Progress in Publishing: World War II Archives Reveal the History of Women in Tufts Student Journalism


Student-run publications have always been an essential part of campus life at Tufts. However, these publications have evolved in many ways. Looking at the issues of 20th century student publications, it is clear that Tufts and its publications have become more thoughtful and inclusive.

Today, Tufts is the smallest school to have an independent daily student newspaper, with which a significant portion of the Tufts student body interacts; more than 300 students are currently involved with the Daily as staff members, with many more contributing as regular readers. Prior to the establishment of the Daily in 1980, the Tufts Weekly was Tufts’ main student newspaper. The weekly focused primarily on campus news, highlighting sports, social events, and Tufts alumni, although it also discussed critical events happening nationally. Although it has now been replaced by the Tufts Observerit can also be seen as a forerunner of the Daily, which now fulfills the role of Tufts’ main news publication.

From 1895 to 1900, the weekly had no women on its staff. In 1901, Charlotte Raymond Lowell, assistant editor, was the first woman to join the staff of the Weekly. After the creation of Jackson College, the women’s college that existed at Tufts until its incorporation in 1980, the Weekly’s women primarily focused on Jackson-specific columns, rather than contributing content for the Tufts community at wider. In the 1940s this began to change.

During World War II, many young American men were drafted or drafted into the war effort, opening up many more opportunities for women across the country. With editors sent to war, women were encouraged to increase their participation in “traditionally male” activities, with Jackson students writing for and even running the Weekly. In 1944, Betty Waterhouse and Phyllis Ahern became the Weekly’s first editors. During the next term, Ahern became the first woman to run the weekly on her own. Today, 66% (19/29) of The Daily’s board and executive members identify as womena change in campus journalism that began with the tenure of Ahern and Waterhouse.

Much like the Daily’s current content, student publications like the Weekly have also served as a window to other Tufts student experiences. For example, during World War II, engineering classes were first offered to Jackson’s women. These included courses such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, and other sciences. A few years before the end of the war, Charlotte Taylor was the first woman to graduate from Tufts School of Engineering, as a 1943 weekly headline proclaimed.

However, not everyone was happy with the increased presence of women in science and engineering, which the weekly also reflects. In the long-running Engineairs column, which focused on topics of interest to engineering students, Harold Tremblay wrote that “In general it was found that women were not able to grasp technical material as quickly or as completely as the opposite sex”, stating that women should only accept the lowest jobs in science and engineering to free up space for men to take on more technical roles. Despite these complaints, the Weekly also spotlighted Jackson alumni working in technical wartime jobs, such as Mabel Keyes who served as head of the Chemical Warfare Procurement Lab in Boston, show pride in successful alumni, regardless of gender.

Obviously, while the weekly moved towards greater inclusion of women during this period, it still contained many misogynistic views. Later in the Engineairs column, Tremblay wrote, “A woman’s job is to step in when you need her and step back silently and gracefully when you don’t.” revealing a common view on the Tufts campus and across the country that women were merely replacing the men who fought and would return to their rightful places as the more skilled men returned after the war. These views are clearly problematic and overlooked Tufts pioneers like Charlotte Taylor and Phyllis Ahern.

The university has come a long way since these openly misogynistic publications. NOTAt the start, 60% of college students identify as women. Since Jackson College’s integration into Tufts in 1980, the percentage of students who identify as female has risen to 54% among undergraduates in the School of Arts and Sciences and 46% among undergraduates. undergraduate from the School of Engineering.

Today, the Daily ensures that its coverage is respectful, inclusive and representative of all Tufts students. This effort includes the Intentionality and Inclusiveness Committeewhich ensures that the content of The Daily is “fair, accurate and contextualized”.

Past posts in Tufts history are a window into the thoughts and experiences of Jumbos from years past. Through this window, it is clear to see the progress we have made in making our publications more representative of our community, as well as the continued importance of newspapers like the Weekly and the Daily to student life and expression.


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