You and the National Women & Media Collection

Jean Gaddy Wilson (left) with fellow JAWS campers.

By Jean Gaddy Wilson, founding member of JAWS, the International Women & Media Foundation and the National Women & Media Collection.

You haven’t gotten this far in media without initiating extraordinary actions and insights.  

Your point-of-view, your stories, investigations, new media ventures, your career innovations in slip-sliding technology, are priceless. 

We’re saying everything you’ve kept — manuscripts, scripts, first drafts, second drafts, final drafts, calendars, pamphlets, minutes, reports, diaries, blogs, letters, emails, subject files, pink slips, rejected stories, photos, rants, websites, awards, travel schedules, notes, that entire stash of stuff you usually clean out or vow to return to someday — is beyond valuable. 

Why it’s important that you place your materials in the Collection 

AI is coming. And the combined voices of women in media today yield breakthrough stories and data that researchers, journalists and social scientists need.  Your personal materials reveal women, against gender odds, pushing better content forward into the world’s information streams. 

Women in media inspire women across all other industries. Yet, since the 1970s, the media industry has markedly lagged in hiring and promoting females. You represent both an historical figure and a predictor of the future. As a woman born before 2007* your materials are especially important.

Before the 1970s, male and pale “gatekeepers” decided what content mattered and what made it into print, and into the national consciousness. Today, these “gatekeepers” still largely shape the world’s daily reports to audiences who do not look like them. Outsized coverage of men and boys bury the real view of today’s leaders and their impact. After all, 2020 gives us the first woman as the U.S. vice-president-elect.  

Your work in this world adds up to a look at how women correct this imbalance. 

Out-of-sync journalism products like Wikipedia confer notability (something you must have in order to be included there), even as Journalism’s failure to keep up lingers. 

“Notability” is one reason just 17 percent of Wikipedia’s biographies are about women.  Because of the media’s male-centric lens, when Donna Strickland won the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics she was not included in Wikipedia. She was refused a profile that same year because she wasn’t famous enough.  Her scientific contributions hadn’t made it through the male-centric journalism machinery. Wikipedia illustrates how women are chased out by that bias. 

Just 9 percent of Wikipedia contributors globally are women. 

The future does not look bright for us. Last month, research across 22 countries by Plan International shows online hostility toward females is escalating.

As all communications’ structures shift their shapes, the mission of the National Women and Media Collection to gather the insights and materials of media women, and stand strong as a witness to our shared worlds of information and news, becomes even more important. 

YOU are central to that mission. Especially in 2021 when SHSMO and NWMC seek to document  more JAWS’ women’s careers and careers of women of color whose work is not being accurately preserved anywhere else in the country.

*In 2007, iPhone’s 3-combo product (mobile phone, widescreen interface with touch controls, and software powering e-mail, web browsing, searching and maps) created the individual’s publishing platform.

How to donate your materials 

Most Important Step: Do NOT cull, organize or throw away any of your materials – NWMC experts will do that.  Rough drafts and notes are even more valuable than what ends up being published. Don’t dread going through your material — it will be fun to box up and send after consultation with NWMC archivists (see Step 3 below).

Step 1: Explore the National Women & Media Collection home, the State Historical Society of Missouri, founded by the Missouri Press Assn., in its new Columbia building a block away from world’s first journalism school, the University of Missouri School of Journalism. (There are six locations in the state.) It includes: 

  • Environmentally controlled repository housing 
  • The largest collection of a state’s newspapers in the country 
  • National art collection 
  • Materials digitally available across the globe.

Step 2: Browse through current holdings, especially contributions by JAWS members. (Click “Finding Aid” by each woman’s or organization’s name).

These fascinating materials include (among others) Mary Paxton Keeley, member of the first graduating class of the School of Journalism, President Harry S Truman family friend and Margaret Truman’s godmother; Marj Paxson (NWMC Founder); Douglas Ann Johnson Newsom, first woman to head a journalism department (Texas Christian University).

Also JAWS members:  Tad Bartimus, Betsy Wade, Kay Mills, JAWS records, Dr. Donna Allen, Dr. Marian Gardener, Fran Lewine, National Organization of Women Legal Defense Fund (Kathy Bonk), Christy Bulkeley, JoAnne Huff Albers, Dorothy Misener Jurney, Adrienne Drell, Glenda Holste, Mary Kay Blakeley, Jacqui Banaszynski, Martha Cotton, Washington Press Club (Peg Simpson).

Step 3: Phone or email Elizabeth Engel (573) 884-6760 engelel@shsmo.org to visit about your materials, your friends’ materials or any other questions you may have. You may have met Liz Engel, senior archivist, at a JAWS’ camp! Both she and Laura Jolley (573) 882-0187, manuscripts assistant director, work to bring materials into the Collection and to aid researchers, journalists, writers, family members from across the world in accessing materials.  

Other steps you might want to take:

  • Look up the Society Director Dr. Gary Kremer’s books at the University Press. His scholarship centers on shedding light upon race and women: https://upress.missouri.edu/ 
  • For more thorough information on giving your materials to the Collection, see https://shsmo.org/support/materials. The donor page includes FAQs on the process and what kinds of materials we are looking for.