All-woman staff produced the first Mining Journal of 1897

By Larry Chabot • Illustrations by Mike McKinney
A small news item from long ago brought an intriguing report about “some Marquette ladies” who took over the Mining Journal on New Year’s Day back in 1897. That tidbit led to a trip down history lane to find out if the venture was a rousing success or an embarrassing failure. Who were they, and how did this happen?
Journal management was leery when first approached by the women, who wondered if they could fill the standard eight-page paper with articles and ads. Because the Journal announced it three weeks in advance, readers knew what was coming.
Ladies To Act As Editors/Entire Paper Under Their Control That Day was a prominent headline on December 10. Editorial and business employees would turn over their desks – except for the printing plant – for one night. Many of these women, it was said, were in the “high order of literary and executive talent” and would bring credit to the women of Marquette and the Upper Peninsula. Their talents will produce a wide range of stories, some local and some from far off. “The more practical ladies,” continued the story, would focus on advertising, subscriptions, and sales. It’s not known if the supposedly less practical women took offense at that characterization.
The idea had been broached in early December, but on December 9 they decided to plunge in and start immediately, with sellers fanning out to buttonhole advertisers. The legendary Peter White helped the cause by soliciting some big spenders of his acquaintance. As content poured in, the edition expanded to 12 pages, then 16, finally topping at 20 – the largest Journal ever. Stories and ads arriving after the cutoff date had to be rejected. With the plan now public, local reaction was overwhelming: In one day, a hundred new subscribers signed up. The Marquette businessmen’s association chipped in to the surge by buying a full-page ad and ordering 300 extra copies to pass out.
Paperboys, who were warned to expect much heavier papersacks, walked their routes on New Years morning shouting the big news: “The Woman’s edition – just out!”
An ornate masthead, featuring a sketch of a comely lass in period attire and hat, heralded the “Woman’s New Year Edition of the Mining Journal 1897.” The ladies’ own editorial declared “New year’s morning! The paper has gone to press at last. The editor closed her weary eyes and slumbered peacefully in her chair, for the first moment in weeks.”
While deep in sleep, her dreams were spoiled by fear of failure and ridicule, such as:
“Great Scott! What’s happened to the Mining Journal?”
“Am I drunk or is the paper drunk?”
“Let me up there! I’ll club the whole shooting match!”
One imaginary man demanded to see the editor because his $2 ad had been printed upside down.
But it was all a fantasy, soon forgotten in the aftermath.

The new, temporary journalists were introduced:
• Anna Chandler, editor-in-chief
• Beatrice Hanscom, associate editor
• Emily Parker, children’s editor
• Carroll Rankin, local department
• Nina Stone, religious department
• Alice Ward and Agnes Ormsbee, business managers

Sharing the front page was a poem by associate editor Beatrice Hanscom:
Last night we burned the midnight oil,
And snuffed the midnight taper,
In trying to construct with toil
A creditable paper.
When, as the clock announced the hour,
A knock came at the portal,
And stood disclosed, as oped the door,
A roguish little mortal.
A tiny boy, who stepped inside,
“Oh!” Cried we, “How came you here?”
“I’m 1897,” he replied,
“I bring you a Happy New Year!”

Inside were more poetry and the work of Mary Jopling. An anonymous landlord described her tenants in humorous detail, like the bald man who each night smelled “perfumey,” and an artist who drew his self-portrait among sketches all over his walls and door. Bess Mitchell penned a colorful travelogue, and Grace Palmer described a visit to the Chicago Art Institute.
Susan Heffernan, a former student and current teacher at the high school, was proud to reveal that the school’s high standards got several graduates enrolled in top eastern women’s colleges like Smith and Wellesley. Christine Campbell and Elizabeth Crowley enthused over other facets of the school. From the reprinting of an 1855 interview with Mrs. Philo Everett, readers learned of a new Marquette-to-Escanaba trail; the first shipment by horse and wagon was 60 bushels of grain, which boded well for better mail service.
Mary Jopling’s contribution was an article she submitted to Good Housekeeping Magazine with tips on the proper decoration of a luncheon table. Another column saluted “the dainty woman [who] delights in adorning her table with delicate blossoms. The city woman with a well-filled purse pays no attention to florists’ price increases. She can telephone for roses or violets as she needs them.” That’s what it said!
An Ishpeming correspondent sent in several super-brief social items:
• Miss Adams will return to Chicago on Saturday.
• Miss Broad returns to her school in Mason on Sunday.
• Mrs. Frank Mills and family will spend the winter in California.

Some local advertisers, bearing well-known historic names, included J.M. Longyear Company, Lake Shore Iron Works, Peter White and Co., Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company, and the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic Railroad. Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee firms were among the display ads. The women printed a letter from the big Marshall Field store in Chicago, replying to a solicitation from Peter White:
“Replying to your favor of 14th inst. Mr. Marshall directs me to say we do no advertising outside of local papers. To assist the ladies, however, he begs to enclose herein his check to your order for $20. Arthur Jones, Sec’y”
($20 then would be worth $620 now.)
Michigan Central Railroad boasted of “first class line for first class travel” from Mackinaw City to Chicago and Detroit, with service to eastern cities in railroad cars with porters, dining car, and sleeping berths … The ship “City of Marquette,” captained by Alfred Taylor, advertised regular trips to Huron Bay in the west and Pictured Rocks in the east, besides delivering camping and fishing parties to several U.P. lakeshore sites.
After examining the New Year edition, a Journal editorial praised it, adding that they always knew Marquette had plenty of clever women but didn’t realize how many until they saw the result. The women staffers, in return, thanked the paper for its help and patience. “No saint,” they proclaimed, “could have borne the terrible revelations with greater composure than they did.”
Elsewhere in the county, in news that didn’t make the New Year’s edition, the Negaunee Iron Herald reported that a Mrs. Kronberg, accidentally shot while at the Hoberg Lumber Camp, suffered a damaged spine which kept her in camp. She died a few days later, leaving a young daughter and a husband in Marquette Branch Prison … Local merchants were on the lookout for counterfeit silver dollars, and a dog poisoner was on the loose in town.
While railroads were reinforcing their rolling stock against robbers, they armed their employees with rifles and orders to shoot, offering a $1,000 reward to any worker who plugged a thief … During a train switching procedure at the Negaunee depot, one worker hollered orders to another on how to handle a certain railroad car: “Jump on her when she comes by and cut her in two and bring the head to the depot.” A nearby woman, who overheard the order but didn’t understand the lingo, began shouting “Murder, Murder!”
In Ishpeming, the Iron Ore reported on two girls who escaped near death on Euclid Street … Bosch Brewery was putting up a new bottling works in town … The paper urged that resident Mary Alt be added to the police force, and a suggestion was made to banish convicts to Isle Royale.

The brave and talented women who took on a newspaper weren’t a casual band of strangers who came forward to try their hand at publishing, but were actually members of St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral in Marquette, where the plan was hatched. All were distinguished in their own right.
Editor Anna Chandler was superintendent of Marquette High School, and associate editor Beatrice Hanscom was a teacher and author. Religion editor Nina Stone’s relative John Stone was a circuit judge; business manager Alice Ward was secretary to the general manager of Duluth South Shore & Atlantic Railroad; and Mary Jopling was a well-known writer. Everyone knows that locals editor Carroll Rankin was a world-renowned author of eleven books, including “The Dandelion Cottage.” She began her writing career as a reporter and society editor of the Mining Journal at age 16.
They were among the forerunners of those who, over time, rose high in the ranks of newspaper management. An internet source claims that 238 U.S. newspapers now have women editors. In Marquette, women publishers lead the Mining Journal, Marquette Monthly Magazine, Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, and a woman is editor-in-chief of Northern Michigan University’s student newspaper.
So there.

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