Alice Allison Dunnigan (April 27, 1906 –May 6,1983) was the first black female correspondent to receive White House credentials, and was also the first black female member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives press galleries. She covered Harry Truman’s 1948 presidential campaign, another first for an African-American female journalist. A true trailblazer, Alice Dunnigan was known for her tough, forthright questions. Her gutsy approach led her from journalism into a position that spanned the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. It’s exciting news that the Newseum in Washington, D.C. will have a life-size statue of her in honor of her contributions to American journalism.
As a girl growing up in Russellville, a rural Kentucky town, Alice dreamed of traveling the world as a reporter. By age thirteen, she had her sights set on the profession. For the daughter of a sharecropper and laundress in 1919, it was a daring ambition.
Dickey Chapelle (March 14, 1919 – November 4, 1965) was a pioneering American war correspondent and photojournalist who covered world conflicts from World War II to Vietnam.
Born Georgette Louise Meyer, she was fascinated by air travel throughout her childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She renamed herself after the explorer Admiral Richard “Dickey” Bird.
Even as a child, Georgie Lou, as she was called, marched to her own drum. She was short and nearsighted, and always quirky and precocious. From a young age, she dreamed of flying planes. She was patriotic — always saluting the flag on her way to school. “I believed I could do anything I wanted to do, and I still believe it.” Read More→
Mary Ann Shadd Cary (October 9, 1823 – 1893) was best known for launching a newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, while living in Windsor, Ontario in Canada. She has the distinction of being the first woman publisher of any race or background in Canada, and the first African-American woman publisher in all of North America.
In her role as editor and writer for the Freeman, Mary Ann advocated for the black community in Canada and beyond. She worked tirelessly to break down the dual barriers of race and gender. An active participant in the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S., she also lectured widely on education and self-reliance. Later in life, she became an attorney. Read More→
These six female journalists of the World War II era, who reported on and documented from the field, pushed gender-defined barriers and fought for what they believed in, paving the way for women correspondents who came after them. They contributed to history with their groundbreaking work and bravery as journalists, photographers, and correspondents during the world war and in some cases beyond. At right, Ruth Baldwin Cowan’s WW II press credentials. See more about her later in this post. Read More→
The pioneering African-American women journalists presented here were true trailblazers. It took an inordinate amount of perseverance for black women to break into white male-dominated fields of correspondence, investigative reporting, broadcasting, and newspaper publishing. At right, Ida B. Wells.
Though we focus primarily on literature here on the Literary Ladies site, journalism is certainly a writing-adjacent pursuit. The power of language to document news and social issues often affects change. Each of these trailblazers from the past helped open new professional paths for women of all backgrounds to pursue. Read More→