Ladies EditionPublished 6:53am Thursday, May 9, 2013
As much as we enjoy reading ICG today, the idea for a publication “Celebrating the Lives of Lakes Area Women” goes way back to 1897 when people got information from newspapers. In its first century, Otter Tail County had a booming print industry with multiple local news publications as well as nationally known papers in Norwegian, German and Finnish languages.
Fergus Falls itself hosted more than one newspaper and competition among them was fierce! Wheelock’s Weekly, published by Harry Wheelock, had only been in circulation for 2 years when it announced a great publicity stunt. It would publish a Women’s Edition with the entire production “turned over to the ladies of the city, to do with as they will.”
Every department in the newspaper would have a different lady reporter. Phoebe Welch, wife of Dr. George Welch, the superintendent of the Fergus Falls State Hospital, would oversee the project as Editor-in-Chief. Mrs. Anne Wheelock participated too.
And to what purpose this Women’s Edition? The entire proceeds will go to benefit the public library, “an object that is worthy of all aid from every citizen.” At that time a subscription to the library cost a family $1.50 per year.
Contributing writers, the wives and daughters of upstanding Fergus Falls citizens, belonged to Women’s Clubs and church groups that supported civic advancement. A number of them had diplomas from Carleton College.
Editor Welch encouraged women to submit items for the “Feminine Opinion” column. “This is their opportunity and women should avail themselves of it as extensively as possible.” The paper would also include columns by Society, Politics, Religion, Local, Literary and Children’s editors. Mrs. A. P. Stowell served as photographer.
The final product demonstrated that the ladies of the community, while certainly wanting to help the library, had plenty to say about other hometown matters. “Bright and spicy contributions and…witty sayings.”
Suggestions made in the 18-page paper covered a wide range of community of topics, including: spitting on sidewalks, the new Great Northern depot, the filthy condition of school textbooks (”in this age of germs!”) and stray dogs. An anonymous writer correctly predicted a college at the west end of Lincoln, “bringing culture and beauty into our midst and greatly increasing the desirability of our town as a home.”
Sports Editor, Miss Mary Houston, proposed that the town needed a Camera Club and a golf course, “a golf links to rival the famous Chicago course,” Houston wrote. She also lobbied for a woman’s right to hunt and, “feel the thrill of pride when we bag our game.”
A different right however, dominated Page One of the Women’s Edition with coverage of a community debate on Votes for Women. A crowd of 350 had attended this event to answer the question, “Would Woman Suffrage if Introduced be Detrimental to this Country?” The negative side had won the evening.
The 18-page Women’s Edition netting $100 for the library, a large sum considering Wheelock’s Weekly sold for a $1 per year subscription. Newspapers around the state commended the effort by women who exemplified ICG’s mission to “Encourage, Motivate, and Inspire.”
by Missy Hermes