This year IWPA celebrates the 83rd Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest. Begun in 1941 in memory of IWPAs ninth president, Mate E. Palmer, it would be Sadie Quayle, Palmer’s caregiver who had cared for her during her last days of illness, who approached then president, Helen Miller Malloch requesting the Association establish a writing contest in Mate’s memory. At the time of her death, in 1939, Palmer left a bequest of $500.00 to Sadie Quayle. Miss Quayle turned the bequest over to the Illinois Woman’s Press Association to fund the contest.

With time, as the contest and categories grew so did interest for a greater incentive in the awards program. In 1972, the Silver Feather Award was established and made a permanent part of the Professional Contest. The first winner was Dolores Haugh. It is presented annually to the IWPA member who individually compiles the highest number of points in the Mate E. Palmer Professional Communications Contest.

Janice Newman is IWPAs 52nd IWPA Silver Feather winner achieving the most points across all categories in this year’s Professional Communications Contest.

The Earliest mention of the Illinois Woman’s Press Associations (IWPA) writing competition for students appeared in the September 1972 edition of its newsletter, PenPoints. First known as the “Editorial Writing Contest for High School Girls,” early winners of the contest were presented with a sterling silver charm and bracelet along with a Certificate of Merit.

Margaret Bengtson served as IWPAs first Chairwoman of the contest and presented Maureen McCormick, then a student at Downers Grove High School, with her awards. McCormick would go on to compete in the national writing contest sponsored by the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) capturing third place honors and a $50 prize.

By 1976, IWPA opened the yearly competition to boys as well, renaming it the “High School Contest” with only two categories: features and editorials. That year, Terra Ziporyn and Stanley Frankel, both students at Evanston Township High School took first place honors in the categories. Both would go on to the NFPW national competition and earn third place in their respective categories. 

Now in its 52nd year, the High School Contest celebrates Huntley High School as the winner of the Silver Pen Award scoring the most points across all categories.