Women's Use of Public Relations for Progressive Era Reform

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This study examines the confluence of social, economic and political conditions that characterized the Progressive era in the United States, women’s influence and actions to bring about social reforms at a time when they could not vote, and their use of public relations tactics designed to bring about reforms that they hoped would improve the lives of all Americans. This book explores women’s use of public relations strategies and tactics in charitable and social service organizations, women’s clubs and government agencies during the same time period that the nascent public relations profession was being used by businesses as a means to defend their status and to see support of the public by providing information about their operations more openly. This study also addresses the notion that women reformers tended to focus heavily on building relationship with individuals, groups and organizations to promote their causes.


“Most historical studies of public relations have focused on the men who led its development in the corporate realm during the Progressive era, as Dr. Straughan notes. This book, however, explores the contributions women and social reform movements made to public relations, adding to the growing body of literature that broadens our understanding of the field’s history. . . . Dr. Straughan and the other authors in this book have brought the stories of these women and their public relations activities in pursuit of social change to life. Each chapter illustrates the extent and the sophistication of the public relations practiced by these women and the social reform movements. The book makes a significant contribution to public relations history, broadening its scope and moving it beyond the strictures of its traditionally linear, corporate emphasis.” - Dr. Karla K. Gower, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Advertising and Public Relations, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Table of Contents

1 Rousing the Conscience of a Nation
2 Communicating Justice: The National American Woman Suffrage Association’s Use of Public Relations to Win the Right to Vote
3 Women’s Work: Public Relations Efforts of the US Children’s Bureau to Reduce Infant and Maternal Mortality, 1912-1921
4 From Radical Agitation to Progressive Reform: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement, 1911-1921
5 ‘Inequity’s Siamese Twins’: Frances Willard’s Alignment of Temperance and Sexual Reform
6 Ida B. Wells-Barnett and America’s First Anti-Lynching Campaign
7 “Lifting as We Climb”: The Role of The National Association Notes in Furthering the Issues Agenda of the National Association of Colored Women, 1897-1920
8 “The Children are Working Tonight”: The National Child Labor Committee’s Campaign to End Child Labor

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