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February 28, 2012

Life of 20th Century’s First Woman Newspaper Editor-in-Chief Is Subject of Talk

Cissy Patterson Owned and Edited Washington Times-Herald

She was called the most powerful woman in America, surpassing first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Bess Truman; ambassador, writer, journalist and member of Congress Clare Boothe Luce; and New York Post owner and publisher Dorothy Schiff.

Cissy Patterson was from a publishing family. Her grandfather was Joseph Medill--firebrand abolitionist, mayor of Chicago, editor-in-chief and principal owner of the Chicago Tribune, and one of the founders of the Republican Party, who delivered the crucial Ohio delegation to Abraham Lincoln at the convention of 1860. Cissy Patterson’s brother, Joe Medill Patterson, started the New York Daily News.

Her pedigree notwithstanding, Patterson did not come to publishing until shortly before her 49th birthday, in 1930, with almost no practical journalistic or editorial experience and a life out of the pages of Edith Wharton.

Amanda Smith will discuss her Patterson biography, "Newspaper Titan: The Infamous Life and Monumental Times of Cissy Patterson" (Knopf Doubleday, 2011), on Thursday, March 15, at noon in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, part of the Books & Beyond author series, is sponsored by the Center for the Book. The Library’s Serial and Government Publications Division, where Smith did much of her research, is co-sponsor of the program, which is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

Smith writes that in the summer of 1930, Cissy Patterson, educated at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn., for a vocation of marriage and motherhood and a place in society, took over William Randolph Hearst’s foundering Washington Herald and began to learn what others believed she could never grasp: how to run and build up a newspaper.

Patterson soon bought from Hearst the Herald’s evening sister paper, the Washington Times, merged the two and became editor, publisher and sole proprietor of a big-city newspaper. By 1945, the Washington Times-Herald, with 10 daily editions, was clearing an annual profit of more than $1 million.

Smith is also the editor of "Hostage to Fortune: The Letters of Joseph P. Kennedy." Her mother is former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith.

Smith’s book is the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/. Here readers can discuss books, the authors of which have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/) has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for 52 affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s www.Read.gov website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center.

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PR 12-041
02/28/12
ISSN 0731-3527

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