Editor’s letter: Celebrating Women’s History Month with admiration for the women before me

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Kamrin Baker
EDITOR IN CHIEF 

Editor in chief Kamrin Baker honors the Gateway women who came before her. Photo by Andre Sessions/the Gateway
Editor Ellen Hartman poses at her desk in the 1930’s. Photo courtesy of the Gateway archives

In November of 2017, Glamour magazine created a #PoweredByWomen issue where all 17 global editions of the magazine were produced entirely by women, focusing on the gender disparity in the creative field. With the lovely Zendaya gracing the cover, I knew from my sophomore year that I wanted to be a part of something similar in my career.

I am a proud journalism major with a women’s and gender studies minor (and a gender and leadership certificate), so with Women’s History Month sneaking up on the calendar and some of my final Gateway issues as editor in chief headed to the printing press, I saw the perfect opportunity to lead an issue of our paper focused on one big, complex, fashionable topic: gender.

Our team at the Gateway is composed of some amazing, diverse voices, and no, I’m not kicking the fellas out of production this week because gender affects them, too. I wanted us to come together as a staff to highlight outstanding folks in our community—folks who are often marginalized because of their identities, whether those outstanding folks are cisgender women, women of color, non-binary and gender-nonconforming folks, trans women, or any other cool, brave, bright humans whom have been affected by gender. (Spoiler alert: we all have).

We have put our heads and hearts together to feature super smart swimmers, gutsy artists, savvy Girl Scouts, bold legislators, educators and survivors. Our cover, created by the amazing UNO graphic design student Megan Monismith, says it all: We are more than just one thing.

I know some may see this special edition as a push for a certain feminist or political agenda, but to me, bias toward gender equity is a lot better than bias against gender equity, and our transparency toward a more progressive future is something I believe we should be proud of.

Print and digital media present us with an opportunity – really, a responsibility – to inform the public and seek the truth using integrity to respect all people. I have a deep privilege to hold my pen (well, my MacBook keyboard) and I would be failing if I did not use the power of storytelling to its fullest potential.

In fact, the Gateway’s history is filled with a variety of women who have raised their voices – and their typewriters, scanners and InDesign files – with a reverence I strive to emulate.

Pearl Gaines was the first female editor-in-chief of the Gateway (then a yearbook) in 1916. She didn’t yet have the right to vote.

Ellen Hartman Peary Gast was an editor in the 1930’s and became a revered journalism educator in Omaha.

Another lead editor, Betty Ellsworth, was appointed to “Mademoiselle Magazine’s” national College Board in 1955—and wrote about the “self-made seamstresses” on campus, many of whom she befriended as a home economics-journalism major.

In 1972, a writer under the pen name Maggie May developed her own column called “Womankind,” in the Gateway, writing 11 articles on the women’s liberation movement.

In 1973, Gateway features editor Kristin Grady (now Kristin Grady Gilger) ran for student body vice president. In 2020, she is the senior associate dean at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University—and has co-authored a book about gender in newsrooms.

The year I was born, one of my professors—Wendy Townley—was, at the time, selected as the youngest editor-in-chief of the Gateway—19 years old in 1998.

“To be candid, the opportunity felt less like a leadership position and more like a membership to a creative diverse, unique and passionate community. I thrived in this position because of the staffers working alongside me,” Townley said. “It was an exhilarating, gratifying and scary experience to work for the Gateway, which has such a storied history at UNO.”

I am now the third editor-in-chief in a row that identifies as a woman, following Sophie Ford (a mighty design manager at a local advertising agency) and Jessica Wade (a persistent reporter at the Omaha World-Herald). My constant role model, however, is Josie Loza, a former early-2000’s Gateway editor turned publications manager, who has dedicated her career to turning up the volume for this publication and providing strength, wisdom and compassion for students.

Although the Gateway certainly has its flaws (I know someone out there is counting typos), this list is not comprehensive, and while I am extremely disappointed to see so little representation of women of color, I feel uniquely honored to be among these notable history-tellers and history-makers at our university. I am deeply indebted to the Gateway women who came before me—and I am honored to be in the company of whoever comes next.

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