Detroit, too. Lee was the managing editor of the Herald during the war and the man who had the smarts to understand that the paper still had to report the news even though there were newsprint shortages and he sometimes left out ads to get in all the news, this kind of thing.
Paxson: Which gave the Herald a big start after the war when everything began to come back. And Lee was a brilliant newspaperman — still is. He felt like things should change and he wanted somebody in the women's section — in several sections of the paper but in the women's section he wanted someone who could handle this change and begin to make this section more than simply society and brides — and food and fashion. Dorothy, I guess, was working on the Miami News and he hired her away. I think that's it. Now this is before I got there.
Gentry: Was he still around when you were there?
Paxson: Yes, he was executive editor and George Beebe was the managing editor when I got there. He hired me.
Gentry: So he was one of the male bosses, so to speak, that you really admired.
Paxson: Yes. Yes.
Gentry: Were there very many like that along the way?
Paxson: Well, I certainly admired the men at the Herald. I thought the men at the Post and the Chronicle were pretty neat.
Gentry: They didn't give you much trouble.
Paxson: No, they were supportive.
Gentry: But Lee was really understanding, apparently. He really understood.
Paxson: Of course, he was so far up. I never had any contact with him. Now, this was his work with Dorothy and because of the free rein he gave her, what she was able to produce.
Gentry: Now you moved up on the Herald after —
Paxson: Yes. When Dorothy was transferred to Detroit in May or June — May, I guess, of '59 — Marie became women's editor and I became assistant women's editor.
Gentry: They were still forerunners and they remained forerunners, even without Dorothy?
Paxson: Oh, yes. Yes.
Gentry: Really getting in the hard news stories, the trends of the time?
Paxson: We kept the momentum going. In the time that Marie was women's editor and the next — I was at the Herald for about ten years so that would have been about the next eight, seven years — the Miami Herald won the J. C. Penney award for the best women's section in the country for four years in a row. And then they threw us out. The fifth year we had won it so much, we could not compete. So the sixth year we came back and won it again. We had the staff and everybody was thinking in the right way, looking for the stories, looking for everything to cover what was going on for and about women.
Gentry: That's what it was called, wasn't it, "For and About Women"?
Paxson: We ran the reports of the presidential commissions on the status of women. You know, the first one under President [John] Kennedy was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. And that was a rather short report, but we ran it, the whole thing. We had the space. We would try to get local reaction to the comments and things that were in these reports. Then the second report was — that was President [Richard] Nixon with Virginia Allen as the chair. And we printed that. And again, these were very small. The third and final one that was done under President [Gerald R.] Ford was an enormous book, as big as a phone book. We ran — well, I don't know what we did then. I wasn't there. But those two.
We ran excerpts from Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. When the good books came along, when there were articles that we could pick up, we never hesitated to try to get this in because this was what's happening and it keeps people aware.
© 1991, Washington Press Club Foundation.
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