In honor of National Women’s History Month, we’d like to recognize some women who broke through gender barriers in public relations during the early 20th century and carved out careers in what was then a male-dominated field. We salute women PR pioneers:
DORIS FLEISCHMAN started her career as a reporter for the New York Tribune in 1913. After leaving the paper, she did freelance publicity work for a few years, including for some of Edward Bernays’ clients. In 1919, she and Bernays opened a public relations firm together attracting high-profile clients like U.S. presidents and major corporations. It was considered one of the preeminent PR agencies from the 1920’s through the 1950’s.
Fleischman and Bernays were married in 1922. Although Fleischman spent much of her life overshadowed by her famous husband (often called the “father of public relations”), she is a significant historic figure in her own right. In addition to being a talented writer and PR strategist, she was a champion of gender equality, equal pay for women and a woman’s right to keep her own name after marriage. Fleischman was the first married woman to receive a U.S. passport in her maiden name.
JANE STEWART MAPES first worked in press relations for the Long Island Railroad before becoming John Hill’s assistant at Hill & Knowlton in 1945. She and her husband, John Maples, founded an opinion research company, Group Attitudes Corp., in 1950 and she served as president. The firm was acquired by Hill & Knowlton in 1956 and Stewart Mapes continued to serve as president of the subsidiary until her retirement in 1968. In 1966, she was named by Printer’s Ink as one of America’s top 40 women executives in communications and marketing.