Women of History: Cora Rigby

December 3, 2015

Cora Rigby (1865-1930) made unique contributions to the field of journalism. Her career spanned a period in history when women were beginning to find a place in this profession.

Born in Lancaster, Ohio, Rigby began writing for a political column in a Columbus newspaper when still a girl. Her first job was a staff position with The Boston Globe, followed by work as a reporter for other publications in New York and London. She joined The Christian Science Monitor’s Washington, D.C., bureau in 1919. That year she was one of ten women who, along with 100 men, gained access to the United States House and Senate press galleries. Three years later she became the bureau’s manager, working in that role for the rest of her career.  She joined the Christian Science church in 1925. At the time of her death, she was the only woman to have headed a news bureau in the nation’s capital.

Perhaps one of Rigby’s most notable achievements was her role in founding the National Women’s Press Club (NWPC), in response to what she referred to as “the conspiracy of men to keep women off the newspapers—or at least to reduce their number, wages, and importance to a minimum.” 1 The all-male National Press Club heartily enforced the prevalent biases of the time, barring women from membership as well as attendance at its functions. In the autumn of 1919, soon after the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting universal suffrage, Rigby and five other women in the Washington press met in her Monitor office, to form their own organization designed to further the progress of women in the field of journalism. The NWPC grew in influence and proved itself, operating for decades—even after the National Press Club at last voted to admit women in 1971. Rigby served as its president for three successive terms.

Rigby’s correspondence indicates she was frank and to the point, by all accounts an exceptional journalist who also had the confidence and managerial skill needed to supervise and at times mentor an office of aggressive political reporters. “Her male colleagues in Washington bore her in highest esteem,” wrote Monitor editor Erwin Canham. “I know, for I was first introduced by her to the leaders in the press corps there on my first venture in capital [Washington] journalism. I saw the respect and affection with which she was accepted everywhere.” 2

Rigby worked for the Monitor up until her death in 1930. She led her profession forward, through a combination her own skill as a reporter and her courageous commitment to securing a place for women in American journalism.

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

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  1. Winifred Mallon, “The Whole Truth, As Far As It Goes About Ourselves,” typescript dated July, 1937, Women’s National Press Club files, National Press Club Archives, Washington, D.C.
  2. Erwin D. Canham, Commitment to Freedom (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958), 280