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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Etta S. Wilson's Professional Service

Michigan Women’s Press Association*

In 1890, Etta was chairman of the Resolutions committee which was charged with creating a constitution for a new organization to be named Michigan Women’s Press Association. The MWPA was officially established during the summer 1890 meeting in Traverse City, Michigan. They assembled with a membership of 27 women representing press reporters across the state. Etta served as recording secretary in 1891. The organization’s object was helping, encouraging and stimulating newspaper women along with developing and perfecting their work. It sought to improve women’s standing as professional journalists rather than to bring about social changes or reform through their writings. Keep in mind, the 1890 census showed less than 3% of the full-time journalists were women. The Michigan data reported130 women worked full-time as editors, reporters, authors, or journalists.

By the second meeting in 1891 two key policy issues were causing contention among the membership. The first was a proposal to open membership to any woman resident of the state who was a “literary worker”. Another was the MWPA’s policy not to use your writing position as an instrument for social change. Many of the women were involved in such activities as Women’s rights, Women suffrage, temperance, and education reform. Some of these women felt the press offered an opportunity to promote these goals. These presswomen were independent thinkers, and this did not stop them from crossing gender lines and participating in various issues of the day. These very issues were among the reforms they were convinced they should promote through their writings. And many felt that suffrage was the key to obtaining progress in all the other fields.

Michigan Women’s Press Club**

In 1892, Etta along with several Grand Rapids area women gathered in the parlors of the Grand Rapids Press Club and formed a new organization known as Michigan Women’s Press Club. This new organization held many of the same goals and ambitions as the New England Women’s Press Association “to promote acquaintance and good fellowship among newspaper women; to elevate the work and the workers; and to forward by concerted action through the press such good objects in social, philanthropic, and reformatory lines as may from time to time present themselves”. They limited membership to “any woman, resident in Michigan, connected as a professional writer, manager or publisher with any reputable newspaper or magazine, or on the staff of such periodical”. Etta was the first President of the Michigan Women's Press Club in 1892.

Etta was an active member and officer of Grand Rapids Press Club (mixed sex organization founded in 1885).

Detroit Women Writers’ Club***

After moving to Detroit with her husband, Wesley, she became a member (1919-1936) of the Detroit Press Club (founded in 1900) later named Detroit Women Writers’ Club. Meetings included discussions on techniques, manuscript preparation, marketing, and specialized writing genres. Writing contests, members’ writing recognition, and writing critique sessions were highlights of this active club. Read more about the many and varied activities of this long serving club (1900-present).

Daughters of the American Revolution

Etta, along with three of her sisters, belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution. Originally joining along with her sisters in Oklahoma, Etta later transferred her membership to Louisa St. Clair Chapter in Detroit. Etta’s passion as a conservationist became evident when through her persistence and her D.A.R. local chapter in Detroit they aided the reforestation effort of northern Michigan by funding seedlings for four hundred acres of cutover forest land.

Excerpted from, Women’s Press Organizations 1881-1999, edited by Elizabeth V. Burt,

* pg.114-121

** pg. 122-126

*** pg.59-66

More information on the press organizations -http://kent.migenweb.net/organizations/women/pressclub.html

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