St. Louis Newspaperwoman Got Start With Drawings of World’s Fair

By on March 12, 2019

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  Life in St. Louis in the early 20th century was very different from today. Of course, we all know that, but reading the works of Post-Dispatch columnist Marguerite Martyn from those days provides an entertaining and informative perspective, and a new compilation of her works gives us that opportunity.

“Marguerite Martyn — America’s Forgotten Journalist” was compiled and published by George Garrigues, a journalism professor and retired Los Angeles Times journalist. His appreciation of her work is evident in the book’s preface, and he adds clarifying notes throughout to provide perspective for Martyn’s stories.

Martyn was an excellent writer, but her features gave her a chance to display her secret weapon: an ability to illustrate her subjects in pen and ink. Her widowed mother had sent her from their home in Springfield, Mo., to study art at Washington University in St. Louis. After graduation, Martyn opened art studios and designed jewelry. It was when she submitted some unsolicited drawings of the St. Louis World’s Fair for publication in the Post-Dispatch that newsroom management became aware of her talent.

She was hired in 1905 because of the drawings, but the paper’s hard-nosed editor, O.K. Bovard, soon pushed her into writing. It was said that she was quickly able to choose her own assignments — this in the day when women in newsrooms were a distinct minority.

It is easy to discern in reading these articles that Martyn was quite a character herself. Visiting Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention, she set out to describe what she saw in that city:

“The Denver girl, for example, is highly colored. I haven’t seen a pale one yet. And she doesn’t get tired, for she weighs about five pounds less than she would at a lower altitude and her hair doesn’t come out of curl. But she squints because the sun shines so bright, and that is why they say she grows old quickly, for she gets crow’s feet around her eyes.”

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