Veteran journalist Vivian Vahlberg remembers in 1971 witnessing the National Press Club vote on whether it would change bylaws to allow female journalists to join the club. She had just broken into the industry as a Washington Bureau reporter for The Oklahoman.
“I watched the vote as they decided to admit us, and by that time, it had gotten awfully unfashionable for them not to admit women,” Vahlberg said. “The time had come.”
There were two votes that day. The other was whether to admit women to the press club’s bar and card room.
“Fortunately, they voted right on that one,” Vahlberg said.
Ten years later, Vahlberg became the first female president of the National Press Club.
Vahlberg is one of several prominent female Oklahoma journalists who will speak at a free roundtable conversation at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.
The event is being held in conjunction with the screening of a deadCenter film festival premiere of “Quiet Philanthropist: The Edith Gaylord Story,” by Oklahoman Bryan Beasley. The documentary will be screened at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art following the roundtable at 5:30 p.m.
Edith Gaylord was the daughter of E.K. Gaylord, publisher of The Oklahoman. In 1942, Edith Gaylord was hired as a news staffer at The Associated Press. She was president of the National Women’s Press Club in 1944 and served as liaison between then-first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the media. Her advocacy for women in journalism was strong and she served as a mentor to many other women in news, including Sue Hale.
Sue Hale, former executive editor for The Oklahoman, will be among the panelists at the roundtable.
Hale worked closely with Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, to curate “Breaking News: Oklahoma Women Journalists” at the Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City. All the women in the roundtable discussion are featured in that exhibit.
Women’s role in journalism
Blackburn has a special interest in the topic of women in broadcasting — his mother was Ida B., a local TV celebrity who hosted the children’s show “Romper Room” and the wildly popular “The Ida B. Show.”
“I don’t think many people realize that women have been part of journalism since the land run,” Hale said. “They were just doing it in some rather unconventional ways to get by with it.”
Hale knew by the time she was 16 that she wanted to be a journalist. But the tradition was for women to get married right after high school or college graduation.
Throughout her career, she broke many gender barriers, as did many of the female journalists of the time. She was the first woman to serve as news editor and assistant managing editor at The Oklahoman.
Other well-respected women in Oklahoma journalism will participate in the roundtable: Linda Cavanaugh, Jenifer Reynolds and Pam Olson.
For more information, call the Oklahoma Historical Center at 522-6676 or go to www.okhistory.org.