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December 24, 2008 > History: Writers

History: Writers

Most pioneer local newspaper owners and editors were men but some of the most capable and famous writers they hired were women. Some of these ladies became both prolific writers and celebrated historians.

Gladys Williamson was born into a newspaper family in Tennessee where she began her writing career. Arriving in California in the early 1920s, she continued using her newspaper skills, writing both juvenile fiction and syndicated fiction. In 1930 Williamson founded the Williamson Outdoor School on the Shinn ranch.

In 1934 Gladys began a 27-year career with the Oakland Tribune as the Washington Township reporter. Her stories covered the events and activities of the people in the Tri-Cities area; she became known for her accuracy and enthusiasm. Williamson loved the people, and they loved her. Gathering news for her stories, she revealed the history of the area and became its most prominent historian.

Gladys died suddenly in 1967. The editor of the News Register, the competition newspaper, wrote, "We know from first-hand experience what an intelligent, honest, and energetic journalist she was. Gladys Williamson was a real pro." The Williamson family gave the collection of her writings to the library where they are preserved and made available to students and writers. Gladys was writing a series on Fremont's history when she died.

Elizabeth Haskell was born in Missouri and educated at Berkeley and Pratt Institute School of Librarians. She married William Albert Sloan in 1912, and they operated a prune ranch near Mission San Jose. She was employed in several secretarial and library positions and served as research chairman for the Country Club of Washington Township. At age 75 she took a job as "girl reporter" for The Washington News. George Oakes gave her special thanks for her "fine historical work" on the 1947 Sesquicentennial publication. She was the Associate Editor of The Washington News in 1948.

The Washington News featured stories by local neighborhood writers. Local residents who gathered information from the neighborhoods for the News Register included: Jeanne and Gene Carrol, Newark; Carol Kiep, Irvington; Patricia Noia, Alvarado; Don Brown, Orchard Park; Regena Dinnie, Mission San Jose; Marie Benecasa, Ellsworth Orchard and Niles. Harriet Gittings presented "Township Topics." A 1946 issue carried stories called "Around the Township" and "Irvington News" by Edith Rogers of Irvington and "Newark News" by Bubbles Miller.

The Township Register also featured neighborhood writers. In 1941 they included Elaine Justus, Agnes Raymond and Eugene Pashote. In October 1953 Pat Binder was writing "Newark News," Patsy Pereira "Irvington News" and Cecelia Luevano "Decoto Briefs." The Washington News and The Township Register were joined in 1954 to form the News Register. Harriet Gittings was hired as a combination reporter and advertising salesperson. She covered news events and community meetings and wrote a weekly motorsports column called "Wheelsport."

The News Register continued the tradition of using local writers, which in 1956 included "Irvington News" by Carol Kiep and "Decoto News" by Sandra Peixotto. Sarah Jane Phillips contributed "Glenmoor Gardens Gleanings" and Regena Dennie reported on "Mission San Jose."

Robin Worthington had an 18-year career as a newspaper writer and editor. She was a columnist for the Alameda County Bureau of the San Jose Mercury News and an editor for the lifestyle section of The Argus, successor to the News Register. The Mercury News noted in 1987 that "This local paper has the biggest editorial staff covering the entire Tri-City area." One of the featured writers was Robin Worthington.

The Fremont Writing Group was formed in 1962 by hopeful writers who met in each other's homes. This was a group which was passionate about marketing their efforts. They were held together by "moral support." Most members became published authors with many becoming well-known.

The most published writer of the group was Carol Amen, who wrote a book review called "Amen Corner" for the News Register. Her short story, "Last Testament," became the basis for the feature film "Testament." Robin Worthington was a frequent contributor for family publications and wrote two books. Other published writers included Catherine Taylor, Caroline Breedlove, Helene Schellenberg Barnard and Gerry Fleming. Several members also became popular writing teachers.

There were many others who gathered and organized the daily news events. The works of these writers have now become part of the recorded history of Washington Township.

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