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The histories behind the Federation

Colorado Press Women History 1941-2017

Compiled by Lee Anne Peck and Sandy Nance

Colorado Press Women charter member Lucille Hastings and one of the organization's early historians explained in a 1955 article the reasons why CPW was founded:

"A keen awareness of the powers of writing women to influence opinion in times of national crisis and a desire to advance mutual interests and professional standards motivated the founding of the Colorado Press Women in the Pre-Pearl Harbor summer of 1941." Hastings explained that the women who founded CPW wanted to give back to both Colorado and the United States.

What happened was this: Two National Federation of Press Women founders from Missouri—Bertha Bless and Beatrix Ford—were long-time summer residents of Manitou Springs, Colorado. The two women traveled to Denver from Manitou Springs in the summer of 1941 and gave a presentation to about 30 curious women July 26 at the Denver Dry Goods Tea Room.

Bless explained the following:

"Press women have the opportunity of the century to create a thinking America that can lead the world out of its present chaos. We must save not only the right of the press but also America for Americans. Grassroots journalism represented in small town and country newspapers doesn't know its own power. Press women have a weapon to shape the peace or destruction of the world."

purple jagged-edged circle with text 80 years in black and in white, around the edge above 80, dates of the orgnization.

This challenge appealed to the Colorado women in attendance. Therefore, on August 16, 1941, the official CPW organization was finalized as NFPW's 13th affiliate with more than 50 members from throughout the state. The first official statewide meeting was held in October in Flagler.

Charter members traveled to these meetings from Alamosa, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Trinidad, Gunnison, Rocky Ford, Montrose, Canon City, Manitou Springs, Flagler, Ordway, Salida, Limon, Brighton, Central City, Craig, Golden and Fort Lupton as well as in Denver. These women were primarily publishers, editors, reporters, freelancers and a lone broadcaster. A few others managed the Denver Civic Symphony, did publicity for Central City Opera, Denver Art Museum and the Denver Public Library. They taught journalism at the University of Colorado and Western State College and wrote texts. They worked in advertising and wrote poetry and plays.

In 1942, CPW began sponsoring a statewide writing contest in 15 different categories. In 1946, Colorado held its first NFPW convention in Estes Park in the foothills of Rocky Mountain National Park. By 1948, CPW had 114 members, and in 1949, an annual scholarship for a female University of Colorado journalism student was awarded from the organization.

Membership continued to grow; in the mid-1970s, CPW had 165 members and by 1982, that number was 200. In 1958, CPW established its annual Woman of Achievement award, now the Communicator of Achievement Award.

group photo looking at the camera.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the women supported a long list of activities in the public interest. Many of the members put editorials in their hometown newspapers about these issues. They supported the Children's Code for the betterment of children's status in Colorado, and they supported appropriations for funds for special education. They resisted unnecessary censorship of the news during WWII; supported volunteer war work and bond drives and then campaigned for the United Nations and supported the needs of returning service men after WWII. CPW also campaigned to bring the U.S. Capitol to Colorado-they believed in the decentralization of national government for security reasons.

They promoted the porchlight campaign for turning on porchlights at night for the safety of pedestrians. They fought for funding to extend free public library service to rural residents. At the end of the war, they followed the National Federation of Press Women stance and supported the proposal of a U.S. Secretary of Peace.

In the 1960s, CPW had members in newsrooms moving from the women's pages to the editorial pages. Then, in the 1970s, CPW had women fighting for equality in job assignments and pay. In the late 1970s, CPW had more than 150 members, and in 1983, CPW hosted the national convention in Vail with the late First Lady Betty Ford as a guest speaker. Colorado Press Women now had more than 200 members.

In the 1990s, one of CPW's members, Marilyn Saltzman, who was the public information officer for Jefferson County school district, dealt with the tragedy at Columbine High School.

CPW's member Ruth Anna was the national president from 1995-1997.

The last Colorado NFPW convention was hosted in 2006 in Denver and was very well attended and had speakers, such as Jeanette Walls, the author of Glass Castle. Attendees only had good things to say about the convention.

Colorado Press Women has always had representation at the annual NFPW conventions. Members have served on the national board and many have served in national offices. In the summer of 2016, CPW celebrated its 75th anniversary. Today, CPW focuses on issues important to members, such as equality for women in the workplace, media literacy and the proliferation of "fake news."