[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Biagi: I wanted to start today's discussion talking about your experience being asked to leave AP, essentially, because of the mandatory retirement age there.
Beebe: I wasn't asked. That was another thing about it. [Laughter.] I think it was before I went to Europe, when I was just working along there, that I got a pamphlet. Once in a while, the AP would put out one, you know, about policies and stuff. Buried down in it was this little paragraph about the policy for women to retire at 55. I was sort of startled. Of course, nobody in my office had ever heard anything about it.
Biagi: About when did you get this pamphlet, do you know? Had you been there for a while?
Beebe: Oh, no, nothing was said when I came at all. Never. I think it was probably shortly after my husband's death and I just came back and was working there. It startled me, and I asked around did anybody know about this. Nobody did. Of course, there wasn't any other woman. I was uneasy, but really I kind of put it aside, because I always was confident that if you were good, you didn't really need to worry, you know. [Laughter.] If they wanted you, if you were really good, they needed you, and it was probably an outdated thing, anyway.
However, when I was taking stock of career, I had it in mind and thought if it should turn out to be true, I'd better hurry to do something, because who knew? There wasn't an awful lot of time ahead. Then the only notice I got was from the business office in New York. You see, that's automatic. You do give them your birth certificate when you come, and therefore, when Joe or whoever, no matter what he does in the AP, you just get this notification that your pension will be so and so and you'll be doing it at this time. So then, of course, I did get busy about it. We had a new national executive. I didn't know any of the New York people by that time, or very few. I said, "I realize there's probably a transition time that this would be changed." He didn't know that there was any change. I said, "Well, is it taken into consideration at all a person's record?"
He said, "Well, you know, I've talked to lots of men at retirement time, and they always think they're as good as they ever were." Of course, he didn't know anything about me or anything, but that was pretty discouraging.
Biagi: So you were approaching 55?
Beebe: That's right. I was 47 when Edwin died. Then it took me quite a long time, this campaign, to get to Europe. I decided that I'd better move and do something. I was just treading water there and perfectly content to do it. The stuff kept coming.
Well, the head of the Guild came to me and said, "You know, if you'd consent, we'd really like to make a case of this, because you're a good subject, you see. You've got a good record, and we'd like to do it." I was mortified, of course. I had read stories about women who were fired and made a fuss. I always privately thought they probably weren't much good, anyway. [Laughter.] I just didn't want to be in that position. So I said I'd really rather not.
I guess maybe I was cowardly. I should have done it. I suppose if I'd been a feminist, I would have thought, "Well, I ought to do it," because I think they would have won.
The AP, you know, has since had to—they fought for ten years a discrimination suit that some gals brought, and they finally settled it. The women were getting a lot of money and they had to come out and offer to give them executive posts and all this! This is fairly recent. I'll look for that. I have the note that was sent to bureau chiefs, because a couple of them gave it to me. But this came all later.
Biagi: Do you have any regrets that you didn't take a stronger role at that time?
Beebe: Well, as I look back, I think perhaps I should have done it, but, no, as a matter of fact, as I say here [looking at letter], things have turned out in a queer way. If that had happened, without question, I probably would have won, and I would have been put back in my wire-filing post that I wanted, and I would have stayed there and eaten carbon dust for the rest of my time. It would have been just a dull, monotonous playing-out until I got to be 65. As it was, I had to scramble for ten years.
The terribly unfair thing about it was that the AP had changed its pension system when the Social Security came in, and they said, somewhat huffily, that if the government was now going to interfere, they would have to rethink, and their pension system would be supplementary to the government. In other words, less! So what was I to do for the ten years that I wasn't going to get any? And my pension was $88 a month.
Biagi: There was no Social Security at 55 then?
Beebe: Oh, yes!
Biagi: Oh, there was?
Beebe: Oh, yes. It came in in the mid-thirties.
Biagi: But I mean, were there any Social Security benefits at age 55?
Beebe: Oh, no. You waited. You could do it at 62, but you took a lower amount.
Biagi: So this would have been your total income, then, $88 a month on that pension.
Beebe: Yes, on that pension, would have been until 62. Of course, I wouldn't want to take it at 62, anyway.
But as I told you, I was not particularly feminist. I thought, "Well, that's the way things are. What do I do?" And so I began. I just scrambled.
Biagi: Did you have any other source of income at that time, or would this have been it?
Beebe: Well, not an income. Of course, after Mother died, I had a little money, and I invested that, by the way, and made some money on it. And I always had some saved. Money was never very important to me. You see, I was not supporting a family and I always had followed my father's advice. He said, "If you just spend a little less than you have, you're always all right." [Laughter.] And since I never cared too much about clothes or things, it just never—I always made, you see, what the men did, so I felt good about that, and sometimes more. I was just told to not mention it. I felt all right about my money, but I just knew that I was going to have to have a payroll. I couldn't live on that.
Biagi: Sure. What was your salary then?
Beebe: You keep asking me that, and I can't remember. I have these two—the things that I got out there. It will give you some idea about how they—that's what the "great god" would do to newcomers, but you never saw him thereafter. Here. Is there a date on that?
Biagi: Effective September 15, 1942.
Biagi: Your salary was increased by six dollars to $63.50 weekly.
Beebe: Yes, we had it weekly. It was this long before—$100 a week was considered pretty top stuff.
Biagi: So in 1947, October 9th, it says you were making $100 weekly.
Biagi: So by the time you were ready to retire, then, or they were ready to retire you, I should say, what would you say your salary was, if you had to guess?
Beebe: I suppose—I doubt if it was more than $125. Meanwhile, I think, they had changed to monthly. The Guild figured out they could cheat us out of a couple of days. [Laughter.] You know, the Associated Press has a bad reputation for being very chintzy, and it's because their organization is different, you see. They are a co-op and their big bosses are the directors of big papers who want them to keep expenses down, and they also want their own stars to be not eclipsed by the AP.
In fact, I think this might be interesting. Leonard Milliman was very active in the Guild, and he was a wonderful guy. I was rather proud of his union activities. He said that in New York the executive at the time, Wes Gallagher, had privately told him to put lots of pressure on them to bring the salaries up. He said, "We want them up. We want to get the better people, and we need this pressure to counteract the pressure of our board, which is trying to keep us down," which I thought was quite interesting. But my relations with the AP people I worked with were always very pleasant, and whenever I was in any need, they always made a great effort, you know, to do whatever I wanted. And it was a very pleasant atmosphere, too, because we were all—there was pretty good equality there. Senior journeyman newsmen, you moved from spot to spot. There wasn't this hierarchy much.
Biagi: So you were going to go, then, from roughly $500 a month to $88 dollars a month.
Beebe: I don't think it was $500 a month. Oh, no!
Biagi: If it was $125 a week, it would have been $500 a month.
Beebe: Well, maybe. Maybe so.
Biagi: Something close to that. It was a big cut.
Beebe: It was a big cut. Of course, I just considered it impossible. I just knew that I would have to be on a payroll somewhere. Because you asked if I had any other money. I can't even remember.
I had some resources, but no other income. As I told you, we were wiped out with Edwin's four-year illness. There was no health plan, and that's what happened.
Biagi: So how did you go about looking for work?
Beebe: Well, it was not easy. Of course, I had lots of friends then, because I knew everybody. [Laughter.] Fortunately, all of my outside work, as the outside man for the AP, I really knew people, but I knew that a woman in her fifties, that was what was so hard on me. I thought, "Well, here I am. I'm kind of a drug on the market. It doesn't matter what I am or can do, I am."
I went, of course, down to United Air, where I had some friends, and they said, "We'd like nothing better than to have you, but it's taken us almost a year to push through a man that we very much wanted, who is ten years younger than you." Because you see, then they had all these fringe benefits, so they couldn't really afford to take people that were much—they didn't want anybody over 40.
So I thought, "Well, I'll just see." I was interested in the [Adlai] Stevenson campaign, and I decided I was going to work for it, you know, no matter. I would try to get a job in it, if I could, and I saw friends. It was a fixer who came and he said he had inquired about me. He didn't inquire of any of my bosses; he went around and inquired of opposition paper people that worked with me. He said, "I can't believe what I hear. You can't be that good." So I went to work in the Stevenson campaign.
Biagi: In San Francisco?
Beebe: In San Francisco.
Biagi: What were you doing?
Beebe: Well, what does the publicity do in a campaign?
Biagi: Was that what you were doing, publicity?
Beebe: Yes, publicity for the area. There was a man in charge, of course, and he was absolutely terrible. Shortly before the end, he had a fist fight with the fixer, and I was left alone to carry through to the end. They were so pleased about that, that they said, "We'd like to take you up to Sacramento." As I said at that time, if a bunch of good safe-crackers had invited me to join them, I would have considered it. [Laughter.] So I did go up to Sacramento.
Biagi: Let me back up one second. A couple of things. You said "fixer." What do you mean by "fixer"?
Beebe: Elinor said, "The sinister Don Bradley." I don't think he had any title, but he was the man that kind of put together the political things, saw people and arranged things. He was just always kind of there.
A campaign, you know, is like a mushroom. You have to gather people to work for it, and there's something the matter, usually, with all of them, because they don't have regular jobs, just like me. So it's a queer bunch that you get. It was all new to me; everything was new. All these six jobs—and I do think we should summarize them—were pretty much like that. I had every time a whole new thing, and I had to learn a whole new set of people, a whole new set of names, and it really kept me hopping. And I think it was good for me. It was much more interesting than it would have been had I had to just label myself as somebody that had a job
because they were made to keep me on. Of course, I don't think I would have stood that. I hope I could have broken out of it. But it would have been hard, because that label would have been on you.
Biagi: Enumerate now your six careers after AP.
Beebe: I can do that. That was a legislative session, and I didn't know about that. I hadn't even studied political science. I didn't know how the government really worked.
Biagi: So you did move to Sacramento?
Beebe: Oh, yes. Well, I got a place up there. I commuted weekends back to this home in Westridge. My fixer said, "I think we can get quarters for you in the Capitol." I'm working with the Republicans, so they each one had. So I was led to my quarters in the Capitol, and it was a cloakroom of one of the legislative hearing rooms, you know. Into it I went, and here was a large urinal and a coat rack and one table. I don't think there was a chair. He was going to get a chair. And there was a filing case, empty. They said I'd get a phone in here.
Biagi: How did you cover up the urinal?
Beebe: I didn't! [Laughter.] My back was to it.
Biagi: You didn't put plotted plants in it or something?
Beebe: It didn't bother me. I wasn't receiving people, anyway.
Biagi: What were your responsibilities?
Beebe: Well, I was to get out a newsletter, a weekly newsletter for the Democrats, who were at that time on the rise. The Senate was evenly divided, Democrats and Republicans, and the Assembly was still dominantly Republican. No Democrat could get elected except by being sort of a maverick. The proposal made to me was, "We want to lift the party. We want to get better people as candidates. Now we go to some promising young men and we say, 'We want you to run,' and they say, 'No way! That thing?' We're trying to get better people. We think if we get together and have a voice, this is what we're going to try to do."
They had a weekly caucus, from which the press was excluded, but they would take a stand on something. After the caucus, the press always jumped to me, you know, if I could give them a program, which was good.
Biagi: What year is this, now?
Beebe: This was '57, '58. Goodwin Knight was the governor, and I was a hatchet man. I gave him a bad breakfast many mornings, when we put out releases. I didn't do any of the investigative work; I was simply to put out releases with what I was given. I found it was rather fun, because my newspaper friends up there—of course, I had them—had said that they just felt that Knight was really very poor quality, California deserved better. So I felt all right about it. I felt if we could get him out, it was good. [Laughter.] I've wondered now since, if I'd been a little older, if I would have done it. People would say, "Oh, that's great stuff!" They evidently loved this "bang-bang," kind of old-fashioned things that they could get on him. Then it was a grind to get out that weekly newsletter that was distributed to the legislators so they could use any of it or say it was theirs and send it to their papers at home, or take anything out of it. So it was a busy time.
Then the session was over, and I was home again. Let me see.
Biagi: How long did a session last then? Do you remember?
Beebe: Well, you went into the summer, early. But meanwhile, you see, I had made the dicker with the Associated Press. They said, well, they usually would extend—see, in some cases they'd extend for a year. Then when they told me, yes, they'd extend my stay for a year, I said, "How about instead of that, I come back for summer vacation relief here for three years? I would like to do that." That would give me at least an income for sure for that time, and they agreed to that. So I guess I came back then.
Biagi: Was it the summer of '58, then?
Beebe: Yes, to AP. Up at the legislature, I had been interested in the Educational Television Bill. Cappy [Casper] Weinberger, by the way, was the Republican who was pushing it, so we used to kid each other that we were both in support of a good project, although, of course, everything else we did was all wrong. [Laughter.] I liked Cappy Weinberger, and I never have been able to quite see this Defense hawk that we've had. Strange.
That led to my meeting Lyle Nelson, who was the director of publications and number-two man at San Francisco State. He was also interested in this educational television. It was through him, because he was leaving for a much higher-paying job in Michigan, he got me the job at San Francisco State as his successor there.
Biagi: Which was the job of what?
Beebe: Well, it was director of publications. The odd thing about it, Lyle Nelson was working with Leonard, the president [of American University of Beirut], who was leaving for Beirut, and the new president coming in was a big Republican. [Laughter.] So I was wondering a little about that. I was working at the AP, summers. I went and interviewed [Glenn] Dumke, who was the new president at San Francisco State, and afterwards told him my situation, that I was looking for a job, but a temporary one. I knew that was the way to do. He said he was interested at once, because he had a man that he had his eye on, who was finishing his Ph.D. He said, "I need somebody just to be dignified and sit on the job for a year." But when he said publications, I said, "I'm not really qualified for that, because I don't know the processes outside of a little makeup and various newspaper jobs."
He said, "Don't worry. We haven't any budget for it, anyway." [Laughter.] So I had, again, a different kind of year at San Francisco State. I don't think we need to go into it. But he liked what I did and it was all right. And again, it was going to end. He wanted to keep me on. He kept saying through the year, "I don't know. He may not come, you know. He may get another job. If so, we do want you to stay on." But he did want to come, and he did come. I wasn't terribly in love with the job, anyway, and I was, by that time, encouraged that I could find things to do and that I could support myself somehow. But there were gaps in it.
Biagi: Let's go back one second. Do you remember your salary with the Stevenson people and at San Francisco State?
Beebe: Here's a statement. This is the most I had. I hadn't made this much money before, so that will tell you.
Biagi: So effective 10/15/57, it says that you made—
Beebe: That's only for $500 a month.
Biagi: $584 a month.
Beebe: That is about $8,000 a year, was it? I think.
Biagi: Yes, roughly.
Beebe: You see the associate professor ranking.
Beebe: He said, "You have to have that."
I said, "I'm not going to. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to face classes and lecture."
He said, "That doesn't matter, but you have to have at least that ranking or they won't listen to you around here."
Biagi: You were associate professor, one, second step in the Language Arts Division. Good to know.
Beebe: [Laughter.] Let's see now. So that would be '58. Back to AP for the summer. Then nothing happened. I didn't get a job. The legislative session was coming again, and then I found that that job that I had had was going to go to an INS [International News Service] man, and did he need it. The INS died about that time, and he had covered for INS at Sacramento. He had a family and kids, so they gave him that job. Meanwhile, we did it. Knight was gone! We had a Democrat, you see. Pat Brown had come in. His press secretary was Hale Champion of the [San Francisco] Chronicle, whom I knew. He was a prince of a guy. I liked him very much. He was terribly apologetic about this when I went up to see what was going. He said, "Well, never mind." I went home and decided that—I'd made some money, by the way, with this little money Mother had left me, in a tip of a friend, on an oil stock. I thought, "Well, I'll just get out of there, because I just spend too much money here at home." So I went to the Caribbean, where my old college roommate was, and I spent some months down there, had a lovely time—Puerto Rico and got around to several of the islands, went to Martinique to polish up my French a little bit. I wrote to Hale and said, "Now, don't do me wrong. Just because you 'done me wrong,' don't hate me. Keep seeing what you've got there."
So then I came back and, I guess, went back to AP. Oh, no. Dumke would have made a job for me, but I didn't want to be with the new man between us. I thought it would not be a good thing. I thought I might have to take it, but I was looking around various places. But back at the AP in the summer, all of a sudden, somebody told me that Hale Champion had been trying to find me. This had been going on for ten days and nobody told me. So he asked me to come up and be press aide there.
Biagi: This is 1960?
Beebe: Yes. Well, late '59 when my summer job ended.
Biagi: But you went to the Caribbean when?
Beebe: It would be—oh, dear, I ought to have a calendar. Anyway, that was the succession, because the state college job ended in the summer and I went back in the summer. Then '58. I fiddled around, I guess doing nothing, until '59 and went there for several months, came back. It was still '59 when I came back again for the summer. Then '59, '60, I guess, I was up with Hale in the governor's office.
That was fun. That was, of course, more pay. I think it was $10,000. My goodness!
Biagi: A year.
Beebe: Five figures, you know! [Laughter.] That's what people who left the news and took PR jobs with Rockefeller Foundation and all were getting, so that was very nice.
Biagi: What title did you have?
Beebe: Oh, just press aide. That was an interesting, very interesting job, too. Hale was good. But he left the job to become finance director. Jack Burby came in. But it was a good group there, and we liked it. All right. That was that year.
No, I was there when I was looking around still, because, of course, all political jobs were not too sure. I wasn't too pleased with some things, anyway. Then commuting was very hard. Well, I had this home, you see, here in Westridge [in Palo Alto], and was coming weekends and commuting.
So I'd always wanted to work at Stanford. I'd always thought that would be a pretty good idea, but they never paid anything. Well, they were going to have this big campaign for $100 million. Again, Lyle Nelson had come back, and Lyle Nelson helped me get my job at Stanford. How many jobs is that? I know there were six. Oh, no. I guess the Engle campaign came in there. Senator Engle came in one of those places, which was rather short.
Biagi: What was his first name?
Beebe: Clair. I have the date here, a letter from him. Later he—you might be interested in that, but we can do that later if we want to get through. He's asking my advice about whether the newspapermen were down on him, and I told him, and he said he was going to follow my advice. [Laughter.]
Beebe: He died, you know, not long after that. So there were the two campaigns, Stevenson and Engle. There was the state college job and—
Biagi: Did you work for Engle after Stevenson and before state?
Beebe: I think after—when we were trying to fill in that gap, maybe, after State.
Biagi: The year on this letter is 1960.
Beebe: Well, you see, I was over—see, he addresses me at my home.
Biagi: So you worked for him before 1960, then.
Beebe: Oh, yes. By '60, I came to Stanford. That was the last job I had. But there were the two political campaigns, there was state college, and the two jobs at Sacramento different, you know. The one with the legislature with the enemy in charge, and the one when we were on top, the governor's office.
Biagi: With Pat Brown.
Beebe: With Pat Brown and Hale Champion. Then Stanford. That's six, isn't it?
Biagi: Yes. So in 1960, now, you came—it would have been in 1960-61 you came to Stanford?
Biagi: '60 or '61?
Beebe: I think it was just about at the turn of the year. I suppose somewhere I have those records. Stanford has them.
Biagi: So you stayed here?
Beebe: Six years at Stanford.
Biagi: What was your job then?
Beebe: Again, I did very well with money, because I learned that I was getting—see, they had to pay something for this campaign. They had to get professional people. Stanford's academic salaries were just terrible. They wouldn't even give the statistics on it to the AAUP [American Association of University Professors], because they sold their climate here, you know, and they could do pretty well to loyal old Stanford people, but it wasn't happening. After the war, you see, there was no money and things had gone down.
So I got a double appointment to the Development Office, in other words, the fund-raising, then in the news service, too, because they were somewhat related, although the news service here is very, very, very independent and very different from most places, very good. I loathed the fund-raising. This, I thought, was a job I could do with one hand tied behind me and would be easy, and I never had a worse time. Stanford was terrible about women! It was the worst job that I had had anywhere in that regard. When I came there, I thought, "Oh, dear, they're very arrogant around here, and it's going to be stiff and formal." At the state college, you know, I was sitting in with the top group, with policy, my car parked next to the president, and I knew everybody, first name. So somebody called me Katherine, and I thought, "Oh, isn't this nice?" And I discovered, no, women were called by their first names, and middle-aged women were bringing coffee around to these little pipsqueaks just out of Stanford Business School. [Laughter.] "What man do you work for?" they'd say.
Of course, in a campaign, it's, again, like a campaign. Everybody is new and everybody is trying to sort of pretend he's more important than he is. We had a New York firm coming to tell us how to do it. It was, again, my campaign experience was useful, but I didn't like any part of it.
Biagi: Were there any other women in the office, professional women?
Beebe: Yes, there were art people and all very nice, very nice people, but everybody was more or less swallowed in the campaign. Of course, the faculty resented it, you know.
I had to arrange all kinds of things to get publicity for what Stanford was doing and interrupt academic work and come on hands and knees and say, "Look, if we can get you some more money, we can get out of your hair and you can do it."
There were some interesting things about it. I remember interviewing the people whose names have slipped me now, but had just given a million and a half to Stanford and were feeling a little bit dazed. [Laughter.] I think it was Dave Packard [co-founder of Hewlett-Packard] who had gotten it away from them. This donor had never been to college. He had made all this money. People want to do something, you see. They scrape and scrape and scrape and they want to make money. Then they have it, and so what now? They like to do something that counts.
So I finally pulled one foot out and got with the news service about the time that I decided I wanted to go on half-time, because I was pretty tired.
Biagi: This would have been when, now?
Beebe: Well, let's see. I left Stanford. I retired voluntarily at 66. That was in 1967. I had been working half-time about a year, I think. I felt maybe that would do it. But I got this writing block. That was one of the things that fund-raising job did. I would put out something and it would go to 12 people, and 12 people would have a different idea about how it ought to be changed, and all sit and mull over it. It somehow made me—I couldn't write very freely, and I found it was getting very painful to write.
The news service was good. Meanwhile, we had young Bob Beyers. He had worked with Lyle Nelson in Michigan. He was great. He was a workaholic and he had to take over a staff that were all older than he was. They all had funny crinkcrankums, too. I thought he did a wonderful job. I had him down at Westridge to dinner. I always said I helped Stanford to get him, because he had never been to California. He didn't think much of it. He'd been driving up and down El Camino, and he said that night, when I had invited Lyle and some state college people down and we were having a party up in my aerie at Westridge, he said, "I have this chap I'm trying to get to come to Stanford." And I said, "Well, bring him along." He didn't know anybody. He said, "I just sat there and looked out the window. This is California. This is good!"
Biagi: He liked the view and the surroundings?
Beebe: Yes. He could see this California wasn't just El Camino. So he came in his thirties; he's been there ever since. There's something going on there now about him that's another story. But he put Stanford on the map. He was wonderful. He made it a real news service and made it open its policy. Of course, that's very hard to do in academia. It's a job that's never done, but he was very firm about it. He's been accused of making a cult of it, but the newspeople liked it. He was always available and said, "Everything is open."
I would have fun, too. People would call from the press and say, "Is there some way I could get to So-and-so?" They thought they had to get around the publicity office. I said, "Look, we're all newspaper people here. Go to it, but you may find you'll need us, because they often say if you're going to bring somebody, come protect me from the press." So they would say, "Well, well, this is great stuff!"
Biagi: What was your experience working on the other side, being a publicity person and a news-service person?
Beebe: Well, I had some jolts. I had some jolts up at Sacramento on that. I was bawled out terribly one time by Earl Behrens, Squire Behrens, you know, of the Chronicle. He was a good
friend of mine, and I depended on him a lot of times when I was with AP. As the Sacramento people would come down and hold a meeting in San Francisco, I guess they wanted to get away from Sacramento. So of course, Behrens would be there, and he knew all the background and everything about it. He would say, "You'd better check in on this meeting," and I didn't know the background at all. He was always helpful and good.
Biagi: Let's turn over the tape.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Beebe: There was a group in the corridor with some issue that I cannot remember now, but the press was all going for one of my Democratic legislators on this subject, and they asked him this question and I answered it. I felt as if I was one of them. [Laughter.] The answer, you know. The poor legislator, who was not one of our brightest, grabbed my reply and said it. Behrens turned to me and said, "If you ever do that again, we'll never speak to you. We're not asking you! We want what he says." [Laughter.] That taught me, of course. I realized I shouldn't, but you know, I was so newly there from the press and sort of felt as if I was one of them.
I also had other experiences. I did the Stanford fund-raising one time. I remember I was talking with a local newspaperman whom I knew, and I was telling him about how we wanted to get a good crowd for this occasion, whatever it was. I didn't think he was quoting me by name. He quoted me by name as if I was trying to pretend that we had a bigger crowd than we did, which upset me a little. I thought, "I forget. I must remember. I should look to the real PR people who know how to do this, and learn how to do it, because you can't just be big buddies at all with your old friends. You're in a different position," and it's one, of course, that I had never wanted to be in. But if you're in it, you'd better do it and do it as you should. So you learn. I was learning all the time, I guess. As I say, I guess it was really good for me in the end.
Biagi: What was your relationship with your former colleagues in the new position?
Beebe: It was good. It was very good. Mary Ellen Leary, by the way, was covering up there and they asked her about me. She said, "Well, bring her up. You're going to be lucky to get her." Oh, yes, very good. Morrie Landsberg, of course, from the AP, I was an old friend of. In fact, he had soothed my feelings because when I went up there, Hale Champion was putting me on without really the budget to do it. So they pulled a fast one, as, I guess, often. My official job was in the employment department, and I didn't like that. I said, "I don't like that kind of thing."
He said, "Well, it's done, and we need you and the salary is good." And I certainly needed the job, but I never did like it. I wanted to get off of it, and he thought he could arrange it, but then he went on to another job, and I guess I never did get off of it. That's one reason, too, I think I was glad to leave and come back to Stanford.
Biagi: What's your recollection of Mary Ellen Leary, working with her up there?
Beebe: I saw very little of her, you know. Our ways were different. I was working hard and so was she.
Biagi: Is that where you first met?
Beebe: Oh, no. I'd known her, of course, because she was on the San Francisco News, and we'd meet on stories. I was the outside man. At AP, I knew everybody. That's what Hale
Champion said. No matter who came up to see the governor, "Oh, you're here!" It was good, and it was good for contacts and for jobs and so on. So I survived.
Biagi: Ready to take a rest now?
Beebe: Okay. [Tape interruption.]
Biagi: What I thought we could do now, just briefly kind of summarize your interests since you've retired, what you've been doing. What kinds of things have occupied your time?
Beebe: I thought I could tell you down here what I did. Travels, brief second marriage, year in Europe, auditing Stanford courses, classics, history, music, screening applicants for journalism fellowships, volunteering at the Suicide and Family Crisis Center Hotline, and so forth. And with my Pinkham family progeny, I have now one surviving step-daughter, who is in her seventies, in poor health, in Nevada, whom I've seen recently, and I have three granddaughters and four great-grandchildren, all of college age. I see all of them I can. Some are in Saratoga, some in Carmel, and a daughter in Nevada, where I was last weekend. I took her daughter up to see her, because I knew she was never going to get there, and she's got a car that wouldn't even go that far. [Laughter.]
Biagi: Tell me a little bit about the history of your white Dodge convertible in the driveway right now. I think it's marvelous. How did you come to buy that?
Beebe: Well, I always liked convertibles and had them. I had a Buick Roadmaster convertible when I was commuting back and forth from Sacramento. The cops would stop me on late nights and say, "How old is that car?" I'd say, "Well, it's not new. It's a little like me." "Well, now, you know, you were going there. I was following you. You were going 58, then you were going 60, then you were going 62, then you were going 65. Then I stopped you." [Laughter.] I think they were mostly just lonely. I never got a ticket on that. [Laughter.]
Biagi: So what made you decide to buy this car?
Beebe: Well, you see, after our ménage à trois there at Westridge broke up and my older friends went to the Sequoias (a retirement residence). I was again a floater, but I escorted them to their graves. They both lost their minds and it was a long thing. I spent quite a bit of time that way. Of course, I had other friends that didn't drive, and I had a good, solid Buick four-door that I could take old ladies to dentists with. After they died and I was going to get another car, I thought, "I'll probably only have one more, you know. My license, I don't know." I just got a new license, by the way.
Biagi: You did? How long will it last?
Beebe: 1992. That ought to take care of me, I think. Somebody encouraged me. I said, "I'd like to have a convertible again, but it seems a selfish thing, kind of." But I wanted one at least with a back seat. I looked at them, looked at the new Chrysler and rode in it, but it didn't have room. You couldn't meet anybody at the airport, you know. You couldn't bring a suitcase back. I just saw this in a lot, and it appealed to me, and I took a chance on it.
Biagi: That's a white Dodge.
Beebe: It's a white Dodge. It's the last convertible that Dodge made. The next year, only Chrysler made it.
Biagi: What year is that?
Beebe: It's an '86. It does have room in the trunk and it does have a back seat that two people—that I could take a couple to the movies or somewhere, two friends, if I have to. I wouldn't take a long drive.
Biagi: Let's talk. I love your stories about that car. Let's talk a little bit about two things we haven't touched on, which is your second marriage, first, and then the group that you came to live with briefly in Westridge.
Beebe: I was with them for 60 years on and off, really close friends. I don't think we want to—I mean, do we want too much time?
Biagi: Tell about the relationship that you had with them and how you came to live with them.
Beebe: That was how I came to California in the first place. Haven't we covered that?
Biagi: Yes, you told me all about that, how you came to—
Beebe: So this group of Stanford people stayed close together always. They had taken me into their bosom. I was somewhat younger. Elinor Cogswell and Harriet McCausland were kind of the center of the group and friends on the periphery were there a lot. When I came back to California in '33, I went to live with Elinor and her mother, and I was living there when I got married to Edwin. So when he died, I went right back there. Harriet McCausland—there were two only-daughters whose mothers were widowed, and they supported them and they didn't marry. They had little houses about a block apart. So it was kind of a community thing. We were together a lot. Then when Edwin died and I had that house and we were going to have old age, we decided this Westridge was opening up and we would live together. Why not? Sell our houses and go there.
Biagi: This location, what was it?
Beebe: Up there?
Beebe: Oh, it's beautiful. Westridge is—now you couldn't touch it, you know. It's million-dollar estates there now. Our house is probably worth half a million now, and we built it for about $50,000.
Biagi: When did you build it?
Beebe: In '52.
Biagi: You had two and a half acres?
Beebe: Yes. The land alone, now, is way, way up there. In fact, we sold the place for $75,000.
Biagi: In what year?
Beebe: In 1970, when we had to break up and they went to the Sequoias retirement home. Elinor always saw what was coming. She was very smart about it, every move. And we would
have never done it if it hadn't been for her. She wanted to do it. It was fun, but I was not in a position to go as early. We were going to do it later for our old age, but theirs came a little sooner than mine. We were going to wait until our mothers were gone. Mrs. Cogswell was still living, and it was she who said, "I'd like to know where you all are going to live, so why don't we just go ahead?" So the three of us and one mother, who lived there for several years before she died, she was a great asset, too.
Biagi: Live "there," meaning Westridge?
Biagi: This was one house?
Beebe: One house. We built it and designed it, and Harriet McCausland, an English teacher, was the architect. She drew the plans the way we wanted it. But I was going to want separate quarters, too. We wanted to each have our own quarters and then, you know, a living room. We had a little dining room, but a big living room and big kitchen, a four-woman kitchen. One thing I insisted on was two sinks. "You want the hot water? I'd like a little cold." We had two sinks and also an ironing board that came out, that you didn't have to go and get. We had lots of entertaining there. We had three sets of friends besides our many mutual friends. It was, of course, a very good thing for me.
I wanted to see Europe. I still had never gotten back to Europe, you know, and I was wanting to do that. I still had Mother, whose health was failing. She was living in Los Angeles, alone, by that time. She had opposed my marriage to Edwin. I never blamed her for that. Imagine her beloved daughter falling in love with a married man with grown children your age, almost? Of course not. So there was a breach there, which I was glad to heal at the last, and we took trips together, and did.
Biagi: She never came to live with you at Westridge, did she?
Beebe: Oh, no. Well, she came to visit. Oh, yes. But we couldn't have lived with Mother. I said Harriet's mother was a martyr, and mine was a Tartar, but Mrs. Cogswell was a darling. She could get along with anyone, and she was quite an asset, I thought.
Biagi: So that was a real supportive living arrangement that you had.
Beebe: Oh, yes, it was. It was a very good one. All the time I was scrambling, you see, they had already moved. I said, "I can't come in on it yet. I don't know whether I'm going to want to. I want to go to Europe. I don't know about Mother, the money, and I'm not ready to settle down, anyway. I don't know just where I land." So they said they could do it without me and went ahead and built it. But we arranged it so that I could build my little aerie on top of the carport later. So I had that decision to make.
I never wanted to marry again. Edwin was my husband forever, and I just couldn't imagine ever marrying again, but I also knew that I certainly wouldn't if I moved there. It was too comfortable, it was too pleasant. We were very congenial, we read aloud, and we had our fireplace and we had our friends. For three middle-aged women, our men friends said, "This is going to be good, these strong-minded—the roof will go right off." We never had any trouble. We put in the kitchen a whole pile of our stuff, you know. We had three households of things, besides other household things. We had seven carving sets and four double boilers. We'd hold one up. "Is this dear to you?" "No." Out it goes. And we amalgamated our furniture and had it upholstered kind of together. It came out really beautiful! We had four bedrooms and four baths, three and a half baths.
But I had all this to do after Mother's death. I came and said, "Well, I'd better pay my third of the house." I'd been living there, anyway, and paying expenses, but "I'd better do that first." Elinor said, "No, Mother's—we're going to have to have a nurse in the guest room, and I think you'd better get your upstairs built, anyway, and pay for it as you can."
So with the proceeds from the Atherton house, I had the studio built over the carport. "We ought to have an architect for that, because we don't want it to look like a sore thumb." He did indent it into it, and I had a lovely aerie with fireplace and books. It was altogether comfortable. And I knew that would mean that that was always a place to come to, and it really was.
Biagi: How did you meet your second husband?
Beebe: Well, I'd known him since 1924. He was part of the periphery of the group. I knew his first wife better than I had known him. He was in history, and he went to Washington and the State Department during the war. She was in bad health, and she died there in Washington. Then he met a second wife there, very wonderful gal, red-headed, warm, just what he needed, and she was a scholar. She was in the State Department.
The first thing he did when he brought his Eastern red-headed wife, everybody came to Westridge, you see, and we knew them and liked them, and they had a big place in Los Altos Hills. We were there at parties.
Biagi: Was he teaching here then?
Beebe: He came back to teach here, because they couldn't stay in the State Department because her field was Near East and his was Middle Europe, and they were about to get assigned apart. They could see that wouldn't work. The Hoover Institution made a place for her, and actually, I think she was the only full professor they ever had. They didn't have professors there. I had to argue with them about that at Stanford when I was writing something about David. I knew he was right.
Biagi: For the record, so we'll have it on tape, his name was?
Beebe: David Harris.
Biagi: Middle name?
Beebe: Well, he didn't like it. It was David W. Clancy Harris, but he didn't like that. He wanted to be David Harris.
Biagi: He was a historian?
Beebe: Yes, and a real scholar. He read everything in the world. The deference that was paid to him by his colleagues was a pleasant surprise to me, because he was a very modest person, but very professorial. He had studied in Europe. He had come from Texas. He didn't want to talk like a Texan. When he came home from Europe, he had what Elinor called "a god-awful accent." [Laughter.] And it sounded affected to some people. I think newspaper people thought he was, and I'd thought he'd gotten awfully professorial. He seemed to be very, very formal.
After retirement, I wanted still to get to Europe. There was a good bargain to England. Of course, I'd been there on the coronation and seen just a little, not much. So I wrote to them and said, "Don't you want to get your noses out of books?" They had just retired.
Beebe: David and Christina.
Beebe: They were married 25 years. She had had a marriage before and a son, who was no good. When they retired, they were going to go to Beirut, because she had three books in the mill from the Near East. They sold their place and sold everything and were on the way to Beirut when the war broke out. They only got to London. So they stayed in London, and they had been there a few years.
I wrote and said, "Why don't you get your noses out of books? I want to come to London on this trip. Why don't you come and we'll drive somewhere?" And they decided they'd like very much to do that. They had been thinking about it, anyway, but they couldn't either one of them drive. He'd had cataracts, which was not done the way it is now, and she had hurt her foot. So I went, and we drove together for 18 days, and had a perfectly beautiful time.
Biagi: What year was this?
Beebe: That would be '70, I think. This was just after the breakup of Westridge. I moved temporarily into a friend's house, Roxanna Ferris, who was part of our group back down in the old neighborhood, and I just perched in her bedroom while I tried to find—I was going to find an apartment, but I wanted to go to Europe, too.
So then it was the next year that I spent the whole year in Europe, and I had time to prepare for that, of course. I had to write to people and I had to fix my money. I thought, "What better?" My idea was that you could go. I had my pensions by that time; there were three of them and Social Security. I could go and stay someplace that was fairly cheap until my money would accumulate and no expenses back here at all. So I had my things in Roxie's garage and did that.
I was there a year, and I saw the Harrises were going to take a cruise, and they said, "Why don't you join us?"
I said, "Well, I'll jump on your boat when it comes through Gibraltar, because I'm going to be down there." There was cholera breaking out there, but I did that, and they got me a passage on this ship. It was a Welsh school ship, a nice one. I joined them at Naples and we cruised over to Ephesus and back up to Venice, and it was a very pleasant cruise. Then they flew back to London, and I saw 20 countries in Europe and was there a whole year. I spent a month in Malta and I had a friend near Nice. I rented an apartment there. There was a school for intensive French, and I was still trying to get my French more fluent. I went to that and stayed there for two or three months. I didn't know anybody in Germany, so I took a boat on the Rhine for four days.
It was just fun, because I could do it by myself, but I was scared, too, part of the time. I was with friends about half of the time and half the time I was on my own. It's no fun to be in a country whose language you don't understand. You're sitting in an airport and they're making announcements and you don't know what to do. [Laughter.] But I did get really a good year.
When I was about to come home, I came down from Norway to London and stopped at the Harris' again just before I left, for a day or day. Christina was telling me that she was in cold terror because David had this aneurism and he might die at any time. I said, "Well,
Christina, David looks pretty sound, better than you do." And she said, "I've had the flu and it's been bad, but I think it's going to be a nice spring. I'm going to be all right." But it was cancer, and she died within a couple of months.
David then came back here and went to Channing House, because he felt his health was not good. His old friends all rallied round, and I was freest of anybody, so I "rallied" a lot and felt very much at home with him.
Biagi: Channing House is?
Beebe: A retirement home in Palo Alto. It's 15 floors and it has all the things. So he put his money into that, because he knew he might need care. But we took some trips in California. He was delightful, and he was delightful in Europe, too. On a trip, they both had bad health, and part of the time she'd say, "I don't want to go tonight," and sometimes he'd say he didn't want to go. I said, "I will do the driving, and you will show me what I'm looking at because you're the scholars and I'm the ignorant person." He took me to cathedrals and Christina to castles, and we really had a nice time.
Biagi: So how old was he then when you got married?
Beebe: Well, I was 72 and he was 73. So he wasn't at all formal. I found that he was just delightful. And to my surprise, you know, in 26 years, I was still Edwin's wife, and so I just thought I was consoling him. So after two years, when he suddenly wanted to marry me, I was bowled over, and I think he was, too. But we did, and it was just simply incredibly delightful. I was incredulous the whole time. Every single day, it seemed to me, I found out something new and nice about him, and he seemed pleased, too.
And the aneurism. He wanted to get it taken care of before we got married.
Biagi: Where was it?
Beebe: It was right close to the heart, an aortic aneurism. I said, "Well, I suppose I'd feel that way, too, if I were you, but I hope not." They wouldn't operate in London. They said it was fairly stable and was very dangerous to operate, and they'd rather not. So he wanted to do it, and I said, "Well, it's yours. You don't have to do it, but if so, please let them know that I'm not just another lady at Channing House. I want to have access to get to you in the hospital." That was after we knew we cared, but we hadn't thought much about marriage particularly. But it just kind of had to be, because as we said, in our circles, you know, people were all living together if they wanted to, but it wouldn't be with us.
So we went to the doctor's office, and he said, "Now, I'll talk to him and then I will call you in and introduce you and explain that you are pretty special." So I sat there and sat there, and pretty soon he came out and motioned this way [to the left]. I said, "What's the matter?" He said, "He won't do it." I said, "Thank God!" He said, "It's pretty stable." So he said, "We'd better get married right away." I said, "Why don't we just do it? We talked about a little wedding. There's no such thing. It's a nuisance! Let's just do it. Let's just go to Nevada."
Christina's family was there, that is, the son's wife. The son's wife had been deserted, but Christina's grandchildren and her new family were up there, and he wanted to take some of her jewelry. I said, "That's a good excuse. We'll go up there and we'll just get married. Then you keep your place." He had his apartment and all his money at Channing House.
We hunted, before we went, for a little place right close down near Channing House. I said, "I can't say, 'Dear, I will take you out of all this,' because I can't run a home now." We got this little place about a block away, so we had a split home. I said, "If kids can shack up without
being married, we can be married without shacking up if we want to." [Laughter.] That's what we did. So it was very nice, because, you see, if I didn't feel like eating, we could go over and have meals at Channing House; I didn't have to cook. But if we wanted to be by ourselves, we could. And more and more and more, we were living in this little place, just very tiny. He had said at first, "I have grave misgivings about this place." If there hadn't been a little roof, suspended platform from the garage, I don't think we could possibly have done it.
Biagi: So did you get married in Nevada then?
Beebe: Yes, we did. It was very funny. I went and paid obeisance to the courthouse when I was up there this last weekend. That was very amusing, too. We went to a judge there, you know. You go in, and we sat on a bench. [Laughter.] There was a sign there saying that criminal cases had precedence. We were sitting there waiting to get in. There was also a funny group that was also waiting for marriage, came up and started talking to us. We chatted with them a little bit. So finally, we went in and we were married there. I found that, of course, I knew the judge, I knew friends of his. I knew all the judges. We went around and we had a pleasant chat.
We came out and started down the courthouse, feeling a little dazed, and this bunch that had talked to us suddenly appeared from nowhere and threw rice at us. I thought it was quite sweet.
Biagi: Yes, it is.
Beebe: So it was really nice.
Biagi: You were married for—
Beebe: A year. Then suddenly, the aneurism began to swell, and that made everything wrong, so he had to be operated on. I said, "Please go on living!" He said, "I have every intention of it." But there were too many other things. He did, he got through the operation all right, but there were too many other things. They told me they'd have to cut his leg off, maybe, and I said, "I can't give permission for that. You'll have to get him conscious enough to say it by himself." Anyway, everything went wrong, so he just lasted about five days.
Biagi: So then did you stay in that little house for a while?
Beebe: Yes, I did for a year, but it was a rental. You see, with the two places, we could give parties in Channing House, and he had all his things there. He had his correspondence. I could have gone to Channing House, of course, and I could have gone to Sequoias. Elinor and Harriet were still there, out near Westridge. They are both very good retirement homes, but I just am not an institution person. And the landlord was not good there, and I felt very exposed all of a sudden down there.
Meanwhile, this place was being built. David had been very scornful of it. He said it was an architectural atrocity and a rabbit warren. [Laughter.] It was just building when we were there and we went by it. But I found that I was eligible to come, and I could buy in here.
Biagi: So you moved here.
Beebe: I moved here in '76. I can't believe, you know! I thought David and I would totter off into the sunset together. I supposed I probably would live a little longer than he, but I didn't think it would be that short. And here it is, '76, '89, 13 years I've been in this dump! [Laughter.]
Biagi: Now, it's not a dump. Let's be clear. It's a very pleasant place.
Beebe: Well, it is very pleasant. It is a pleasant place, a very good place to land, and it's kind of half and half. I have automatic watering, and the neighbors are very nice, and we have the pool, which is great.
Biagi: You're really on the Stanford campus.
Beebe: Yes. I thought I'd be going over to all kinds of things, but I find I don't much. For a while I had bad back trouble, and I couldn't walk without pain. Much better now.
Biagi: Well, that's good. What I'd like to do now is kind of go over the global issues and talk about your perspective on things, and talk about Lorena Hickok. I hear you pounding on the book.
Beebe: [Laughter.] Yes. I think I'd like to get that on the record.
Biagi: Let's do that. Okay. We went through last time and talked about Lorena Hickok and that relationship and your knowledge of her. I want to go back to it. You are feeling strongly that you want to go back to it, so let's do that now.
Beebe: Well, as I outlined to you briefly before, while I was at the AP, Edwin had suggested that Mrs. Roosevelt would be a very unusual person. He had known her when he was covering the Smith campaign and Roosevelt was still governor. He said she was a very unusual woman. At that time, Roosevelt was a handsome, rich man, rather lightweight in politics, everyone thought, although Edwin found more there and wrote some pieces that were later considered very perspicacious. So I suggested it to the AP, and I did go and interview her, and we got a good story, because she said she hoped her husband wouldn't run for president, it was so bad on the family. She said it was bad when he was governor, because her youngsters were teenagers, and you couldn't get into their heads that they mustn't take privilege, you know. "Oh, come and park right here." "Don't do it!" "Why not?" You know. [Laughter.] She said, "You are not the governor! He gets these privileges, but you don't." She said, "All the time I'm having to try to tell them that they must keep down, that they're in a special position. With the president's office, it would be much, much worse." And she hoped that he wouldn't run. That was a good story. There were other things that she tended to ask that I thought would be worth going into. She said, "Come to Hyde Park." I interviewed her in her New York apartment, and I had the date made.
But meanwhile, I had decided suddenly, when I found that Edwin was ill and had left the Star and gone to California, I thought he had left his family, too, I just decided I would come out here. I couldn't get transferred to San Francisco.
Biagi: So that would have been in what year?
Beebe: That was in '32. I was in New York in '32, and it was in the fall of '32, near Christmas, that I came out here. Lorena, then, got the assignment to go to Mrs. Roosevelt, and some of the people in the office.
Biagi: Lorena was working with you then at the AP?
Beebe: Yes. Oh, Lorena was established. She was a star. She was covering politics, very unusual, and she had covered football when she worked in Minneapolis. She was a very mannish-looking gal, but everybody liked Lorena, and I did. I had seen quite a little of her.
Let me see. This time business always bothers me. But we were together out in that mess of the Lindbergh case, and it was at that time a thing which I hadn't talked about at all, that I learned that she, if not a lesbian, she had experimented and she had lesbian friends and so on. She was ill there, and I went and got her things. She had gone off without even an overnight, which I didn't do. I got her stuff, and apparently was feminine and mothering, and suddenly I felt creepy. She wanted to hug me, and it wasn't good, you know. I didn't know much about it. All that I knew was what my mother had told me about terrible diversions that were different. So Lorena talked to me then about it, quite freely, and told me about her background, that her father had raped her and beaten her. Later, by the way, he tried to blackmail her in the White House. We were good friends. I thought, "Well, what am I afraid of? After all, I'm a strong girl." There were never any further incidents. Our friendship held, and she, I gather, had experimented both ways. So I guess nowadays the bisexual thing is quite usual. My great-granddaughter tells me half the people she meets at San Francisco State are bisexual and say they are. But it was all kind of new to me.
Well, when I left New York, Kent Cooper, whom I'd never met, (he didn't wish to meet people in the New York office; it would be an unfair advantage over staffers in other cities.) Through intermediaries, he said that if I was—I, of course, didn't say why I wanted to leave. I said I was tired. I'd worked for seven weeks, seven days a week on the Lindbergh case, and I was tired.
I liked California and I thought I didn't want to stay in New York; I wanted to go to San Francisco. Well, everybody wanted to go to San Francisco. But if I wanted to go to California, I could go for AP assignment on the Hoover train. Hoover had been defeated and was bitterly going to go back out to Palo Alto to lick his wounds on the Stanford campus in the home that they had built here, which is right close to me here, by the way. I don't know if you've ever seen it. The president of Stanford has it now.
But when I got through, then, I would have to go wherever they put me. I could do that assignment and then take some time off and see my friends in California, and then I would have to go where they put me. I said, "No, I want to stay in California, so I think I'd better just leave." Because if you refuse assignment for the AP, you'd never get anywhere. You'd better salute and say, "I'll go," or else you're done for. You'd never get another chance to go anywhere. So I thought I'd better just leave. That's what I did and came out here.
Biagi: So you did go on the Hoover train? Did you?
Beebe: No, no, no, no!
Biagi: You just came here? I wanted to clarify that.
Beebe: I just quit the AP. I resigned and came out here on my own to see what was going on with Edwin. See, again, personal things had always interfered.
So it was many, many years later, you see—recently. When did this book come out? Just a couple of years, a year or two ago.
Biagi: Hang on one second. Let me stop this tape.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Biagi: So when you're talking about the book, you're talking about The Life of Lorena Hickok by Doris Faber.
Beebe: Yes, E.R.'s friend, by Doris Faber. I got a phone call from Boston, from a man who said he was an AP man in Boston. His wife was going to write a book about Lorena Hickok, and he'd like to introduce me to her, and understood that I had known Lorena and would I talk to her about it. And I did. I said, "You're going to write a book about Lorena? She's a very interesting person." "Yes." Would I write her a letter about her? Well, of course, I now hate to write anything, but I sat down and wrote a letter about Lorena and how she was. She asked me a lot of questions about her, so I wrote. Of course, I said she was very mannish-looking and always kept her hair long because she thought she'd better.
So then she phoned me again, and she said, "I'd like to know more about this. You kind of skirt over it. You talk about her being mannish. Was she a lesbian?"
And I said, "Well, she had lesbian friends." I then did tell her about—of course, Lorena was dead and had no family. I did tell her about that incident on the Lindbergh assignment.
After she got this out of me, she said, "Now I've got it!" She said, "I wasn't able to pin this anywhere, that she was a lesbian. Now I've got it." Then she told me she had these letters. She'd gotten interested in her letters to Mrs. Roosevelt, and she had found these letters which were very hot.
I said, "You are going to make a book about this?" I said, "Of course, I suppose you can. It'll make you some money, if that's the way you want. You'll get notoriety out of it. But you didn't tell me that was why you were getting this." I was furious.
She said, "Well, somebody else will get it if I don't. It's there, and I'm going to do it." She said, "My husband doesn't want me to do it, either." Well, she went ahead and did it, and then she sent me the book. I will have to say that it could certainly have been much worse. She did work on the book, and I'm sure she did, and she didn't, thank God, use my name. I said, "If you mention any of the stuff that I've told you in my name, I think I'll sue you. I'll say it isn't so. I'll back out." So what she did was put this section in there.
Biagi: Page what are you—
Beebe: On page 78, about, "A younger reporter, half a century later, would insist on not being identified if her recollections were to be recorded, so we'll call her Barbara Hanson." Then she goes on with this. There's a little truth in it, but—
Biagi: Do you feel she quoted you accurately?
Beebe: Well, yes, some of it. Yes. I told her how Lorena said, "Baby, I'm going to teach you to play poker and swear." I said, "Well, I don't think I'm going to need it." I just chatted, had chatted to her, and I had told her, too, that I was carrying around The Well of Loneliness one day, and she saw it. She said, "I wouldn't carry that book." I said, "Why? I think it's interesting." It was about lesbianism, and it was new to me, and it was popular at the moment. So I realized that she was very ticklish about the subject. That was, of course, before the Lindbergh case, so I didn't—she hadn't made for me. I did then tell her—I had told her about this incident. But as she relates it, it's just not right.
Biagi: What's wrong with what she says here?
Beebe: "Hick, upon arriving, felt symptoms of the flu, and Barbara left their room rather late at night to purchase some aspirin and a toothbrush from the hotel's drugstore." [Laughter.]
We didn't have any drugstore! There wasn't any hotel. I mean, she made up all these details because she knew she couldn't call me back again. But sure, we had grabbed some vacant thing over the A&P store for the AP, you know. It was a dump. Lorena was going around in her pajamas. I guess she had bought them somewhere; I don't know how.
"'When she returned, Hick,' as Barbara would put it euphemistically so long afterwards, 'made for me.'" Possibly I did say that; I don't know. But anyway, I said I felt creepy. "Rebuffed by a terrified Barbara." I wasn't terrified. I felt upset, you know. "Hick not only apologized, she also explained, 'You were just so sweet to me that it undid me.' Then she proceeded to talk sadly and soberly for some time." That's true. "She spoke of her miserable childhood and told Barbara about being raped by her father." That's true. "Wryly, she described longing for respectability still propelled her into such follies as buying English golfing shoes at Abercrombie's." I never heard anything about that. All this stuff. "She even poked fun at herself for her haste to seize her Minneapolis opportunity." I don't know what she's talking about.
Biagi: So she's attributing those things to you, and you didn't talk about that.
Beebe: No, I don't think so. I don't think so. But then she described some girl from Wellesley. I did tell her about how Lorena always liked respectability and she had this rich friend in Minneapolis from Wellesley and she used to kid her about Wellesley. Well, you could read it. I don't know. It's upsetting.
Biagi: Let me ask you this on a broader topic.
Beebe: Then she also brought my own name into it here. Oh, yes, she said I was leaving to get married. [Laughter.] Well, I didn't get married for eight years, so that, of course, wasn't true, but she names me here.
Biagi: What page?
Beebe: On page 91. "Meanwhile, the third woman to be hired by the agency's New York bureau among nearly 30 men was given the candidate's wife, so Katherine Beebe went to the Roosevelt country place in Hyde Park. " I didn't go there. I went to her apartment in New York. "She wrote a few pieces, but her heart was elsewhere." I didn't write anymore. [Laughter.] "Not for creamed chicken and green-pea luncheons had she come East." What's that got to do with anything? Nobody ever said anything about anything like that. "And at the beginning of September, she quit, to marry in California. Anyway, and how could Hick not have known it? Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Roosevelt herself joined her husband in Arizona."
Biagi: You're saying that several of the smaller details are rather fabrications, you think?
Beebe: No, it's just I think a poor job of what was told her. But what I objected to, of course, was her—I felt so angry at myself not being astute enough, as she was talking about the Roosevelt letters, to know what she was up to. She had gotten this lesbianism from me by guile, and I felt that it was just a mean trick, and that I was stupid not to catch on. But you see, the AP man in Boston and all, I thought we were kind of among friends. I wasn't on my guard, in other words.
Biagi: Critics would say that that's what the press does. Critics would say that that would be the role of a press researcher.
Beebe: Yes, but for a fellow worker? I don't know. I mean, I don't think they would.
Biagi: Did you wonder about the ethics of it?
Beebe: Yes! I don't think she—if she had told me, I guess maybe I probably would never have told her about the lesbianism. If she wanted it for her book, okay. Then there's your ethics problem. But I certainly felt betrayed. So I never acknowledged the book. I think perhaps I should have, because, of course, she could have used my name and she could have done it even worse, I suppose. But I think the liberties she takes with details makes me doubt her performance, although I have these clippings about the book. I read them with some interest.
I have been glad to note that in future, as you get the references to these letters, there's never any mention of her name at all or of the book or the author, although it got its publicity. I'd like to know. I'd very much like to know what the sales were and whether they dropped off. I think everybody's glad to forget it, because Mrs. Roosevelt's image is so firmly good, that people don't, I think, want it besmirched. And I think that's happening, and I'm glad whenever I see evidence that that's just as you gave it to me, telling about the people in the White House who think that she didn't have proof.
Biagi: You mean Eleanor's [Roosevelt] press corps.
Beebe: Yes, her press corps, and also some of these reviews say that, well, they're all kind of glossing it over. Mrs. Roosevelt I had good relations with, too. She always remembered me when she came out here. She was really just a marvelous person. I asked her about Lorena and how she was, and she always remembered. What have I got on that page? Something that I thought might be of interest.
Biagi: You rode along with her to the airport.
Beebe: Oh, yes. She was so casual with everybody. That's when I was working for the Democrats. I don't know how it came about, but she had gotten away from her Secret Service people, and I guess I took her there. No, because there was a driver. But anyway, we wound up we were alone, talking in the back seat. She found out that it was about the time I was 55, going to be retired. She said, "I think the AP is just dreadful!" [Laughter.] I think she'd gotten some of it from Lorena, too. But I see why the press did like her. She was so very frank, and she was so very good to the corps. She was a good person. So I just resented this whole project.
Biagi: Let me ask you two things that are related to that. About the issue of ethics and the press, was there any kind of standard of ethics that you see observed throughout your career in the press among reporters?
Beebe: Well, I think everyone had his own. It varied with people. We had terrible people who would do anything, you know, and you were working with them. And there were people who were very fine, just very fine. I remember George Wallace with white hair on the Kansas City Star. They said his hair turned white trying to be a newspaperman and a gentleman. [Laughter.]
When the Guild was organized, I went with the group that was organizing it, and said that I was interested in standards and morality of the press. I thought if the Guild would take a stand on this, it would be a good way as we were trying to get our feet on the ground, and they thought I was talking about love nests. [Laughter.] They looked at me strangely. I found out later this was a communist cell that was already working with the Guild, that we had to throw out later.
Biagi: But you never did, at that point, establish a standard of ethics?
Beebe: No, no, no. That didn't get anywhere. As I say, I think it was an individual matter, because, true, it was a rough, tough business, you know, and stealing pictures and climbing up—I remember somebody describing a newspaper woman as somebody who would rather go and steal a picture from the second story than ring the front doorbell. [Laughter.] And it was laughed about.
Biagi: Was that true? Was that an accurate portrayal, do you think?
Beebe: I don't know. I didn't know her. But I suppose—
Biagi: But I mean, as a journalist, in general?
Beebe: Oh, well, yes. You were sent out by the city editor, "Get it. Never mind how. I won't ask." And I did that one time. In a criminal case, a neighbor came in and chatted with me and took me into the person's house, and I saw the pictures I wanted and I said, "Oh, I'd like to have these." She said, "All right," and she gave them to me. I was quite sure that the owner never would have. I took them back to the office. "Where did you get these? Nobody has got anything like this!" And I said, "Never mind." [Laughter.] And he didn't ask anything further. So if I had stolen them, it would have been fine with him. I didn't. I sent the pictures back to her and never heard anything.
Biagi: Did you use the pictures?
Beebe: Oh, yes! Sure. We had an exclusive on it, and everybody had wanted it.
Biagi: But the neighbor gave you the pictures.
Beebe: The neighbor gave me the pictures. I never did meet the owner. I got away before she returned. I was nervous. I was afraid she'd get home before we got away. [Laughter.]
Biagi: In that sense, what's the furthest you ever went to get a story?
Beebe: I had my own standards. I remember a stubborn girl that didn't want her picture taken. She was about 13. I had a photographer with me. He wanted to steal her picture, and I wouldn't let him, because I identified with her. I would have been just as stubborn myself, and she was alone there. I didn't take it.
You're asking me to confess my worst thing, and I can't at the moment. I can't think. It would probably have been on the Oakland Tribune, because the Hearst city editor there was one of these hammer-and-tongs guys, you know, and I had set out to please. He had come flapping over to say, "This isn't sensational enough!" [Laughter.] So I would whoop it up a bit.
I guess I told you about the time that I layed into this chap in Kansas City that was supposed to have run over and killed someone.
Biagi: No, I don't remember that.
Beebe: Yes, I think it's on tape.
Biagi: Tell me again, because I can't remember.
Beebe: It was a hit-and-run affair, and they had caught this sportscar, this greasy-looking mustached playboy, and found something on the front of his bumper, and they thought they had him. The city editor came over. I was not out on the story, but I was writing it. They said, "Lay for him!" And I just wrote this story as if he'd done it. No reader would have doubted that he
had done it. Some of them kidded me. They said, "You convicted him on his moustache." [Laughter.] I made him look pretty awful.
Biagi: By implication.
Beebe: The next day they discovered that they had the wrong man. So I felt bad about that, but not responsible, because it wasn't my assessment that he was guilty, and I had my directions. I was sure he was. But I felt bad about it, all the same. I don't know. I knew people—I think newspapermen, as a rule, are always sort of for the good guys in their hearts. I told some professors at Stanford one time that I thought that the newspapermen's standards were a little bit higher than theirs. They were sort of shocked. Someone had said to me, "Never mind. You want statistics, I'll give you some. It's only for the press." And I said, "Well, we wouldn't do that."
Biagi: Wouldn't do what, now?
Beebe: We wouldn't make up statistics. We'd get facts. But he thought as long as it was the press, it was all right. But I liked the newspaper people. The character of them changed, of course. They were roustabouts and always out for a free meal, but likeable and usually pretty brilliant and interesting in the old days. Then when things got more secure, it brought in a much better standard there. People wanted education. Didn't want it when I came. "I suppose you went to some journalism school? We'll have to teach you all over." [Laughter.]
Biagi: When people talk about ethics in journalism, they typically use the word, for instance, "fairness." Was there an ethic of fairness, would you say, in your career?
Beebe: Oh, well, of course, the Bridges case was an outstanding one, when the papers all ganged up on him.
Biagi: Harry Bridges. Because the waterfront employers were trying to get him out of their hair and deported to Australia, and they would have used any means. The papers backed the employers up, and Bridges would talk to nobody but the AP. And that is one reason I liked the Associated Press. They said it was dull and so on, but we didn't ever have an editorial policy. I had a friend who would say, "What does the AP think?" [Laughter.] I burst out laughing, because, of course, we were a headless horseman. We served papers of all complexions, and they didn't want any ideas from us; they wanted the facts, please, as they were.
So for all of almost 25 years with the AP, nobody ever suggested, you see, that that be done. But the papers did it. They did it and they did it in their news columns. Very often Hearst papers would get people who were of like views, so putting their chauvinistic and "ra-ra" views in came easy to them.
Biagi: Let's go to another issue, then, that's related to Lorena Hickok and what you were talking about there. That is the issue of women working with men in a man's world. Would you say that's an accurate description of your career: you were a woman working in a man's world?
Biagi: Oh, certainly was. I suppose—I remember a chap I didn't care for, nobody did. He said, "When you were a newspaper woman, you managed to be a lady." [Laughter.] That's a term that I don't—my mother said they talk about washer ladies; let's not talk about ladies. But yes, I never saw any reason that one had to be particularly tough. I mean, I wanted to get the facts, and people like to talk about themselves. Sure, I'll tell you what I have done, yes. I have urged people to talk, but I have never promised to keep a thing out that I didn't. But I certainly have gotten them to talk very freely. Then when it's come out later, they have been upset by it.
Biagi: What is your best example of that, do you remember?
Beebe: Or they would say, "Oh, I didn't want that in." I'd say, "But you knew you were talking to the press, you know." Sometimes, of course, if there were really reasons for it, I mean, you know, danger, FBI stuff, I would. Theoretically, it's for your desk to decide always, but I think reporters decide on their own quite often. "What your city editor don't know won't hurt!" [Laughter.]
Biagi: Is there anything else now about working in a man's world?
Beebe: Well, have you read the book, the New York Times book about all the affairs going on in the office and so on?
Biagi: The Kingdom and the Power, you mean? Gay Talese's book?
Biagi: Yes. Is that accurate?
Beebe: I don't know. I suppose it is. I remember a woman working on a Salt Lake paper, who was kissing one of the men in a stairway and was seen by somebody else's wife, who was horrified. She said, "Well, can't a Jane kiss a Phil?" [Laughter.] But you see, I was strictly Victorian, and with all our college group, we were. We didn't do it, and we were proud of not, because only recently had we gotten rid of chaperones, and we wished to show that we could behave on our own. But of course, I know it always went on, and I suppose it did in newspaper offices.
I did tell you, I think, when I went to work at the AP in San Francisco, that the boss' wife came in and said, "I think you're so brave to work down here with all these men!" I looked at her, you know. I didn't know what to say. Bravery wasn't involved.
I think men, the reason they wanted not to have women was that they knew that they would be upsetting, because sex and men, you know, it's there, and it would be a distraction to them, and many of the women would probably be glad of it, and I guess that's true. But then, life is like that. Why shouldn't they have to do it there, as they do all over in business? There are men and women. I, of course, was quite straight-laced. I just didn't. But then, you see what happened to me. I fell in love with a man in the office, which, when I first talked to Leo Levy, he said, "We don't want women for three reasons: they'll fall in love, or they'll get married and have a family, or they'll blow up some way." And I did all three in my career. But as far as being able to work with men on a completely platonic basis, it's possible, because I always did it. After all, I never worked with Edwin. I mean, he was way out on a different plane. But of course, men would try, but I never—I just, "No way," you know. I didn't want to put them on the—
Biagi: Did you feel—
Beebe: No! I just—no. When you were working, you didn't do it. And I think they respected it.
Biagi: Did you feel that professionally you had to compete, that you had to be as good as the men you worked with?
Beebe: Oh, you'd better! Yes! I do. Yes, because they always thought, you know, the women could do little side stories and whatnot. You were usually assigned because, "God, we haven't got anybody else." And then you'd turn it in.
I remember the first story I brought in out here in San Francisco. It was on a rate hearing, you know. The boss said, "Well, that was a good story." I thought he had a note of relief in his voice. I guess I told you he probably thought I'd have a ruffle around every paragraph. [Laughter.] You see, the nice part is, once they find you can do it, they have to each one find out, and that gets a little bit monotonous after a while, to meet the same attitude and have to convert one after the other. Then every new job, you have to do it all over again, because it's set in their mind.
I think there must be change now, because women have taken over. They're in there; they're in all the jobs. So I don't think it is the same at all. I'd be very interested to know how some of the younger men do feel about women. But you know, there were no women allowed in the Press Club in San Francisco. Well, there were a lot of floozies going up and down Powell Street, and they felt if they let women in, they'd be in there. There were living quarters in there, you see.
Biagi: So you were never a member of the Press Club?
Beebe: No! I was never a member of the Press Club. I was invited with one other, Jane Conant, when this woman war correspondent, Maggie [Marguerite] Higgins, came and spoke to the Press Club. They called her and called me to see if we'd go, because she would otherwise be all alone. Jane and I said, "Are you going to go?" I said, "I don't know. What do you think?" [Laughter.] She said, "Well, I will if you will." So when we went in, there was applause all over the room. I guess it wasn't long before they let women in. Of course, I left before that was done. There were no women in the Press Club. There were no women in the Washington Press Club, as you know.
Biagi: No, for a long time.
Beebe: But I knew other women that were very much respected. I met a number. Usually they were settled in the job on the paper and had families at home, and they established themselves as capable workers and not sexpots. [Laughter.]
Biagi: Looking back on your whole career and all the things that have happened to you, what do you think was the happiest time of your life?
Beebe: Of course, I was delighted on the Oakland Tribune. I thought I was big stuff. I got to be rewriting all the crime and yelling, "Boy!" and they would come. But the Star was the best, I think, until I got involved personally and it was not comfortable for me at home or anything. But the Star was a family paper. There were wonderful people there, and we had a lot of fun all the time in the work and in the place. It was a whole community, and it stood for good things in the community. Of course, there's always another side to this, always clay feet, but on the whole, it did what a paper's supposed to, I think. It covered the city and stood for good things and promoted them. The people were fun to be with. We had parties and dances. It was a camaraderie which I think you get nowhere else.
When the Washington correspondent Roy Roberts came home to become managing editor of the Star, his wife was very unhappy. She liked the newspaper crowd and had liked them in Washington. So she came home. In the new executive job he had, she had to go to all kinds of functions with what she considered very stuffy people, so she would give a lot of parties for just the press, because she liked them better and they were more fun.
Biagi: Do you think that's true?
Beebe: Yes, I do. I do. I can't think of any group I'd rather work with, because they're supposed to be cynical, but they really, I think, are always with the good guys. They're romantics at heart, you know, and I think idealists, too. Of course, there are some awful crumbums, sneaky people, that would do anything. Then now, I suppose, with the competition and the ambition and the scramble, it may be a rather different picture. I'm not sure. But I still think that you're a spectator sportsman on the world, and your job is not a very lofty one, particularly, but if you do a good one of getting information right and spreading it to the people who should have it and can use it and do other things with it, I don't think you have any reason not to have self-respect.
Biagi: What was your most unhappy time professionally?
Beebe: At the fund-raising at Stanford. After all that long career, to find all that prejudice.
Biagi: What do you mean, prejudice?
Beebe: About women, that they were coffee-breakers. Oh, yes. I think there at one time I was to get some information from one of their big donors, it was immediately decided a man would have to do the interview. They would get somebody else to make the approach. I'd interviewed presidents! It was laughable, but unpleasant. Also, the whole business of the fund-raising. You talked about the ethics, you know. Here came this New York firm to tell you slick ways how you got more out of people. "Don't let them write you a check for $500. Oh, no. You've got to find out somebody who's in their same class and you must get them to pull them along with their interests and get half a million instead of $500. This is how you do it." Well, of course, they have to have the money and so on, but I just didn't like it.
Biagi: Was there a time in journalism that you didn't like, as a day-to-day reporter?
Beebe: Let's see. Well, I was so anxious to get started. Oh, yes, of course I didn't like my society job at Madison, Wisconsin, and I did it as a favor to my roommate's husband, who was managing editor, and had to have one. I wanted to go back to Madison. But of course, being society editor of that crummy little paper, the work was no good, but the people in the office were. So I was not too unhappy there. But as far as the job went, it was the pits. I only stayed three months.
Biagi: These are kind of ticking off questions I should ask you in no particular order. What effect do you think the women's suffrage movement had on you since you lived through it?
Beebe: I didn't live through it, really. The belligerent suffrage movement, you see, was over and we got the vote in 1918. My first vote could have been in '20, but I was not yet 21, so I had had no part of it. That fight was over. I still, I think, shared sort of the picture of the suffragette as being a big, belligerent, unwomanly character. I think I probably had that prejudice.
When the feminist movement started, the more recent one, you know, I told you I turned down the job to be national correspondent for women in Washington. Well, it really wasn't that yet. I was told I could make it into that, and I'm sure I could have, and it was just as that movement was starting. So when it did start, I thought, well, I would have been in the thick of this.
Biagi: You didn't tell me about that. I'm not sure you did.
Beebe: I thought I had.
Biagi: Tell me briefly, if you could.
Beebe: Well, when I was working in New York, a friend of mine from Kansas City, a woman, had been on the Star for a while doing some special things. There was an oratorical contest she was running, and she was a very good person. She wanted a job. I asked about it, if there was any place. I had heard in the office, something that there might be a place in Washington, and they said, "Well, we have a place. Could Frances fill this Washington slot?" He'd known her and he didn't want her. He said, "But I'll send you to Washington."
Biagi: What was the job?
Beebe: Well, it was sort of women's affairs in Washington.
Biagi: Would this have been in the thirties, then?
Beebe: Yes, that was in '32. I always had spent my time getting away from the women's affairs, and I said, "Well, I can see that there's a future there, but I've never liked women in herds." [Laughter.] "I don't think I'd want to spend my time working just with women's things. I know it's all right, but it's just not for me." And besides, I wouldn't take the job that I'd been asking for her. I would have felt, "Grab it myself?" You know. So I didn't go.
Biagi: So to be associated with just one kind of reporting.
Beebe: Yes. A friend of mine, who was a very fine newspaperwoman from Kansas City [Vina Lindsay], did go to Washington and she had the women's page on the Star, and she did things with it that lifted it up quite a bit. I think I have a hint in here at the end of what I wrote there about ideas on—
Biagi: I don't have anything else.
Beebe: You don't? Oh, I know where. Here it is. This is when Wilson Hicks wanted me to go to Hollywood.
Biagi: That's in 1933?
Beebe: Yes. I had come out here. I was then working in San Francisco. I didn't want to go to Hollywood, of course, particularly on account of Edwin, but I didn't want to go down there, anyway. But then they said that this job in Hollywood was with this new service of SNS, and they told me something about it. So I said, "Why couldn't it be done in San Francisco?" And I wrote this letter about that. Down here is where I said I wanted to be in the news, and I also said I had ideas about the news.
[Reading] "Of course, this would be in the feature field. I'd enjoy working on a full-time basis for a while, but I'd never want to get too far away from the news report, which is always my real interest. I have some theories about that in relation to women readers I'd like to expound some day, if it wouldn't be thought presumptuous. I believe women are actually repelled by the phraseology and treatment of the important stories of the day, though they really would like to be informed about them." I found that out when the Republican Convention was on in Kansas City, I was talking to some women friends and telling them informally what was going on that I was finding out about. I was a neophyte. They said, "We never were interested in politics, but this is interesting."
"The radio is way out in front, I fear, in knowing how to tell things simply and conversationally and how to seek out and put into the news the gossipy details women like. Most of us women newswriters hold our jobs by virtue of the fact we have learned how to write like men. Perhaps that is exactly what we shouldn't do. But filing editor and copy desk guys are usually alike, and we must write to get our stuff through these wickets. I venture a guess that many a filing editor goes home at night and tells his wife about some story he has hung up, that's stashed away, because he felt it should give way to more momentous things. Yet when he talks to her, he instinctively knows she would like to hear about it. Would an educational campaign help, do you think?" Nothing came of all this.
Biagi: Are you saying there, too, that some people respond to women differently than they do to men as reporters?
Beebe: I'm not, but I think they do. Oh, yes, I do. And I think you have an advantage at times, because I think men are more likely to—lots of people are more likely to talk confidentially to a woman. They feel she's sympathetic, and they will.
But what I'm talking about is the phraseology that is the jargon of journalism and politics and public affairs, which kind of repels women. They'd like to know what's going on, but do you have to put it that way? You know. I've always felt—and that's what Vina Lindsay did in Washington. I think she did some of that. She managed to tell, in a more conversational way, what was going on, as you would if you were talking to a woman friend, instead of putting it into the jargon. I have always thought that that could be done.
My example of that was, "Here comes a picture. Oh, see the funny hat!" You know, some outrageous thing. That's women's page. That isn't! That's men laughing at women's features. Clothes are serious business to women. In France, I found that men took an interest in women's clothes. They didn't say, "Let the little woman go out and shop." He went with her. It was important, and he didn't play it down. He thought that was an important thing.
I think that women's news—well, of course, now there isn't any such thing. They've thrown it out with the feminist movement. But women are still different from men, and I think their approach and their interests are different. I think there's a real field for women writers that know this, if they could just get the permission to do what they would like to do. Of course, some of them write slop all over the page. But I really think that that hasn't been looked into enough. Men are still dominant and they still have these old hoary hangups about women and their "inferior, secondary, silly little interests." Even though now a lot of men are working for women bosses on papers. I wonder how that goes.
Biagi: It would be interesting to know.
Beebe: Yes. I've heard young ones talk about them, just as they would about the men bosses in our time now. Some of these young journalism fellows, you know. That's interesting to me.
Biagi: Over the years, which journalists' work have you admired the most?
Beebe: Of course, people like Walter Lippmann. I remember the first radio commentator, Pauline Frederick. She was good. Of course, I never saw better newspaper stuff in my life than Edwin G. Pinkham's, but I could be prejudiced. But no, I mean, there were plenty of people who felt the same way. Whom did I like to read?
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Biagi: We had time to think now. Do you want to add any names?
Beebe: I've been talking instead of thinking. I did say Scotty Reston, because he managed to stay a reporter and still be up there. I'm trying to think. It's a very good thing to do. I think lots of men are spoiled. Good writers are spoiled by being shoved into executive positions that they're not fitted for. They think they have to because their wives want them to get ahead. So I think that more prestige to the people who have made it in writing, whose writing is outstanding, should be accorded. I guess perhaps it is now, but that comes more through television, I think.
Russell Baker, I said, on the Times, I enjoy. But my mind seems to be a blank about people I admire.
Biagi: Your contemporaries that you admire? Were there reporters that worked with you really liked and admired?
Beebe: Yes, but they weren't spectacular. I remember a man named Knickerbocker, who was of the New York Knickerbockers. He came out and was covering a beat in San Francisco, and he had the most beautiful English. With all the Press Club casual group, his English just sounded like a drawing room always. It was perfect. He was a real patrician, but he couldn't write very well. His writing was rather pedestrian, but his speaking, he should have been in the television age. He would have been wonderful.
Biagi: You often said that you loved Edwin's writing. What was it you liked about it?
Beebe: Well, he had humor and great knowledge, and he was called the best political prognosticator in the country. But he wrote with a—why is it the things you care about, you don't find words for? I remember a story he wrote about Andy Mellon. You know, he was a stingy old guy. What he said was, Mellon would stroll through the park and the squirrels would come up. "They think he's going to give them something." [Laughter.] That kind of delicate thrust, you know. It's all you needed to say.
Biagi: If you could describe the world of a journalist and why you became involved in it, what is it that you liked about the profession?
Beebe: Well, I liked being able to see a variety of the human scene. You get to do that. You see the very rich and the very poor and the very brilliant and the very stupid, and all the drama that there is in life, you have a ringside seat to the world. It seems to me that that's a very good job.
Biagi: Is it the future you ever envisioned for yourself as a child?
Beebe: No. I can't say that I did. I came into journalism because I had to pick a major as a junior when I went to the University of Wisconsin. [Laughter.] I remember reading Louisa Alcott, and there was a picture of her shaking her fist at the bird, saying she was going to be somebody some day, she was going to be a writer. That had sort of impressed me, but I don't think I yearned to be a writer particularly. Of course, I'm not a creative writer. I know the difference. I was married to two of them. [Laughter.]
Biagi: We'll stop.