When Beverly Hodgson ’70 became editor-in-chief of The Brown Daily Herald in 1969, she made national headlines as the “First Woman Editor of (an) Ivy League Daily.”
But there’s more to this story than Hodgson’s title. She was a leading force among a group of women who helped bring about an era of rapid change at both the University and The Herald.
Applying to Brown as “a bit of a maverick”
Growing up in Bristol, Rhode Island, Hodgson used to bike to the Haffenreffer Museum and meet up with University graduate students “who thought the local kids were sort of fun,” she recalled. “It gave me the idea that Brown would be in my future.”
And indeed, Brown was in her future. Applying for admission at a private university made Hodgson “a bit of a maverick” in the public high school she attended, where “there wasn’t a lot of aspiration.” Many of the students were expected to join the military or attend a state university, she said. Hodgson sustained the high cost of tuition with what she described as “a lot of scholarships.”
In 1966, when Hodgson started her first year at Brown, there were 750 male students and 250 female students in her year, she said.
“Women were not an afterthought. They were an important part (of) the academic scene and in the social scene,” said Richard Cohen ’69, a member of The Herald’s 78th editorial board, which elected Hodgson to become EIC “But … from my perspective and my memory, (it) was a largely male campus.”
Getting into the University was more difficult for women — who were limited by the size of Pembroke Campus, where female dormitories were located — meaning that female admits underwent a more competitive admission process, Hodgson said.
Yet, there were also “low expectations for the women students,” she said.
Many deans at that time were accustomed to female students getting married right after college. “While some of the deans had pretty impressive academic credentials themselves, they did not, I think, either recognize or foster much ambition among (female) students,” said Hodgson.
Hodgson recalled receiving limited guidance on how to navigate her concentrations, English and American Civilization, because “nobody urged (her) to do anything differently.” The discrepancy between the expectations of female and male students became one of Hodgson’s favorite editorial topics during her tenure at The Herald.
“It was an era of change,” she said. “The deans had not yet quite realized that feminism was upon them.”
During her time at Brown, Hodgson had planned to apply for an Arnold Fellowship, which was established in 1964 by Thomas J. Watson, Jr. ’37 and named after Provost Samuel T. Arnold, class of 1913. The fellowship funded graduating seniors pursuing independent projects around the world. But, she faced a barrier upon learning that only male students were eligible for the fellowship.
“I walked into University Hall, asked for an application and the secretary said, ‘you (have) to be male,’” Hodgson said. Barrett Hazeltine — Hodgson’s dean of the college — “heard me and … gave me an application so that I could apply.” The year after, the Arnold Fellowships opened their eligibility to female applicants, and one of Hodgson’s best friends received the fellowship.
Hazeltine, now professor emeritus of engineering, remembered Hodgson as “confident (and) self-reliant.” He described her as a “sensible and cheerful” student who was able “to get things done.”
“She would do a good job, whatever her gender”
Entering Brown, The Herald appealed to Hodgson not just because of her familiarity with journalism — she had been the editor of her high school newspaper — but also because its staff seemed to her like a “smart and interesting blend of geeky yet cool” people.
The gender breakdown of staff at The Herald at that time was approximately one third female and two thirds male, according to Hodgson.
Hodgson was elected as EIC in 1969 after spending five semesters at The Herald.
The choice was “obvious,” according to Cohen, one of the three male EIC of the 1968 board — a triumvirate rather than one EIC — who chose Hodgson for the role.
“Even before we made the selection, I think it was pretty obvious to us that she” was the best candidate, Cohen said.
He was not aware that Hodgson would be first woman EIC of an Ivy League daily newspaper, though he was “generally aware” that she would be the first woman editor of The Herald.
“It was a good thing that The Herald was having a woman as editor, but (it) was not the most important factor,” Cohen added. “The most important factor (was that) she would do a good job, whatever her gender.”
He described Hodgson as “friendly, outgoing … and bright” and added that “colleagues at The Herald really enjoyed working with her.” From Cohen’s perspective, Hodgson “took the work seriously without being too serious (and) worked hard, especially as an editor.”
For Cohen, it became “more routine” that women were a part of The Herald because of the work of Laurie Robinson ’68, managing editor of the editorial board in 1967, who was “very active with Herald operations” and a “pace setter” for women at The Herald.
Hodgson didn’t recall many complexities in the process of being elected as EIC. “By the time you get to junior year, … it was pretty clear who was in the running,” she said.
Before serving as EIC , Hodgson was an arts editor and shared that she enjoyed having “free tickets” to events and writing reviews. “One of my English professors referred to me as the commissar of culture because I wrote so many negative articles,” she said.
“This should not be so novel”
Hodgson didn’t consider the “first female EIC of an Ivy League Daily” a title to wear.
“This should not be so novel,” she said. “What’s the big deal? I've been doing the work, I have colleagues (who) know what I’m doing. The declaration as being the ‘first’ continues to make it unusual that women are in the places that they should be in.”
While Hodgson noted many of her male coworkers at the newspaper held liberal ideals and were accepting of her, she recalled one instance when she overheard men from “the most athletic, blondest frats” talking to another woman on campus and saying that “she’s one of those girls like Bev Hodgson.”
Despite experiences like these outside The Herald, she found that running the newsroom was an “egalitarian thing.”
“Folks your age have a tendency (to consider that time) the bad old days of pre-feminism, but it was actually the good old days,” Hodgson said. “If you were a good reporter and you were fun to have around the newsroom, that was all it took.”
“And you were willing to stay up ‘til three in the morning just like everybody else did,” she added with a laugh.
Lifelong female friendship at The Herald
Laura Salganik ’70, who served as managing editor on the 79th Editorial Board when Hodgson was EIC , visited Hodgson the weekend before Hodgson spoke with The Herald. Salganik stopped by Hodgson’s home in New Haven with her husband Bill Salganik ’68, who was EIC of the 77th editorial board of The Herald in 1967.
Laura Salganik and Hodgson met at The Herald and developed a “natural friendship,” according to Laura Salganik.
Growing up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Salganik worked at her high school newspaper and wanted to “work in a co-ed environment,” which led her to join The Herald. She was also active in the curriculum reform that led to the Open Curriculum and wrote frequently about the new curriculum, according to Salganik.
Working as a managing editor alongside Hodgson, Salganik liked “the thrill of putting out a paper every day.” It gave her a “front-row seat” to events at the University during a time of reform, adding that she was at the faculty meeting where University faculty voted to adopt the Open Curriculum.
Even though both Hodgson and Salganik were strong editors, there was no competition between them when it came to selecting who would be EIC, Salganik said.
“It wasn’t anything she won. … It just fell out that way,” Salganik said. “I think she got what she wanted (and) I got what I wanted, because I was really more involved in the curriculum reform (while) she wrote most of the editorials.”
“We worked very closely,” Hodgson said. “She often reduced the rabid nature of my editorial writing.”
Creating a daily newspaper at that time entailed long nights — every word that went into publication had to be typed by hand, Hodgson said.
“Part of the work was that every night somebody had to go down to the print shop and be there and edit, then copy edit after the type was set,” she said. “It usually took you until about three in the morning.”
But the three a.m. nights often conflicted with the 11 p.m. curfew Brown set for women students at the time.
“We had to come in after curfew, and I have no idea how they worked that out,” said Salganik, who remembers having to sign out of her dormitory to go to the print shop.
During World War II: The Herald-Record
During her early years at Brown, the University also had a women’s weekly newspaper called the Pembroke Record, Hodgson said. The Record, established in 1922, published until 1970 and “documented and commented upon life at Pembroke College,” according to the Brown Digital Repository.
“It had been the case that women on campus who wanted to get involved in campus journalism were more likely to do it at The Pembroke Record,” Cohen said. But Hodgson wanted to participate in a daily newspaper, not a weekly.
During World War II, from 1943 to 1945, The Herald merged with The Pembroke Record to form the Brown Herald-Record. The Herald-Record had an editorial board that consisted of a “Pembroke Board” and a “Brown Board,” with an EIC overseeing both boards, according to the Brown Digital Repository.
Audrey Mishel ’45 served as managing editor of the Pembroke Board in 1943 and was elected as EIC of the Herald-Record in 1944. Coincidentally, Hodgson married Mishel’s nephew, according to Encyclopedia Brunoniana.
“She actually was the first editor, but I was the first regular, non-war time (editor),” Hodgson added with a laugh.
Beating the odds: becoming a woman in law
When Hodgson was at Brown, a dean asked her whether she “had thought about jobs in one of the sales programs at one of the department stores,” Hodgson said. “I was extremely annoyed. … I thought I deserved a little more ambition than that.”
After Brown, Hodgson received a Master of Arts and Teaching at Harvard University and taught at South Boston High School before attending Yale Law School. No one at Brown advised her on applying to Law School; she navigated the process on her own with the help of her husband, Hodgson said.
As a civil rights lawyer, a Title IX case brought Hodgson to the United States Supreme Court, she said. She later became a superior court judge in Connecticut and is now an arbitrator and mediator of civil cases.
“She’s been a trendsetter in some ways as a woman in law,” Cohen said. Women not only had “little chance to get into law school, but when … they were there in law school, (it was) more of a difficult experience for them.”
It was “challenging for women to become active practicing lawyers during the time that she did it,” he added
The Herald helped Hodgson develop time management skills and gave her “a thick enough skin” to bear saying unpopular things or suing “people who didn’t enjoy being sued,” Hodgson said.
“In fact,” she added, The Herald “probably gave me a lifelong taste for running things.”
Kathy Wang is a senior staff writer who covers the University's Undergraduate Council of Students and Undergraduate Finance Board. She is a sophomore from Beijing, China studying Nonfiction Writing and Comparative Literature.