Thesis

Cornelia Wells Walter: first American woman to edit a daily newspaper, Boston Daily Evening Transcript, 1842-1847

This thesis is a study of Cornelia Wells Walter, first American woman to edit a daily newspaper. She served as editor of the Boston Daily Evening Transcript from 1842-1847. Under her editorship, the Transcript retained the cultural and intellectual tone established when her brother founded the paper in 1830. Upon his death, Walter was asked by the publisher to take her brother’s place as editor of the paper. The Transcript reflected the interests of the elite of Boston, particularly benevolent and reform issues, but it also dealt with political issues including the rights and education of women, the annexation of Texas, the Mexican War and Irish immigration. This thesis includes an overview of the history of women and their changing status in this country from colonial times to the first half of the 19th century, with an emphasis on upper class Boston women. This provides the framework in which to view the early life and education of Cornelia Walter. Family letters, school essays and manuscripts by Walter, diaries and other family documents on file at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston are used to describe the forces that shaped this 19th-century journalist. As editor of the Transcript and a member of upper class society, she wielded enormous power and influence. In a society which held firm ideas of woman’s place, she managed to transcend these barriers to become a respected, responsible and influential member of the Boston press.

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