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Etta Smith Wilson

Etta Smith Wilson

GRHC - October 7th, 2009

Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the Community Media Center present Glance at the Past. This week's episode tells of Etta Smith Wilson, Grand Rapids' first woman reporter.



Etta Smith Wilson began her career at the Grand Rapids Herald in 1886. She was determined from the beginning to make herself competent to report every sort of news. She aspired to be a general all-around reporter and didn’t want any managing editor to feel that there were cases where she couldn’t be sent because she was a woman.

She bought a book of baseball rules and studied it diligently. Whenever possible she went to a ball game hoping to learn it well enough to report a game should the opportunity arise. The chance came about when the managing editor of the Herald had sent every one of the men out on assignments. Suddenly he looked up and said, "My God, there’s a ball game this afternoon and every man is out."

"Well," Etta said, "Why don't you go out there yourself?"

"Dear lady," he replied, "I don't know a thing about baseball.

"I'll go," she said.

"You," he snorted.


"What good will that do the paper," he asked scornfully.

"I know I can report it," she said, "and if you’ll let me go, I'll show you."

So she went and later was often called upon to write sports since in those days there were no sports editors at the Herald.

Etta was the first woman in Michigan to do regular newspaper reporting. An active member of the GR Press Club she also was a founding member of the Michigan Women’s Press Association and the Michigan Women’s Press Club.


Full Details

TitleEtta Smith Wilson
KeywordsGlance at the Past, Etta Smith Wilson, woman reporter, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringOctober 7th, 2009

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