The History of Delaware Press Association
(Historically Delaware Press Women)
Founded in 1977
by Katherine Ward, DPA Historian
The National Federation of Press Women (NFPW), a supportive, national network of communications professionals, was organized in 1937 to be an advocate for female journalists and to propel them into the leadership roles they were being denied. Fighting for First Amendment rights, tapping into education and personal growth opportunities, entering a professional communications contest, working with high school journalists, attending an annual communications conference, and promoting the highest standards of journalism were all part of the NFPW package.
“The 1970s,” said Delaware Press Women (DPW) charter member and first president Priscilla B. Tuminello, “was a time of real awakening by women in the US and around the world to the many inequities in society due to gender bias. There was no family leave act; there was no diversity training; there was no pay equity; there was minimal understanding of the true meaning of sexual harassment or sexual discrimination.” Gloria Stuber addressed many of these issues in New Directions for Women in Delaware, a quarterly feminist newspaper she founded in 1973.
When a copy of New Directions caught the eye of the National Federation of Press Women’s regional director Shirley Wagener in 1976, Ms. Wagener contacted editor Gloria Stuber and proposed an idea: form a statewide communications group that would be affiliated with NFPW. Gloria’s response to the proposal was positive and immediate.
A member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and friends with several women working at The News Journal, Gloria believed that NFPW could help women in the field of communications throughout Delaware. She spoke with fellow IABC members Priscilla Tuminello, community relations assistant at St. Francis Hospital, and Frances Naczi, director of marketing for First Federal Savings and Loan, who felt as she did that both IABC and the Advertising Club offered programs and networking more beneficial to the predominantly male members than to them. They began calling friends such as Margaret Towers, who was a communication specialist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Delaware, and Suzanne Bush, who was supervisor of creative services and co-editor of the News Journal Company’s in-house publication Viewpoints.
At that time, women working at The News Journal were facing significant discrimination in terms of job responsibilities, promotions, and involvement in key professional activities. Suzanne, who for many years was president and publisher of The Reporter (named the number one Gannett newspaper in Pennsylvania in 2000) in Lansdale, Pa., related that the women who agitated to meet and discuss the situation were told that management could levy severe reprisals if such a meeting took place. Stung by ongoing discrimination and with the courage of their convictions, the women posted meeting notices in the ladies’ room with little fear of being found out because no one in management was of the gender that would use the ladies’ room.
In April 1977, fifteen women paid $15 each to join Delaware Press Women, with $10 of that amount going on to NFPW for membership in the national organization. On April 29, Shirley Wagener presided at the chartering meeting at the Sheraton Inn in Newark. In a short ceremony, NFPW president Jean Wiley Huyler, of Washington, presented the charter for the Delaware affiliate to Frances Andrews, Linda Callaway, Gloria Galloway, Kathleen Ann Horning, Kathi Jensen, Judith Just, Marianne LeBleu, Sandra Michel, Frances Naczi, Mary Louise Ponsell, Shirley Rigby, Marge Schlerf, Ellie Shaw, Gloria Stuber, and Priscilla Tuminello. After hors d’oeuvres and a cake decorated with “DPW” were served, Priscilla Tuminello was named the first president of Delaware Press Women.
The organization was off and running as Priscilla announced that the new affiliate would sponsor a media day on June 25 at the Lewes Marine Studies Complex of the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies. The day included an overview of the marine studies program, tours of the school’s research vessel and the mariculture research lab, and a cooking demonstration featuring red crabs, Jonah crabs, and shark.
In May, nine more names were added to the DPW roster: Barbara Astle, Suzanne Bush, Karen Benson, Tammy Brittingham, Frances Krzywicki, Laura Lippstone, Marjorie Nudge, Dorothy Travers, and Margaret Towers. On the strength of increased numbers, plans were laid for a freelance workshop in October. Roger Morris, who was a public affairs specialist for DuPont, an instructor at the University of Delaware, and who also wrote a wine column for The News Journal, was asked to be the guest speaker. DPW’s first treasurer, Frances Naczi, drawing on her marketing experience at First Federal Savings and Loan, suggested raising funds for the workshop by selling a beige faux leather portfolio with the DPW logo imprinted in dark brown. A number of the portfolios were sold locally, and old treasury records show that they also were purchased by members of press women affiliates around the US.
The new affiliate continued to gather strength during the next several months as Mary Elizabeth Lubitsh and Eileen Spraker joined in June, and Rita Borden, Pat Ciarrocchi, Erin Donovan, Dorsey DeRaismes, Gardy Epp, Nancy Hertig, Ruth Kaplan, Kathryn Lorenz, Georganna Simmons and Catherine Wheeler signed on in July.
By October, the freelance workshop had taken shape. As promised, Roger Morris talked about how to enter the highly competitive freelance arena. Panelists Kathy Lorenz, editor of Delaware Today magazine; Georganna Simmons, a freelancer; and Tom Rettew, editor of the Sunday News Journal, embroidered on Morris’ theme. The first DPW workshop proved to be a success and members were pleased that some of the participants were from the Pennsylvania and New Jersey press women affiliates.
When election of officers took place in January 1978, Priscilla Tuminello handed the gavel to Eileen Spraker, who became DPW president for a two-year term. Other members of the new executive board were Gardy Epp, 1st vice president, programs; Kathleen Ann Horning, 2nd vice president, publicity; Gloria Stuber, 3rd vice president, membership; Suzanne Bush, treasurer; and Karen Benson, secretary. DPW member Judy Just, executive secretary of the Delaware International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee, was asked to speak at the installation dinner about her experience as Delaware’s delegate-at-large at the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston and of the wide-ranging implications of the conference for all American women.
DPW continued to attract new members, and by March of 1978, Cari DeSantis, Kathleen Graham, Susan Henderson, and Eileen Newton had joined. With almost 40 members in the affiliate, Sandy Michel, who was co-owner of Lenape Publishing Co., agreed to serve as contest director for a local communications contest. First place winners’ entries were sent on to the NFPW competition, and all award winners were recognized at a spring program co-sponsored by A.I. du Pont’s Continuing Education Program. Pat Bario, President Jimmy Carter’s assistant secretary for media relations was asked to be the speaker. At that same time, freelance photojournalist Marjorie Nudge directed the first DPW statewide high school journalism contest, and student winners received cash prizes ranging from $3 to $10.
By April 1978, the first anniversary of its founding, DPW had gained Sandra Eyre, Dolores Sapienza, and Mary Sam Ward as members, bringing the total to 43. The active, committed women with diverse communications backgrounds and skills who joined DPW from cities and towns up and down the State during that seminal year set the example and the pace for the coming years.
DPW members donate their time to develop a promotional program to raise funds for the Chesapeake Bay Girl Scout Council. Local businesses buy packages of single-serving Girl Scout cookies, give them to customers and publicize their participation. Working with a local ad agency, DPW comes up with the theme “The Cookie with a Cause,” has it printed on posters and brochures, and launches the program that not only is successful in Wilmington, but is copied in other cities.
Although the Delaware State Assembly had voted in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment, passed by Congress in 1972, there is talk of rescinding that vote in 1978. DPW decides to fight recision as a group, and Cari DeSantis, then assistant editor of Delaware Today, testifies on behalf of DPW at hearings held in the State Office Building in Wilmington. People from many other states gather in the State Office Building as part of the two opposing national movements to support or defeat the ERA. “Cari’s testimony was eloquent,” Priscilla Tuminello recalls, “and, along with other capable supporters, DPW helped prevent recision in Delaware. As things stand, an insufficient number of states ratified the ERA, and it has yet to become an amendment.”
Other political issues surface, and several months later The News Journal prints a letter, written by DPW political action chairperson, Priscilla Tuminello, calling for other groups and individuals to join DPW in pledging support of peaceful integration in New Castle County schools. The letter reads in part, “Dedicated to the highest standards of excellence in communications, we hold the firm belief that the manner and spirit in which information is communicated can influence the course of events. Therefore, the members of DPW who are involved in the communication of information related to desegregation have pledged that they will strive to impart that news in a strictly factual, non-inflammatory and unbiased manner. Such action will help protect the rights of all persons, of all races and ages, involved in the implementation of desegregation.”
Elise du Pont, wife of Delaware governor Pete du Pont, entertains DPW members at the Governor’s mansion, Woodburn, in Dover, where winners of the DPW communications contest are announced. Mrs. du Pont arranges a tour of the mansion and gardens, followed by a luncheon.
DPW hosts a literacy auction in Dover with Delaware Federation of Women’s Clubs. The proceeds buy books for day care centers.
Curtis Smith, speechwriter for President George Bush, addresses members of DPW and high school journalism students at A.I. du Pont High School.
DPW co-sponsors a regional conference, “News, Information and Technology: Redefining the Media in the 21st Century,” with press women affiliates from N.J., Pa., and Md. Co-directors of the one-day conference at the U of D—Katherine Ward (DPW), Christine Kulikowski (NJPW) and Pat Ryder (PPC)—bring together communications, technology, and computer experts from around the U.S. to give perspective to the revolution in the field of communications wrought by the new technology. Participants not only hear about developing technology (the concept of e-mail is discussed), but also see a prototype of an on-demand personal news tablet created in the Knight-Ridder Information Design Labs in Boulder, Colorado. NJPW president Christine Kulikowski describes the conference in the cover story of the October 1993 issue of Press Woman magazine. Video is available.
DPW sponsors “The Power of the Student Press: A First Amendment Workshop.” More than one hundred high school journalism students and their advisers participate in a daylong event featuring former NFPW president Marj Carpenter as a spellbinding keynote speaker. Armed with information from a packet on First Amendment rights and responsibilities–created by workshop co-directors Susan Dods and Barbara Roewe and supplied to them by DPW several weeks in advance–the student journalists revolve through three interactive discussion groups focused on censorship of the student press, on ethics and editorial responsibility, and on the information superhighway. Video is available.
WILM NewsRadio program manager, Allan Loudell, is the first man to join DPW.
Charter member Gloria Galloway, executive editor of two newspapers in N.H., is named first-ever DPW Communicator of Achievement. At the annual Holiday Luncheon, NFPW president Ruth Anna, of Colorado, presents the 1996 COA award to Gloria for a distinguished 50-year career in journalism. Valerie Helmbreck, News Journal features reporter, speaks about her role in breaking the story on golf commentator Ben Wright’s gender-biased remarks about women golfers at the 1995 McDonald’s LPGA Championship held at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington.
DPW raises more than $1100 toward a scholarship for local student journalist, Beth Beachell, to attend the 4-week NFPW National Journalism Scholars Academy at The Peddie School, Hightstown, N.J.
Thanks to outstanding programs as well as to increased interest in the 1996 First State Communications Contest, directed by Josephine Eccel, DPW doubles its membership numbers and is named the NFPW affiliate with the greatest percentage increase in membership. We get cash.
DPW newsletter DelAware Press Woman, edited by Katherine Ward, receives national award at NFPW communications conference in Charlotte, N.C.
Sally Rinard, freelance writer, poet and contributing writer for Delaware Today, is named DPW 1997 Communicator of Achievement.
Investment in snazzy communications contest brochure, designed by Mary Landoll, Susan Dods, and Josephine Eccel, pays off as contest entries almost triple and many new members join. Sixty first-place entries are sent to NFPW’s national competition.
Delaware Press Women celebrates 20th anniversary and pays tribute to founding, charter, and first-year members at annual meeting at DuPont Country Club
At a time when male membership in DPW has grown to 20 percent of its 90 members, Delaware Press Women, believing “a name change—not a values change—would help build a more inclusive community of women and men devoted to practicing excellence in communication,” votes to adopt “Delaware Press Association” as its new name.
Marion Kallfelz Rechsteiner, journalist, lawyer, award-winning freelance writer, and stand-in for Betty Crocker, is named DPA 1998 Communicator of Achievement.
Mary Louise Ponsell, print and broadcast journalist, co-editor of Delaware Women Remembered and head librarian at Wilmington College for a quarter century, is named the 1999-2000 DPA Communicator of Achievement.
DPA Communications Contest director Katherine Ward works on major revision of NFPW Communications Contest categories and is invited to speak about how to run a successful statewide contest at the NFPW annual communications conference in Alaska. DPA Communicator of Achievement Mary Lou Ponsell receives national recognition at the Alaska conference. Katherine’s mother, Mary Sam Ward (a member of DPA from its year of inception), is one of only 27 nationwide to be named one of the “NFPW Women of the Millennium.”
Award-winning journalist, author, and syndicated columnist Georgi Anne Geyer speaks about life as a foreign correspondent at DPA Holiday Luncheon.
Allan Loudell, program manager and news anchor at 1450 WILM NewsRadio, is named DPA 2001 Communicator of Achievement.
Ralph Begleiter, distinguished journalist in residence at the University of Delaware and former CNN world affairs correspondent, speaks about news coverage (local and international) in an era of media globalization at DPA Annual Meeting.
Three Delaware student journalists who received first place awards in DPA’s High School Journalism Contest win awards in the NFPW national competition; one goes to the national communications contest in Indiana in the immediate wake of 9/11 to accept award and give a talk at the awards luncheon.
David Barczak, award-winning art director for the University of Delaware’s Marine Public Education Office, designs new DPA logo.
DPA gets the big enchilada in the NFPW National Communications Contest Sweepstakes, in which points are awarded for each winning entry. Tracey Bryant, director of the University of Delaware’s Marine Public Education Office, wins the national first prize. Her colleagues David Barczak and Pam Donnelly share the national third prize. Collectively DPA entrants overwhelm the competition and receive the affiliate first prize. All receive cash prizes in addition to the honor.
Kay Wood Bailey, Delaware Prison Arts Program Administrator, journalist, radio and television-show host, historian, and artist, is named DPA 2002 Communicator of Achievement.
DPA sponsors writers’ workshop featuring historical fiction writer Miriam Grace Monfredo and a panel of local writers, who speak about writing and avoiding the pitfalls of the publishing process. Award-winning freelance writer and DPA member Theresa Medoff is one of the panelists.
Delaware Press Association celebrates 25th anniversary and salutes founding, charter and first-year members at annual meeting at DuPont Country Club.
Lise Monty, External Affairs Manager for the Delaware Art Museum, former editor of Delaware Today magazine and author of Images of Delaware, is named DPA 2003 Communicator of Achievement.
DPA has the honor of hosting the NFPW national communications conference, “Brave New Media World,” at the Wyndham Hotel in Wilmington, September 4 – 6. Conference Committee: Katherine Ward, Director; Jean Hull Herman, Secretary; Mary Lou Ponsell, Treasurer. Committee heads: Allan Loudell, Program Committee; Karen Galanaugh, PR/Promotion Committee; Pam Finkelman, Hospitality Committee; Susan Dods, Logistics Committee; Lise Monty, Pre- and Post-conference Tours Committee; Kim Burdick/Lynn Glaze, Sponsorship Committee; Volunteers Committee.
The last word belongs to DPA’s first president, Priscilla Tuminello: “In some small measure, DPA has helped—and will continue to help—both women and men rise above society’s inequities, to realize their individual potential and support each other and the young people who follow after us, to achieve their career goals and to contribute to an honorable and effective communications community.”