Women in Journalism

Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884) Jane Grey Swisshelm was a prominent national figure in the nineteenth century. Born in Pennsylvania in 1815, a daughter of Scotch-Irish Calvinists, Jane Grey Cannon was poor from birth. At age eight she taught lace making to the daughters of wealthy neighbors and at 15 began teaching school. After marrying a local farmer when she was 20, she and her husband moved to Kentucky where the future abolitionist saw the evils of slavery firsthand. Swisshelm was forced to close a school she organized for blacks after locals threatened to burn her home. Swisshelm successfully lobbied the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1848 to pass a law that protected a women’s right to her own property. In 1857, Swisshelm left her husband and with her daughter Zo moved to St. Cloud. As the feisty editor of the St. Cloud Visiter, Swisshelm wrote scathing editorials against the institution of slavery. In March 1858, Sylvanus Lowry, a Southern slave-owner who lived in St. Cloud’s Upper Town, along with two other men, broke into the Visiter’s office where they destroyed Swisshelm’s press and threw her type into the river. Soon after, the townspeople raised money to help the journalist rebuild her press. In 1863, Swisshelm moved to Washington D.C., where she nursed wounded soldiers in a federal hospital. She also held a job in the war department until she was fired for speaking out against the policies of President Andrew Johnson. Swisshelm’s reputation has suffered because of her vitriolic editorials directed against Native Americans during Minnesota’s 1862 Dakota War. Prior to her death in 1884, Swisshelm published her autobiography, Half a Century. Aside from her bitterness toward Native Americans, Swisshelm’s reputation today rests upon her stance against slavery, her defense of the rights of women, her career as a female journalist, and her service as a nurse during the Civil War.    



Sue Halena (1955-) Sue Halena says she was born in the middle of the night, in the middle of the month, in the middle of the year, in the middle of the decade, and in the middle of the century. “By the time I was 20, I found the happy middle ground of journalism, a vantage point from which I could see and record the joys, sorrows, and controversies of the world.” Now managing editor of the St. Cloud Times, Halena began her career in journalism in 1978, covering farm and regional news on the Fergus Falls Daily Journal. After a three year stint on that newspaper, Halena became a features reporter on the Rochester Post Bulletin. In 1984, she accepted a position on the St. Cloud Times, where she has handled duties as a police and courts reporter, city editor, copy editor, business reporter and editor, and beginning in 2006, managing editor. Halena graduated in 1978 from Bemidji State University with a degree in mass communications and sociology. She credits her success in journalism to her parents, “Strong women, I think, are motivated by both male and female models. MY curiosity and healthy skepticism comes from my father; my penchant for language and details comes from my mother, who set a high standard with her A average in college.” Helena’s awards include: 11 first-place Press Women of Minnesota awards; a first-place for investigative reporting sponsored by the Minnesota Associated Press; a two-time winner of the newsroom employee of the year by the St. Cloud Times; runner-up in investigative reporting, quarterly national Gannett competition; Best Local News Story for leading reports on closure of the region’s major employer, Minnesota Newspaper Association; and first place, investigative business story, Page One Awards, Minnesota Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists. “I work among remarkable men and women in and beyond the Times newsroom. In the decades since I declared myself a journalist, women has become accepted and expected in all areas of news—sports, photography, and management included. That is a far cry from the days of Jane Grey Swisshelm



















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