How to become a woman journalist – 100 years ago

origin_2567469865“The profession of journalism has an irresistible fascination for most women who are at all proficient with the pen; it is a profession, however, which is not so easily accessible as other callings.”

“There is an element of uncertainty about it also which should be well considered before deciding to adopt journalism as a career. In the newspaper world this uncertainty is particularly evident.”

“Papers change hands, new proprietors bring in new editors, new editors engage new staffs, and the members of the old staff , however efficient and conscientious they may be in their work, are thrown out of employment.”

In my possession I have a wonderful volume called “The Woman’s Book: contains everything a woman ought to know” written by multiple authors and first published by TC and EC Jack in 1911. Incredibly, you can still buy copies – some in collectible condition – on Amazon UK, and as I write this there is even one available on Amazon USA for a mere USD $160!

The edition of book I have is from 1918 and was given to my grandmother in 1920 when she was a very young bride. She then passed it on to my mother in 1948. Sadly the book is no longer in good condition but is still readable. And its contents are fascinating for a number of reasons.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the then-emergence of women in the workplace, and in the book’s chapter about “Literary and Secretarial Work” the profession of “Journalism” is listed as a front runner. Here are some excerpts from the text which I’m sure you’ll find as amusing as I did; pro journalists, 2011, take note…

Things haven’t changed much in 100 years…

“The really clever journalist and writer, however, can always find a demand for her work; but in all professions the mediocre worker of only average ability preponderates. It is to the mediocre worker that this warning is given. If she manages by good fortune or influence to acquire a position in a newspaper office she may jog along comfortably enough until one day a staff upheaval comes, in the way of a change of editorship or some other similar contingency. Once she is thrown out of employment in this manner she will find it difficult to get another position of a similar nature, and a journalist always finds it difficult to settle down to less interesting work, so strong is the fascination of “Fleet Street” for those who have once been within its precincts.”

The end of the world, or a new dawn?

“Many women journalists, however, have followed this profession with brilliant success. They have set the stamp of individuality upon their work. They have specialised upon certain subjects and become known as authorities upon those subjects. For the work of these women there is always a demand, and the large income made by those favoured few is enough to hold out dazzling prospects to the beginner who is anxious to follow in their footsteps.”

Some more home truths which still apply today

“There are many things to consider before finally deciding to adopt journalism as a career. First and foremost it is important to realise the fact that a good writer does not necessarily make a good journalist. Other things are required in journalism besides fluency with the pen. The journalist must possess what is rightly known as the ‘journalistic instinct’ if she is to pursue her career with any measure of success. She must have a keen sense of ‘news’ and ‘news’ subjects.”

“For instance, she must have the power of realising the news value of the different subjects dealt with in her morning paper, with the faculty of being in her mind to quickly summarise and analyse their comparative possibilities from the point of view of public interest.”

“The efficient journalist can tell to a nicety what news is worth ‘following up,’ what subjects the public would like to hear more about. She appreciates the fact that good news stories and subjects for interesting articles lurk in most unexpected corners – a chance sentence in the speech of a well-known public man, a remark uttered by a well-known judge, a declaration by a well-known scientist, all may be rich in news possibilities, and to miss them might be to miss the opportunity of a good article or good news story.”

Are you a journalist, or would you like to be one? Please share your views about that here…especially considering that so many of the points made about journalism 100 years ago are still true today. (Or are they?)

Now, let’s make sure your writing is bang up to date…

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English
“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand




  1. […] St. Maur has written about a book given to her grandmother, then handed down to her mother, called The Woman’s Book: Cont…. There’s an entire section dedicated to being a female journalist … fun reading. […]