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Southwestern Historical Quarterly 110.4 (2007) 514-532

Vivian Castleberry:
An Editor aheadof Her Time
Kimberly Wilmot Voss

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Figure 1
Vivian Castleberry in her role as "women's editor" for the Texas A&M University student newspaper, the Battalion, in the 1950s. Courtesy the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University.
[End Page 514]

When the second wave of the women's movement began in the 1960s, Dallas Times Herald women's page editor Vivian Castleberry immediately sensed its importance. She started using the term "Ms.," which symbolized women's independence, in her section's stories. She continued to do so for the next five years until the industry magazine Editor & Publisher printed part of a speech she gave about the practice. The following day her editors gave her written notice that she had to stop and instead use "Miss" or "Mrs." The editors had not been reading her section closely enough to notice the difference in terminology.1 This lack of attention followed by criticism was symbolic of the relationship Castleberry had with her editors as she sought to modernize her pages. She said:

My staff would prod me to do more. The community was prodding me to do more. My management was sometimes looking askance at what I was trying to do. But we did break many taboos in the coverage of what was going on in this community.2

Throughout her career in the 1960s and 1970s, Castleberry said her supervising editors found her coverage of women's issues, such as domestic violence and pay inequity, threatening. She recalled that an editor approached her in a hallway and asked what happened to the "little girl" they had hired [End Page 515] who had "really believed in God, country, motherhood and apple pie." She responded: "You hired me and you sent me out to see what the real world was like. And I found out that the stories do not happen at the Petroleum Club and the Dallas Country Club."3

Women's page editors such as Castleberry were trailblazers, but the stories of women's page editors are often left out of journalism history, especially regarding newspapers outside of New York City and Washington, D.C.4 Only one book has been devoted to the story of a women's page editor; A Woman of the Times: Journalism, Feminism, and the Career of Charlotte Curtis detailed the career of Charlotte Curtis of the New York Times. Books by Maurine Beasley and Shelia Gibbons, and Kay Mills each include a chapter on women's page editors, which mention Castleberry only briefly. To some extent, journalism historians Rose Ann Robertson and Rodger Streitmatter do note the significance of Castleberry's work in changing women's page content.5 One of the best testaments to Castleberry's influence comes from Ruth Morgan, professor emerita of political science and former Southern Methodist University provost, who said Castleberry used her position as women's page editor as a force of social change:

Vivian has truly been a role model and mentor to countless women in this community—including myself. She sought every opportunity to tell the substantive stories of women—not just the fluff and the gloss—and this also meant pushing for coverage of women of color, who had been excluded from the pages of local "white newspapers" during her early years as a journalist. . . . Vivian is much loved in this community and has achieved iconic status as a pioneer in journalism who was not content to perpetuate the status quo of "women's pages."6

Making her story even more important is the role her section played in spreading the news of the women's liberation movement at a time when [End Page 516] much of the national coverage of women's movement events was negative.7 Often women's page editors were the ones who rationally explained the inequities of the time to the women of their communities. According to Morgan, Castleberry

played an...


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