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Baton Rouge Woman’s Enterprise
In July 1921, less than a year after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote, the Woman’s Enterprise was founded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the state capital and a center of industry and education. Devoted to women’s interests, the paper was published and edited by Mattie B. McGrath (1867-1926). Formerly a writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, McGrath was the daughter of John McGrath (1835-1924), founder of two Baton Rouge newspapers, the Daily Truth and the Weekly Truth.
In its inaugural issue, the Woman’s Enterprise declared that its purpose was to promote the “economic, moral, social and political uplift of the community…without trespassing upon the pastures of the daily and weekly papers…in a spirit of good will towards all.” It encouraged women to register to vote and, as the official organ of the local district of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (a nonpartisan, nondenominational service organization), reported on women’s volunteer work. Civic improvements were a major topic of reporting, and the paper was a strong advocate of the Good Roads Movement. Women’s education was frequently discussed, with much attention given to the activities of female students at Louisiana State University. For several months, the paper featured a series of articles for young women entitled “Choosing a Profession” written by local professionals of both sexes. This was coupled with regular profiles of Louisiana businesswomen. Most issues contain extensive historical sketches of local institutions and buildings, particularly churches and synagogues. Also of interest are news of lectures, plays, and concerts, household tips, and a fashion column.
The Woman’s Enterprise was targeted at white readers. Although it generally avoided issues of race, one editorial offered passive support for the Ku Klux Klan, and advertisements occasionally employed racial stereotypes. The paper was the official organ of the Louisiana Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a heritage association devoted to preserving the memory of Confederate veterans and Civil War battles. John McGrath, a former Confederate officer, contributed a lengthy memoir of his military service, both in the Civil War and with William Walker, an American adventurer and one-time editor of the New Orleans Daily Crescent who attempted to establish an English-speaking slaveholding empire in Central America in the 1850s.
The Woman’s Enterprise was issued monthly, usually in sixteen but at times in as few as twelve or as many as thirty-two pages. The last extant issue is dated July 31, 1925. Publication appears to have ceased by the time of Mattie McGrath’s death in December 1926.
Provided by: Louisiana State University; Baton Rouge, LA