Colorado Press Women was organized in Denver by 58 women dedicated to a common interest: to foster the highest ideals of American journalism.
CPW’s charter members had persevered and flourished in a field dominated by men. They included Katherine Prescott Bemis, former editor of the Littleton Independent, Catherine Dines Prosser, women’s page editor of The Denver Post, Helen Black, drama editor of the Rocky Mountain News, Ellen Kate Dier, co-publisher and editor of the Alamosa Courier, and Eudochia Bell Smith, a former reporter at the Rocky Mountain News and the Houston Chronicle.
CPW’s organizational meeting was held in the tea room of The Denver Dry Goods Co. on July 26, 1941. Bertha Bless, dynamic president of the National Federation of Press Women, was there to help launch the new affiliate. The NFPW had been founded in 1938. Miss Prosser, the Post’s women’s editor, was to run the meeting, but had to turn the gavel over to freelancer Elisabeth Kuskulis “because of emergency work,” the minutes say. The 25 women present fixed dues at $2 a year and the initiation fee at $1. Miss Kuskulis was elected the first president. The first regular meeting was set for and held on Oct. 4, 1941, in Flagler.
Records of CPW’s first years make meetings sound very much like ladies’ teas, replete with descriptions of centerpieces and corsages, and profuse thanks to hostesses. But professional education and national affairs were never neglected. CPW members’ work took first place in the national contest of 1942. One of CPW’s first resolutions, passed five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, supported civilian defense efforts. One early meeting discussed “How Press Women Can Meet the War Emergency.” In 1947, the organization joined a national push to create a “Secretary of Peace” in the Cabinet, writing letters to President Truman and members of Congress.
In 1948 and still young, CPW, with 114 members, was second in size only to Illinois among NFPW’s affiliates.
Through its first three decades, CPW took stands on issues that still raise heated debate today, including women’s rights and family values. One issue demonstrates the chapter’s growth and changes influenced by current events: In 1946, CPW voted to write to the Colorado congressional delegation to say it did NOT support the Equal Rights Bill. Alas, minutes don’t explain why. In 1976, however, the organization joined a coalition to save the ERA in Colorado.
In 1950, CPW condemned a Denver Post editorial on the affair between director Roberto Rossellini and actress Ingrid Bergman. The Post said the press must use good taste and moral uplift in coverage, and that the Post “would not drool over Hollywood alley cats.”
In 1950, it joined the Porchlight Campaign begun by Miss Prosser in the Post and supported by other newspaper women throughout the state. The campaign urged homeowners to turn on porch lights to make it safe for women to walk home at night. CPW also helped raise funds to restore the Mount of the Holy Cross near Redcliff. Its crucifix-like formation had been damaged by erosion and mining blasting.
Today, CPW members continue to stress professional excellence.