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Woman's Press Club of Indiana turns 100

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This photo of some of WPCI's founding members was published in The Indianapolis Star on Feb. 19, 1913.
  • This photo of some of WPCI's founding members was published in The Indianapolis Star on Feb. 19, 1913.

February 18, 1913 was a cold day in Indianapolis. But that didn't keep thirteen women from gathering at The Ayres Tea Room to discuss a hot topic - their right to write bylined (or signed) stories for the front pages of newspapers across Indiana. By the close of their luncheon they resolved to form an organization to bring the women journalists of the state into, as they put it, "a closer fellowship of social and intellectual intercourse."

Thus with Hester Alverson Moffett, publisher of the Elwood Daily Record, as president, The Woman's Press Club of Indiana became an active entity in civic affairs.

"Yes, [the name] is Woman's, with an 'a'," explains Marion Garmel, WCPI secretary and one-time arts reporter for the Indianapolis Star and News. "That's how they spelled it in 1913, and we've kept it that way for spelling - even though we welcome male members to join WPCI in pursuit of excellence in communication for both sexes."

When the WPCI was created, women were on the staffs of newspapers, but in Indiana as elsewhere, they were relegated to the so-called women's pages, filled with soft stories about society events. Nevertheless, women journalists and authors were attending sessions of the Indiana legislature and paying close attention to issues surrounding family welfare, social justice and the economy. To them it seemed essential for balanced reporting to have all points of view, including theirs, on page one.

They were paying particular attention to arguments surrounding the introduction of the first child labor law and treatment of women in prison. Barred from membership in the all-male press club that existed in 1913, they wanted a means to communicate with one another in championing the issues that concerned them, including child labor, education, food safety, mental health, physical health and women in prison, according to reports from the first meeting.

At the March 1913 founding meeting the original 13 were joined by 15 others as original founders of WPCI. With ten from Indianapolis, the rest of the state was well represented including two each from Franklin, Marion and Terre Haute; one each from Bedford, Elwood, Evansville, Franklin, Ft. Wayne, Martinsville, Muncie, Peru, Richmond, Rockville, South Bend and Upland.

Garmel points out that though the founding members were active professionals, "Many, maybe most, were already members of the Indiana Federation of Clubs," which had been organized a decade earlier. In this capacity they were actively engaged in volunteer service to improve the community and enhance the lives of others, and thus already had a platform for bonding.

From the outset member's interests and activism represented diverse issues, some championing local needs, others devoted to statewide needs. Some zeroed in on care for widows and children that included public health nursing, safe streets and exemplary schools and courts. One spearheaded the establishment of Turkey Run State Park. Some pursued rights for the blind and insane.

Not all were suffragists, and some were members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Some served on city and state boards in Indiana - all prior to women gaining the right to vote and run for office with ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

No longer an organization only for women or print journalists, WPCI includes professional communicators in all media from the entire state. Its mission is to advance professional standards, provide the exchange of journalistic ideas and experiences and coordinate efforts of interest to communicators. Seven WPCI members have been inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, two into the Indiana Broadcast Hall of Fame.

A founding affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women, WPCI sponsors a communications contest for professional communicators with winning entries going on to compete nationally in the NFPW contest. It sponsors annual high school journalism and prison writing contests and offers scholarships to college students and mature writers planning careers in journalism, according to Marion Garmel, who serves as chair of the 100th anniversary committee.

This February, nineteen current WPCI members gathered at the replicated Ayers Tea Room in the Indiana State Museum to raise glasses as current president Elizabeth Granger offered a toast the 100th anniversary. Diversity in interests, work history and location remains, with most in print, broadcast, television and on-line journalism. Some are photojournalists and editors, owners of public relations firms, authors of fiction and non-fiction books. Some blog, author columns or lead with social media. Some teach journalism; some advocate for social justice and environmental issues.

While they arrived from all corners of the State and represent hometown interests, all say they are dedicated to mutual support and remaining vigilant to the appearance of diverse voices in the reporting of issues of concern to all the citizens of Indiana.

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