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Women make the news, mere men mumble

When the women took possession of the Mail Tribune newsroom Saturday, May 21, 1910, not everyone was happy.

Hardnosed male reporters bit their tongues, smothering their dissent in low, rumbling mumbles. This was the boss’ idea, and nobody was stupid enough to complain.

Owner and Editor George Putnam had come up with a grand marketing and advertising scheme for the newly created newspaper, a merging of the Medford Mail and Medford Tribune newspapers. Let the women of the area create a “Woman’s Edition” and sell the idea to advertisers.

The women would report, write and edit the paper and give it a decided female slant.

New to the business, the women were taught some newspaper jargon. “Copy” was the story typed out on paper. “Sticks” were the three-inch lines of metal type, including the gadget that held them all in place. “Galleys” were the printed pages used to proofread the edition before final printing. “Dope” was an indication that a column of a story was continued on a separate galley.

There was quite a bit of apprehension and alarm when a staff member asked the women who would be “walking the ghost?” Tensions eased when they discovered the man meant a ghostwriter, someone who wouldn’t get credit and would type a story for a woman reporter who couldn’t type.

The stories ranged from an interview with William Crowell, president of the First National Bank, to club meetings and upcoming entertainment in the Medford theaters.

Two of Medford’s most popular musicians, Grace Brown and Jeunesse Butler, who, when not performing a concert, took turns playing the organ in Medford’s silent movie theaters, appeared on the first page of the second section of the paper.

Grace had just returned from San Francisco after taking some music lessons and giving a piano concert. Jeunesse had a byline as a reporter. She squashed a local rumor that A.A. Davis, the Medford flour manufacturer, was planning to turn his Ninth Street flour mill into an “up-to-date hotel.”

One prominent page featured women drivers. “Medford’s Fair Chauffeurs May Be Counted by the Score,” said the headline. “All Are Experts and Scorn Services of Mere Man in Handling Cars.”

Mary Reddy, wife of a former Medford mayor, was the winner in quantity, personally parking three automobiles in her garage — a Ford, Cadillac and an Overland. “She drives them all with equal skill.”

Anna Hafer, wife of a lumber company owner, wrote about her history-making solo drive to Crater Lake in her Packard, giving an account of what the road to Crater Lake was like in 1910.

“I failed to note any unusual scenery en route,” she said. “I saw nothing but crooked, dusty roads, piles of rock, flocks of stumps, and a continuous streak of brush, with an occasional stream to bar the way.”

Ina Olwell, wife of a county commissioner, had her husband “ghost walk” her story under the name “Judge,” the title commissioners were often known by. The “Judge” had accompanied her to Crater Lake in her Buick.

Ina drove the lead car in a five-car caravan, covering the 83 miles to the lake in 10 1/2 hours, the last few hours driving in the dark. Even so, she pressed on. “We are going into Crater camp tonight,” she said, “or bust every tire on my machine.” They slept that night in Camp Steel.

“The Woman’s Edition was a decided financial success,” editor Putnam said, “thanks to the generosity of the business men, and to the energy of the women. The proceeds were so much greater than was expected.”

At the end of the day, one woman looked around and said she wished women were in charge of the newspaper every day. Apparently no one, especially the women, heard that low mumbling sound rumbling under the breaths of the regular staff.

Writer Bill Miller is the author of five books, including “History Snoopin’,” a collection of his previous history columns and stories. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.