Founded 1961 (History)

Compiled in 2001 by Pat Richardson, Historian

Alaska Press Women was founded in Fairbanks in 1961 just two years after Alaska became a state. Pioneer Alaskan journalist Kay Kennedy believed a professional network would benefit women writers and journalists who were geographically scattered and often isolated from other professional women in the “last frontier” state.

While living in Seattle and working for the Alaska Visitors Bureau, she joined the Washington state affiliate. When she returned to Alaska, she promoted an Alaska affiliate. Kennedy led the first membership drive, asking women in different regions to mail recruiting letters to qualified women in their area. The National Federation of Press Women required 10 members to establish an affiliate charter. State dues were $1 and national dues were $3.

With a state population of only 234,000 in 570,374 square miles, APW founders had difficulty finding and keeping 10 members. They stretched the definition of “writer” as far as they could. The charter was finally secured when 18 women qualified to become charter members.

Charter Members of the Alaska Press Women:

  • Kay Kennedy
  • Pat Oakes
  • Chris McClain
  • Phyllis Carlson

Seven women attended the first meeting of Alaska Press Women on September 9, 1961, at the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce log cabin visitor center. A ballot mailed earlier had elected Kay Kennedy of Fairbanks as the first president. Other officers during the first year were Bertha Digree of Kodiak as first vice president, Margaret Hornbeck of Fairbanks as second vice president, and Patricia Oakes of Circle City as secretary. At the first meeting, members appointed Helen Long of Valdez as treasurer to replace the first elected treasurer who resigned. The members adopted the first state constitution at an annual meeting in Anchorage in 1968.