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Maine Media Women records, 1951-2012

Full finding aid (pdf)

Collection Scope and Content

The Maine Media Women records consist of the papers generated by officers of the organization in the course of carrying out their functions. It also contains membership directories, newsletters published by MMW, newspaper clippings, and photographs. The vast majority of the materials are paper-based, although there are a few computer disks, two VHS tapes, a plaque, and a ribbon and pin decoration. The records are arranged in seven series, following an organizational framework that MMW members had decided upon in workshops facilitated by Cally Gurley, then-curator of the Maine Women Writers Collection. Maine Media Women, which was run by elected trustees and had no paid staff, operated as a decentralized organization. Officers and members worked from their homes or their day job offices. There seems to have been no central filing location or system, with various officers contributing files and folders to the collection in several different acquisitions. The collection charts the growth of the organization from its founding in 1951 to the mid-2000s. Although the women who founded MMW worked in a field dominated by men, the records rarely address outright any questions of gender inequality in the profession. Rather, prevalent themes include the struggle to achieve a work-life balance, the challenges of incorporating new technologies into the communications field, and the difficulties faced by an organization with a broad mission that is run by volunteers with busy home lives and time-consuming careers.

Biographical/Historical Note

In April of 1952, more than fifty Maine women who were engaged in press, radio, and public relations work met to form an organization they called Maine Press and Radio Women. Charlotte Michaud, a writer for the Portland Sunday Telegram, spearheaded the efforts. The group was affiliated with the New England Woman’s Press Association. Maine was the first New England state to form its own branch of the regional organization. At the time, women were not permitted to join the National Press Club (they were not admitted until 1971). The constitution and by-laws of the newly formed group set out their purpose: “to promote acquaintance and good fellowship among news and radio women; and, through association, promote higher standards, widen opportunities and better relationships in these fields.” Members had to be paid contributors to a news publication or a broadcaster, script or continuity writer. Officials were elected by the membership; there were no paid staff members.

Among the early officers of the organization were Charlotte Michaud of the Portland Sunday Telegram, Agnes Gibbs of the radio station WCSH, Ruth Henderson of the Kennebec Journal, and Frances Hapgood of the Portland Press Herald. By 1959, the organization began reaching out to women who worked in television, changing its name to Maine Press and Radio-TV Women in order to better reflect the new reality of the communications field. By the late 1960s, the organization was floundering. In the June 1969 newsletter, then president Bea Chapman wrote, “I believe most of us realize we need a stronger organization, better communications, more professionalism, and more clearly defined concrete purposes.” In 1976, the organization changed its name again, becoming the Maine Media Women. In 1977, the group incorporated as a nonprofit, signaling a new beginning for the organization, after several years of sluggish attendance at events and apathy. In 1980, it became an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women. Another big change occurred in November 1992, when members of MMW voted unanimously at the Fall Workshop to secede from the national organization. The decision was triggered by the NFPW’s dues increase, an increase that MMW members felt was far too dramatic.

Despite name and affiliation changes and throughout ebbs and flows of interest and commitment by its members, the statewide organization and its local chapters continued to organize educational offerings; sponsor awards, contests, and a scholarship opportunity for women with an interest in media; and provide networking opportunities. In 1999, the organization boasted 115 members. In 2014, Maine Media Women changed its mission. It functions now as “a community of creative women who support and encourage each other’s creative work.” Membership dues are no longer collected and meetings are open to anyone who is interested. The organization still offers educational and networking opportunities for women in communications careers, but members decided that the original mission had been accomplished. Among the many women who were active with the organization over the years were Lee Agger, Kim Block, Kathy Brandes, Elena Brandt, A. Carman Clark, Terry Dodge, Sherry Hanson, Katy Perry, Lillian Potter, Jude Stone, and others.