The Illinois Woman’s Press Association was founded in 1885 by a group of bold women who saw a need to provide communication and support between women writers.
The idea was born when Marion A. McBride of the Boston Globe was placed in charge of women press members at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans in 1884. She planted the seed for women writers to unite much as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union had.
McBride inspired Frances A. Conant and Dr. Julia Holmes Smith to influence and recruit Illinois writers to form such a support group. More than 40 charter members represented a variety of fields in which they made a living by writing.
One well known member was Frances Willard, author, publisher, editor and writer and president of the WCTU. Many of the initial members belonged to the union. Other communications professionals included newspaper columnists, cookbook authors, health writers, education writers, children’s book authors, short stories and magazine contributors. Other prominent members include Jane Addams founder of Hull House; Elda Maynard, executive director of the United Nations Association of the US: Leona Malek, known as Prudence Penny, one of the country’s authorities on food products, cookery and home management; Heloise, syndicated columnist, and many others.
IWPA is believed to be the oldest continuous woman’s organization in Chicago and is the founding mother of the National Federation of Press Women.
When IWPA president Helen Miller Malloch attempted to get copyright legislation through Congress in 1935, she realized that a federation was only one of the many advantages unification could offer its members. In 1936 she appointed Martha Dunlap Moore as chairman of the IWPA “Committee for Federation of Press Women” After much work, the first meeting of the National Federation of Press Women took place May 6, 1937. Its constitution called for the autonomous state groups, as it remains today.
IWPA continues to be active with regular networking meetings, professional workshops and marketing and award opportunities for communicators of every profession. The annual awards banquet is held in May. In 1941 with a bequest from the estate of Mate E. Palmer, the Mate Palmer Communications Contest was inaugurated and has been conducted each year since. All first place winners are sent to NFPW for judging in the national recognition. Also each year, by nomination of membership, IWPA selects a “Communicator of Achievement” who then represents IWPA at the annual NFPW conference.
The benefits to IWPA members who come from every walk of the writing life, are enormous! The support, friendships, education, opportunities, encouragement, recognition, unity and satisfaction are only a few.