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The histories behind the Federation

Kansas Press Women

Imagine what impact our actions today will have in 70 years.

On March 28, 1941, Kansas Press Women, Inc., was born when female writers gathered in Topeka for an all-day meeting. In their midst was Mrs. B.J. Bless, Jr., of Weston, Missouri., president of the National Federation of Presswomen.

Bless advocated four general reasons that press women should organize:

  • to bring to the female journalist a consciousness of her power and influence;
  • obtain for her, her just place in the field of journalism;
  • establish an interchange of ideas and ideals for mutual benefit; and
  • advance the standards of journalism for all women.

The items for discussion that day still ring true: "Ethics, Standards and Service of the Press"; "Editorial Influence"; and "Responsibility in Molding Public Opinion."

KPW became the seventh state organization to affiliate with NFPW. Membership was open to factual writers of Kansas - for an initiation fee of $1 - with semi-annual meetings in conjunction with Kansas Press Association and the Kansas Editorial Association.

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

The group met June 6 and 7, 1941, in the first state convention at Wichita in conjunction with the Kansas Editorial Association.

The declaration of World War II didn't stop KPW, 65 members strong, from planning the sixth annual NFPW conference at Topeka in 1942. Mrs. Bless took her cudgel to President Franklin Roosevelt, and Kansan Mamie Boyd, editor of the National Federation of Presswomen newsletter, succeeded in signing Eleanor Roosevelt as a member at large.

Formed in 1947, a scholarship committee raised funds to give to a Kansas girl so that she could attend an accredited journalism school.

In 1958, the Kansas Press Association split from KPW, and the groups held state conventions separately at Topeka. KPW initiated an awards dinner for contest writer winners. And membership had grown into three figures: 125 total.

Two firsts in the 1960s included the presentation of a sweepstakes award in 1965 at Coffeyville, Kansas, and Bosses Night in 1966 at Washington, Kansas. The silver anniversary of KPW was observed during a convention April 30 through May 1, 1966, in Washington.

By the 1970s, three scholarships were being presented at the fall meeting, thanks to a flourishing Patrons program.

Mamie Boyd, the last of the KPW charter members, died in 1973. That same year, the state was divided into five districts to stimulate participation. In 1978, a sixth district was created, and in 1987 it returned to five districts.

Despite rising gasoline prices and more individual time pressures, attendance at state conventions continued to be good.

In 1975, the youth writing contest was opened to male students.

Growth was the watchword for KPW in the 1980s. In 1981, membership reached 200 for the first time.

Boosted by high interest rates, KPW scholarship accounts boomed. Fort Hays State University established a journalism degree. And KPW expanded its scholarship offering: $500 annually distributed to a student from each of the four state journalism degree programs.

KPW filed complaints where Kansas reporters' rights were abridged or open records/open meetings laws were violated. In June 1987, KPW persuaded Gov. Mike Hayden to declare NFPW Week in Kansas.

In 1986, KPW established an official archive at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.

By the end of the decade, there were 140 members - one of the largest state affiliates of NFPW. KPW celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1991, featuring the premiere of a new promotional video.

In 1992, KPW supported legislation securing basic liberties for the student press of Kansas, and the bill passed. The same year, KPW protested the state attorney general's proposal to remove victims' names from the front sheet of the Kansas Standard Offense Report - he subsequently determined that would violate the Kansas Open Records Law.

The KPW Patron program grew to well more than 50 patrons.

KPW and Missouri Press Women jointly hosted NFPW's 1993 Conference in Kansas City from June 16 to 20.

In October 2002, a vote changed the name from Kansas Press Women to Kansas Professional Communicators to better reflect the diverse membership of the organization.

By 2006, all the state district chapters had folded except for Wichita. The Wichita Professional Communicators chapter remains strong with members and guests meeting monthly for luncheon programs.

During the 2014 NFPW conference in Greenville, South Carolina, Kansan Becky Funke was named the NFPW Communicator of Achievement. She was the fourth Kansan to earn the honor, along with Mamie Boyd (1968), Vivien Sadowski (1996) and Marjorie Setter (1998).

In 2015, WPC launched a new group aimed at freelancer creative service providers. The group's acronym, ICT, is a nod to the FAA designation for the city of Wichita. The Independent Communications Talent group provides a network for members to share ideas, innovations and inspiration as well as opportunities to broaden individual client bases.

Wichita also was the site of the NFPW conference in 2016. This was the first fully-Kansas national conference as the conference in 1993 was a joint effort of Kansas and Missouri affiliates with the location on the border of the two states.

Throughout its history, Kansas Press Women and Kansas Professional Communicators have led the national organization through elected office. Kansans who have served as NFPW president include Marie Abels (1945-47), Helen Ankeny (1953-55) and Vivien Sadowski (1999-2001).