Women of History: Charlotte Saikowski

November 17, 2016

© Gordon Converse/The Christian Science Monitor.

For almost 30 years, Charlotte Saikowski was a journalist for The Christian Science Monitor—and one held in high regard. In fact, after her passing in 2000 former Editor John Hughes called her one of the all-time best journalists in the history of the newspaper.

Born in Chicago in 1927, Saikowski grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. She became a member of The Mother Church in 1944 and graduated from Principia College in 1947. After college she taught English at the University of Warsaw, Poland, for two years and studied violin at the Warsaw Conservatory of Music. Returning to the United States, she received a Master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University and worked for ten years as an editor at Columbia’s Current Digest of the Soviet Press.

Saikowski joined the Monitor staff in 1962. In her long career there, she lived in a variety of locations throughout the world, serving as the paper’s Japan correspondent, diplomatic correspondent in Washington, D.C., and Chief Editorial Writer in Boston. But it was her knowledge and understanding of the Soviet Union in the midst of the Cold War that won her the greatest respect and praise. Hughes recalled, “Ambassadors and former ambassadors, Cabinet ministers and foreign ministers, and distinguished professors of Soviet studies canvassed her views, exchanged impressions, and drew upon her knowledge.”1

Saikowski wrote about Soviet life, including a series titled “How Russians Live.” In one article from that series, she noted the contrast between Western and Soviet news gathering. With the Russian press, she wrote that “there is no such thing as information for its own sake. All Soviet news media are propaganda instruments of the state. They are not isolated, as are American media, from the governing establishment but are an integral part of it. Their purpose is not to provide cold facts on the basis of which the man in the street can make independent judgments. It is to mold public opinion, to exhort, instruct, persuade, mobilize.”2

In spite of the Cold War, Saikowski cherished the Soviets. “Every people,” she wrote, “it seems to me, has a yearning for self-worth, for security, for peace, a desire to better their lives, and so it seems to me that the more we can really love peoples everywhere, including the Soviet people, the Russian people, we’re going to contribute to their development in a more constructive direction.”3

Saikowski was the Monitor’s Washington bureau chief from 1983 until she retired in 1990. Over her career she served on the advisory board of the Pulitzer Prize and was a member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, National Conference of Editorial Writers, and the Gridiron Club in Washington. Additionally, her reporting won her numerous awards, including three Overseas Press Club awards for international reporting. In her retirement she served as First Reader and President of Sixth Church of Christ, Scientist, in Washington.

Saikowski lived her life with a commitment to the Monitor, and fully believed in its mission. In an interview with The Christian Science Journal she affirmed this: “The Monitor won’t allow us to retire into a smug, complacent world of our own. It is an educational instrument that would keep Christian Scientists looking outward, that would help clarify these complex issues and rouse Christians to pray for the healing of the world.”4

Listen to "The Christian Science Monitor—Genesis and Today," a Seekers and Scholars podcast episode featuring Monitor editor Mark Sappenfield.

Photo: © 1972 The Christian Science Monitor

Monitor profile on Charlotte Saikowski, “Who’s Who on the Monitor: Moscow Correspondent.”
The Christian Science Monitor, April 25, 1972, page 15.

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  1. John Hughes, “The lion-hearted Charlotte Saikowski,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 13, 2000, http://www.csmonitor.com/2000/0413/p11s2.html.
  2. Charlotte Saikowski, “Only master sleuths find hard news in Russia,” The Christian Science Monitor, May 12, 1972.
  3. “Dangers to Face Prophecies to Fulfill,” The Christian Science Journal, March 1985, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/1dznbxu9ji8?s=t
  4. The Christian Science Monitor: ‘A Mental Decontaminator,’” The Christian Science Journal, January 1979, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/28ii7czwujo?s=t