Agnes E. Ryan.

The Torch Bearer A Look Forward and Back at the Woman's Journal, the Organ of the Woman's Movement online

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pictures to carry the weekly message. But when a publication has to
be put to press on the same day every week, when one feels almost
instinctively that each issue must be better than the one before, and
when each week of the world every worker in the department carries a
double or triple load, some of the pleasure of writing and editing and
planning is worn away.

The material for the contents of the paper is gathered each week
from a variety of sources: From letters, personal interviews, press
chairmen of league and associations in the different states,
from bulletins, newspapers, periodicals, reports of meetings and
conventions, and from clipping bureaus. All material has, of course,
to be sorted and worked over for the various departments. It divides
chiefly into matter for editorials, for propaganda articles, for the
news columns, and for the activities reported under the headings of
the various states.

The editorial page of the Journal carries about 2,200 words each week.
This page goes to about 30,000 homes, libraries and clubs, and is read
by approximately 100,000 persons. Issued fifty-two times a year,
it means that Miss Blackwell makes about five million two hundred
thousand "drives" per year with her editorials alone to educate the
public on equal suffrage.

The news of the whole movement gleaned from the various sources
including some two hundred papers and periodicals each week, must be
so combined and boiled down as to occupy the smallest space; and it
must be interpreted, investigated and its relation to the general
current of events brought out so that the propaganda value of the
week's news is unmistakable.

Besides the editorials and the regular news of the movement, we use
occasional contributed articles, poems and stories. During 1915 for
the first time investigations of various sorts and analyses of news,
reports and various kinds of data were made to furnish a telling and
convincing array of facts, figures, data and information particularly
fitted for suffrage workers. Such material has been found especially
valuable for use with those who were wavering as to the merits of the

Many people would find it hard to believe, but it is true nevertheless
that a paper needs to consider itself something of a business matter.
This is particularly true of propaganda papers in spite of all that
has been said to the contrary. In the case of the Journal, we need
to plan to produce an article that cannot be excelled; we need to
manufacture a product so useful, so valuable, so indispensable, that
there must be a market for it.

It must be so run that the largest possible number of people will
be satisfied with its policy, and this is no easy matter if one has
convictions and wants to run the paper according to high ideals and
with certain principles dominant. Many people want personal notices
and trivial articles in the paper; some wish long manuscripts
published; others think their league meetings should be more fully
reported. The paper must, therefore, be so edited and the letters of
the department must be so written as to make every one feel that
the Journal is fair to all and that whatever it does is done with no
personal animosities, with no biases, and purely for the welfare of
the cause and in accordance with the best ideals we have been able to
work out. One of our tasks is to make all realize that in editing the
organ of the movement a great responsibility must be met and that mean
or small things cannot influence us.

All daily papers, all periodicals and magazines that live and become
powerful relate their editorial policy very closely to their business
plans. And whether the end and aim of a publication is to make money
or to make converts to some cause or idea, the editorial policy cannot
be planned independent of the circulation of the paper without running
the risk of defeating its purpose.

[Illustration: THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS Left to Right - Lower row Emma L.
Blackwell, Alice Stone Blackwell, Grace A. Johnson
Upper row Maud Wood Park, Agnes E. Ryan]

In this connection a suffragist can scarcely help coveting for her
paper the circulation which the various women's magazines of fashion
have attained. The thought leads almost inevitably to the question,
How did they get their large circulation?

Now whenever there is large use made of any article under the sun, the
reasons for its extensive use simmer down to three; First, the article
must be something that practically everybody needs; Second, the
marketers of the article must spend a lot of money in advertising
the article and making the public think it wants it; or, Third, the
article must carry with it some great interest and attraction that
makes people want it.

The first kind of article is usually one of the necessities of life.
The second is in a greater or less degree usually one of the comforts
of life. The third kind is neither a matter of physical necessity
nor of physical comfort; it is usually something that feeds the mind,
diverts the mind, or kindles the emotions. Obviously the manufacturer
of the third kind of article must mind his P's and Q's or he will not
sell his product at all.

Newspapers, periodicals, and magazines, of course, come under the
third class. Now while a good daily paper and a good weekly review
of events have become almost necessities for the mass of mankind, a
propaganda paper is neither a necessity nor a physical comfort, and
for its circulation it must depend to a great extent for financial
support on making itself so interesting and attractive that a larger
number of people than the already converted, the reformers, will want

How then shall a propaganda paper make itself so interesting and
attractive that those outside its fold will want it and want it badly
enough to pay for it and read it - when there are so many attractive
and interesting publications to read in busy days?

The problem solves itself if the paper records news of vitality,
of heroism, of martyrdom, of stinging injustice in connection with
everyday life, - if the doings within the movement are vital and
challenging and kindle the imagination.

[Illustration: Mrs. Fredrikke S. Palmer, Staff Artist]

One of the biggest "strikes"
in the recent history of the
Woman's Journal has been the
addition of Mrs. Palmer to the
staff. Her drawings, contributed
gratis, have attracted
country-wide attention, because
of their artistic quality. Mrs.
Palmer studied art in Christiania,
Norway, and is the wife
of Prof. A.H. Palmer, of Yale

[Illustration: Mrs. Oakes Ames, Staff Artist]

One of Mrs. Ames's cartoons
brought down the disapprobation
of Ex-President Taft but
the approbation of a great many
suffragists. Mrs. Ames is treasurer
of the Massachusetts
Woman Suffrage Association
and wife of the director of the
Botanic Garden of Harvard University.

But women's lives are full of just such vitally interesting matters.
There are such glaring cases of inequality before the law, such abuses
and atrocities in women's working world today, such humiliation and
insinuation in the personal life of womankind, simply because of sex,
that, were the half of it told, the suffrage movement would take on
such proportions as even the leaders do not dream of.

Because an experience is common in the life of womankind, because an
abuse is as old as the hills, it is no less vital, no less thrilling,
no less in need of righting. And because some men are opposed,
secretly or openly, to its righting is no reason why we should be
silent. Before the women of this country are fully enfranchised, a
hard fight, an almost life and death struggle for liberty, must be
fought, and it will be a shorter fight the hotter it is. And the heat
of the battle and the shortness of the struggle will depend almost
entirely on our courage in presenting vividly and with power woman's
case to women themselves.

=Members of the Firm of E.L. Grimes Co.=

Printers of The Woman's Journal

[Illustration: M.J. Grimes]

[Illustration: E.L. Grimes]

[Illustration: W.P. Grimes]

=Our Volunteer Suffrage News Service=

Instead of a staff of paid correspondents and a special news service,
the Woman's Journal has a large unnumbered staff of volunteers and
its news service which extends all over the civilized world also is

The editorial output is, therefore, greatly enhanced each week by the
careful vigilance of its many volunteer workers. In this service all
readers are invited to join by mailing to the Journal clippings, news,
articles, items, poems, pictures, jokes, examples of discriminations
against women, examples of women's achievements, and ideas of all

=The Connecting Link=

When I think of the Circulation Department of the Woman's Journal,
I feel as I think Angela Morgan must have felt when she wrote the
following lines for the beginning of her great poem, "Today:"

"To be alive in such an age!
With every year a lightning page
Turned in the world's great wonder book
Whereon the leaning nations look....
When miracles are everywhere
And every inch of common air
Throbs a tremendous prophecy
Of greater marvels yet to be.
O thrilling age!"

The Woman's Journal is the connecting link between the individual
suffragist and the movement itself, and a certain thrill and delight
and marvel get hold of me when I realize how wonderful each year is
and how full of prophecy and promise and marvel is the cause for which
we all work.

Because the Circulation Department of the Woman's Journal is the
tangible bond which holds us all together and makes one big family
of all who work for the movement and all who are in any way connected
with the paper, I am going to try to take the readers of these
pages into the Journal offices and let them see the processes of the

While Miss Blackwell, Mr. Stevens, Miss Smith, Mr. Morris and myself
are spending part of our time in preparing reading matter and pictures
for the paper, and while we are working at the printing office of the
Grimes Brothers on Wednesdays, Miss Spink, Miss Ethel Costello and
their assistants, Miss Mosher, Miss Isabel McCormick, Miss Falvey,
Miss Hegarty, Miss McCarthy, Miss Collins, Miss Cox, Miss Johnson,
Miss Gilbert, and Miss Hazel McCormick are diligently at work in the
Circulation Department.

What do they all do? the subscriber may ask. In the first place, the
Journal goes to forty-eight states, besides Alaska and the District of
Columbia, and to thirty-nine foreign countries. On a page by itself,
in the back of this little book, will be shown the list of foreign

When a subscription is received at the office, the letter carrying it
has to be opened and the money entered by Miss Elizabeth Costello in
the ledger - and it takes just as long to enter 25 cents or a dollar
as to enter $1,000, and it must be done just as accurately. If
the subscription is sent in for one's self, no acknowledgment is
necessary, for the next issue of the paper is sufficient to tell the
subscriber that her money and order have been received. If, however,
as so often happens, one person sends a subscription for another,
two additional processes must be carried out: We must acknowledge the
order and money to the person who sends it, and we must tell the other
person (if the subscription is a gift) that the paper is being sent to
her with the compliments of her friend, or by an anonymous person,
as the case may be: but at any rate, that the subscription is for a
certain time and that she will not be billed for it. This takes
two letters and two stamps. When a subscription is sent in by some
suffragist who is acting as agent in forwarding subscriptions for
other people, we acknowledge the order only to the sender,
thinking that receipt of the paper by the subscriber is sufficient
acknowledgment. In this connection, one of our worst problems is to
learn from those who mail us subscription orders whether they are
simply forwarding for other people or are sending the paper at their
expense in the hope of making a convert or of introducing it
to someone, with the hope that she will want to continue the
subscription. The trouble comes in the question of knowing whom to
ask to renew. Sometimes the sender means to renew for the person, and
sometimes she means to have us ask the person to renew for herself.
We have no means of knowing unless the sender tells us. We have found
that whichever way we do, some of our friends do not like it. We
have, therefore, adopted the system of asking the person who has
been receiving the paper to renew for herself unless we have
been definitely instructed not to do this. Some people tell us to
discontinue the subscription when the time has expired. We do not
think this a fair thing to ask, for the obvious reason that everyone
ought to have a chance to renew for herself in case the giver does not
want to renew for her.

The third step in receiving a subscription is to write the name in the
proper place on the subscription lists that go to the mailing
company every Tuesday night. The states in these lists are arranged
alphabetically, the towns and cities are arranged alphabetically and
the names of subscribers are arranged in the same way. In addition to
this the books have to be arranged in districts that correspond to the
mail routing of the United States post office. This is an arbitrary
dividing, and it increases the work of finding the proper place for
entering a subscription. In this a post office chart has to be used

After an entry has been made in the mailing books, the subscription
order, before it is filed, goes to the subscription cards. There the
clerks must see whether the name is already on the books, or, if not,
if it has ever been on our books (In the latter case we revise the
former card instead of making a new one). The subscription cards look
like the one reproduced below.

[Illustration: Subscription Card]

Some letters that bring subscription orders contain many other items
that must be attended to before the order or letter is filed. For
instance, a letter may contain a new subscription, a renewal, a
remittance or a request to send a bill, an order for sample copies,
for papers to sell at a meeting, for literature, a request for
information and an item or poem or article for the columns of the
paper. Each matter mentioned in the letter must, of course, be
attended to before the letter can go to the files. To avoid having a
letter filed before all of its orders or requests have been attended
to, we stamp each piece of mail with a little rubber stamp that looks
like the following:




Date Received



Circ......Amt. & page.

Every piece of first-class mail that reaches the office is stamped
with these abbreviations and is at once checked for the different
stages through which it must go before it is filed. The clerk filing
must see that every check on the stamp has a sign after the check to
show that the particular matter indicated has been attended to.

Of course, another part of the subscription work is in making changes
of address, changing dates of expiration and removing names of
those who do not want to continue to receive the paper, such as
the anti-suffragists, who do not want to be converted, to whom some
relative or friend or acquaintance has been sending the paper out of
her own pocket.

Then there is the work involved in getting subscribers to renew. When
the subscription list contained only twenty-four hundred names and
when there were few letters to write, it was possible to know the
names and perhaps something of the history of every subscriber,
especially since only a few were put on the books in a week. But with
a circulation of nearly thirty thousand it is obviously impossible for
any one person to give the whole list personal attention.

The result is that the business policy of the paper has had to be
changed a number of times to meet the changing needs. In the earlier
days of the paper it was thought that subscribers would watch the
expiration date on the wrapper of their paper and would send in the
renewal price without any kind of reminder. In those days Miss Wilde
and her assistant would go over the books twice a year and send a
reminder to all who had not renewed. As the list grew larger, this
plan seemed unsatisfactory to both the subscriber and the paper. Since
people were at liberty to start a subscription at any time in the
year, it was plain that a year's subscription would run out at the
same time the following year, and since this was going on twelve
months in the year, we began sending out bills each month to those
subscribers whose subscriptions were about to expire. That system was
in operation from 1910 through 1915.

During 1915, it was made possible for us to have enough helpers in the
office to make a study of the Circulation Department with a view
to seeing where improvements could be made, what leakages could be
stopped, and what kind of circulation work was paying. The result was
that we decided that along with our efforts to get new subscriptions
we must carry on a new kind of work to keep those already obtained
on our books. We found that it was not sufficient simply to send the
paper to a person for a certain time and then ask her to renew. We
found that we needed to study the source of the subscription, the
motive for subscribing, and how best to appeal to the subscriber
to renew. We found that since we had been keeping the record (1910
through 1915), about 26,000 persons have been on our books and for
some reason or other are no longer there. A careful study and a long
one showed that those whose papers had been discontinued in that
period fell into the following classifications:

1. Those who had died.

2. Unconverted antis.

3. Those who had not paid
after we had sent three

4. Those who had moved without
giving us their change
of address.

5. Those whom the post office
reported as "not found."

6. Those who asked to be
discontinued without giving
a reason.

7. Those who said they could
not afford it.

8. Those who said they were
too busy to read it.

9. Those who said they were
converted and did not
need it.

10. Those who disapproved of our policy in some way.

The number of new subscriptions and the number of papers discontinued
for 1915, by the month, is shown below so that readers may understand
how serious is this problem and so that they may understand why every
subscriber and every suffragist ought to help keep the numbers in
these ten classes as small as is possible, if they care to have a part
in making the paper self-supporting.

New Subscriptions Discontinuances
January 1,297 407
February 2,088 346
March 1,048 714
April 532 225
May 1,259 301
June 972 492
July 1,513 253
August 2,265 188
September 1,135 168
October 657 312
November 326 140
December 563 263

In this connection it ought to be said here that all subscriptions
divide into two classes: Those that are expected to make converts
and may or may not be expected to renew, and second, those who are
suffragists and may logically be expected to renew. When an order for
a subscription is given, it, therefore, ought to make clear whether it
is for a suffragist or for some one who it is hoped will be converted
by reading the paper. If the name is that of a suffragist, it is
legitimate and entirely fair that we should offer the paper for her at
$1.00 a year and should expect her to renew, and it may be considered
our fault if she does not. If, on the other hand, the paper is being
sent merely as a piece of propaganda literature to a person who
knows nothing of the cause, to one who is undecided, or to an avowed
anti-suffragist, it ought to be paid for as literature and that name
ought not to be counted as legitimate circulation.

How many of the total number of discontinuances come from the use of
the paper as propaganda literature, and how many come from the rank
and file of suffragists whom we ought to be expected to hold as
regular readers, cannot be known. Detailed records showing this are
being kept for 1916, and we expect to be in a better position to solve
some of the circulation difficulties in the future than ever in the
past, - chiefly because we never dared to spend the money to have the
records and study and analyses made.

It ought to be said in this connection that we have, since the first
of the year, revised our whole system of billing and are sending a
different kind of reminder to renew to those who have been receiving
a trial subscription, a complimentary subscription from a friend, a
first year subscription for which they have themselves paid, from
the one we send to those who have been taking the paper for a year
or more. With the latter, for the most part, we simply have to remind
them that their subscription has run out. In the billing department,
therefore, we have six different kinds of reminders or requests to

So much for that part of the work of the Circulation Department that
has to do with entering, recording, billing, analyzing and studying.
We turn now to what may be called plans and advance work for making
more subscriptions come in, that is, for increasing the circulation of
the paper.

We have on cards the names of nearly 35,000 members of suffrage
leagues who are not subscribers for the Woman's Journal. This large
list is, roughly, only about 30 per cent of the dues-paying membership
of the suffrage leagues of the country. An effort is being made to get
the total dues-paying and non-dues-paying membership of the leagues
and organizations in order that we may send each member who is not a
subscriber a sample copy of the organ of the movement and ask her to

Besides the league lists, we have the names of over 1300 prominent men
and women who believe in equal suffrage but are not subscribers. In
addition we have other lists totaling about 32,000 suffragists whose
names are not on our books.

This makes over 68,000 suffragists who, so far as we know, have never
seen a copy of the organ of the movement, and have never been asked
to subscribe. Each week scores and sometimes hundreds of such
suffragists, who are not subscribers, write letters to our office,
to the offices of the National Suffrage Association and to other
headquarters and offices, asking for information which the Woman's
Journal publishes from week to week. Think of the waste! They have the
faith but not the knowledge to make converts, to answer objections,
to write "copy" for the newspapers, to make addresses, to take part in
debates, to write articles for the magazines, and to do the thousand
and one things that suffragists must do if the present generation of
women is not to go down to the grave unenfranchised as their mothers
and grandmothers did.

Think of it! Nearly 70,000 known suffragists who do not subscribe. In
the interest of efficiency they ought all to be constant readers of
the paper. But how are they to be reached? There are two ways: First,
by the officers of the organization to which they belong; and second,
by means of letters, sample copies, and follow up letters until the
last one of them has enrolled as a regular reader.

But advance work requires funds. No matter how necessary to the cause
of equal suffrage it may be to enroll those 68,000 suffragists as
readers, the United States Post Office will not sell us stamps for
writing to them unless we can make cash payments. Funds for other
parts of the work of increasing the circulation are equally necessary,
and the work halts for lack of that which reformers always lack.

The Woman's Journal can make suffrage speeches every week in the
remote parts as well as in the crowded cities, and it can do this more
cheaply than can any other agent of equal quality. But if the paper
is to do its part in the general suffrage work, it must be through the
body of organized suffragists, and not single-handed. The movement is
growing too fast for the management, unaided by organization, to make

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Online LibraryAgnes E. RyanThe Torch Bearer A Look Forward and Back at the Woman's Journal, the Organ of the Woman's Movement → online text (page 2 of 4)