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THE WOMAN’S VIEWPOINT

THE WOMAN’S VIEWPOINT. The Women’s Viewpoint was a progressive woman’s magazine with an all-female editorial staff and was published in Houston during the 1920s. The first issue, with a photo of founder and editor Florence Mary Sterling on the cover, is dated December 12, 1923. The title began as a weekly publication, became bimonthly with the April 2, 1924, issue, and then monthly in September 1924. Sterling terminated her position with the family business, the Humble Oil Company (see EXXON COMPANY, U.S.A.), to devote her full time to the magazine and the interests it reflected. The first assistant editor was journalist Ola Harris Beaubien and one C. Seawright was the first business manager. The magazine was issued on a coated stock paper and bound with staples. The number of pages per issue began with fifteen, which slowly increased in number until the May 1925 issue, when it ballooned up to 103 pages. After that time, the number of pages decreased down to an average of sixty-four per issue. Starting with the May 1925, issue a subtitle of A Magazine Serving Humanity was added to the cover. This subtitle did not appear on the March 1926 issue or any time after. 

The function of the magazine was to create a vehicle for women to “fully, frankly and fearlessly” express their thoughts and opinions. The purpose is addressed in editorial statements in the first three issues and was re-addressed throughout the run of the publication. The raison d'etre is summed up in one of the editorials as being that:

 [Statesmen] could only see with the vision of men....Their view of women and women’s needs and women’s responsibilities and rights were the result of their conception of the relationship which women might have to men in a world created for men....No man—not the wisest nor the ablest—can provide the woman’s viewpoint. 

Having obtained the vote, women needed to accept the responsibilities of citizenship and take part in civic affairs. However, as beauty was considered of particular interest to women, the arts were also central to The Woman’s Viewpoint. Sterling also encouraged readers to send in contributions and use the publication as a medium of expression.

Sterling gained advertising for the magazine by supplying a copy of the first issue and a personal letter to the editors of Houston’s newspapers; the editors dutifully included news of the arrival of a new publication in their respective periodicals. It is likely that many others were also recipients of a free issue, as the last page of the first issue included a letter beginning, “We are mailing you the first issue of the Woman’s Viewpoint.” In 1925 the Texas House of Representatives passed a resolution regarding Florence Sterling, “who is ever foremost with her labor and her purse to promote every good work, has caused to be laid on the desk of every member a copy of the February issue of ‘The Woman’s Viewpoint’....” 

The content of The Woman’s Viewpoint mirrored the juxtaposition between the traditions of Southern womanhood and the forward movement of Texas’s Progressive Era that white middle- and upper-class women faced during this time. Included were articles on motherhood, “fashion fancies,” shopper’s guide, hostess helps, household hints, book and movie reviews, and other things that commonly populated women’s magazines of the 1920s. The Woman’s Viewpoint reported news concerning organizations such as the YWCA, the Girl Scouts, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Texas Woman's Press Association, the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers and education in general, as well as hereditary groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The featured articles were varied and included political discussions, profiles of enterprising women, accounts of the activities of women’s groups, poetry, short stories, and current events. Some noted creative writers who contributed included Grace Noll Crowell, Dorothy Scarborough, and Royal Dixon. An article by Eleanor Roosevelt appeared in the October 1925 issue. She wrote in the capacity of director of the City Housing Corporation of New York, an organization whose work in relieving congestion in New York was attracting national attention. On October 11, 1925, the Galveston Daily News ran an ad for The Woman’s Viewpoint, which promised that an article by First Lady Grace Coolidge would appear in the next issue. However, no such article appeared. 

One of the things that makes this publication of interest in the twenty-first century is the inclusion of profiles of women who, though active in Houston and the Gulf Coast area at the time, are not featured prevalently in other historical records. There are also many contributions made by notable Houstonians and other Texans such as Corinne Fonde, Julia Ideson, and Anna Pennybacker. Artists of note who contributed illustrations are Elizabeth Keefer and Grace Spaulding John. The covers initially had photographs, usually of a woman featured in the issue or a piece of artwork. Cover art made specifically for The Woman’s Viewpoint began with the issue for June 15, 1924. The first cover done in full color was created by Keefer for the April 1925 issue. In March 1926 the covers transitioned to the silhouette of a woman’s head in profile centered in the middle of the page. The February 1926 issue included a number of sketches by Mary Coates Highsmith, mother of novelist Patricia Highsmith, who was living in Fort Worth at the time.

In March 1926 Sterling moved the publication of the magazine to Albany, New York. The last known issue in existence was published in December 1926. This issue contained a list of articles to be featured in the upcoming issue for January; it is unclear whether it was actually published. The reason for the publication’s abrupt end is not easily determined. Many magazines produced in the first quarter of the twentieth century never found their way into a library and record of a complete run has not been located. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Laurie Champion, American Women Writers, 1900–1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2000). Ellis A. Davis, and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The New Encyclopedia of Texas (3 vols., Dallas: Texas Development Bureau, 1926). Imogene Bentley Dickey, Early Literary Magazines of Texas (Austin: Steck-Vaughn, 1970). Galveston Daily News, October 11, 1925.  Journal of the House of Representatives of the Regular Session of the Thirty-Ninth Legislature Begun and Held at the City of Austin, January 13, 1925 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., 1925). The Woman’s Viewpoint, December 12, 1923; December 19, 1923; January 30, 1924; May 15, 1924; September 1924; April 1925; October 1925; May 1926. 

Jo Collier

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Jo Collier, "The Woman’s Viewpoint," accessed May 27, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/edwom.

Uploaded on February 24, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.