A Woman to Know: Missy Meloney

One never came away depressed from seeing "Missy" Meloney. — Eleanor Roosevelt

One never came away depressed from seeing "Missy" Meloney. — Eleanor Roosevelt

(Missy on the left, wearing the tie; posing with the Curie women, image via Wikimedia Commons)

In the newspaper era of the 1920s and 1930s, one intrepid newspaperwoman was determined to outdo the swashbuckling newspapermen: Marie Mattingly Meloney, known professionally and socially simply as “Missy.”

In 1894, when she was just 16 years old, Missy got her first journalism job covering the Republican National Convention for The New York World. From there, she went on to work at The Denver Post, The Washington Post and The New York Sun, where she made her name writing the “Men About Town” column (I know, too good). Before the new century even dawned, she snagged one of the few Senate press passes allowed for female reporters.

Missy went on to edit magazines like This Week, Woman’s Magazine and The New York Herald Tribune’s Sunday. But while editing The Delineator, a popular women’s publication, she scored an exclusive interview with a relatively unknown scientist: Marie Curie.

Missy visited the legendary woman’s laboratory in 1920, when she discovered that Madame Curie had been giving away much of her expensive radium to treat cancer patients who couldn’t afford the pricey material. Missy took it upon herself to restock Curie’s supply for further experiments. She launched a nationwide campaign to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, “primarily by means of small donations and the help of many women throughout the country,” she wrote. Just a year later, she brought Marie Curie to the United States, where President Warren G. Harding presented the scientist with her valuable materials.

Missy went on to champion other pioneers like Curie, raising funds for women’s healthcare, the labor movement and other causes. Before she died in 1943, she worked to establish the New York Newswomen’s Club and befriended former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. As Eleanor wrote after her friend’s death:

If I am sometimes weary and think that perhaps there is no use in fighting for things in which I believe against overwhelming opposition, the thought of what she would say will keep me from being a slacker. She believed that women had an important part to play in the future. She not only helped such women as Marie Curie, who were great women , but she helped many little people like myself to feel that we had a contribution and an obligation to try to grow.

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