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The histories behind the Federation

Where it Began . . . the Illinois Woman's Press Association

By Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas

History reveals Frances A. Conant, an untiring Chicago newspaper writer, as the founder of the Illinois Woman's Press Association. Conant represented Chicago papers during the New Orleans Exposition of 1885 and was inspired by conversations with Marion McBride of the Boston Globe during meetings at the Exposition. Conant would return to Chicago with fresh ambitions, which included enlisting the cooperation of local leading women writers in the founding of IWPA.

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

Conant brought the original members to the Chicago home of Dr. Julia Holmes Smith, where together, they designed their organization to provide communication and support between newspaper women as well as writers in all fields. Primarily motivated by a keen sense of values and justice, these women were deeply concerned with journalistic ethics, professional dignity, lending a helping hand, friendships formed and with the undying belief in their right to be heard in all forms of communications. In that journey from 1885, IWPA is believed to be the oldest continuous organization of women writers.

The organization produced a number of publications and books throughout its history, including a member's anthology in 1914 known as "The Memory Book;" the 1932 yearbook titled, "Prominent Women of Illinois," "So All Can Be Heard," a history of the Illinois Woman's Press Association in 1987, and "The Anthology" in 2014. IWPA celebrated its 125th year by hosting the National Federation of Press Women 2010 Conference at the Union League Club of Chicago. An Opening Reception to celebrate the anniversary was sponsored by the Chicago Office of Tourism and the Illinois Woman's Press Association on August 26, 2010 at Maxim's: The Nancy Goldberg International Center.

IWPA is the founding organization of the National Federation of Press Women. In 1935, with Helen Miller Malloch as its president, IWPA sought to get copyright legislation passed by Congress. It was obvious to Malloch that advances in radio had significant infringements on women writers. Through unification for state groups of women writers she recognized multiple benefits and legal protection for compensation of their literary work that a federation could offer its membership.

In 1936 she appointed Martha Dunlap Moore as chairman of the IWPA Committee for Federating of Press Women. IWPA members were motivated by the idea of the federation and voted to provide monetary support to those early months of preparation. After much work and travel, the first meeting of the National Federation of Press Women took place at the Chicago Woman's Club, 72nd E. 11th Street on May 6, 1937, with six states represented by 39 women. Its constitution called for the autonomous state groups, as it remains today. In 2017 NFPW celebrates its 80th anniversary in Birmingham, Alabama during its annual conference.