Q: Who was the first woman in the United States to have a nationally syndicated political column and where, in Kansas, was she born and raised?
A: Doris Fleeson / Sterling, Kansas
Doris Fleeson was a newspaper reporter and syndicated columnist in Washington D.C. for nearly 40 years. Fleeson was born in Sterling, Kansas, on May 20, 1901. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1923. During her time at KU, she was a correspondent for the University Daily Kansan. According to the archives at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, her first newspaper job outside of KU was with The Pittsburg (Kan.) Sun. Eventually, she obtained a position at the New York Daily News. Within a few years, she was assigned to the newspaper's Albany bureau and became acquainted with Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose administration she later covered in Washington.
On September 28, 1930, she was married to John O'Donnell, a fellow Daily News reporter. Fleeson joined her husband in The Daily News' Washington Bureau in 1933. Together they started the "Capitol Stuff" column. Fleeson and O'Donnell divorced in 1942. The next year, Fleeson left The Daily News and went to Europe as a war correspondent for The Woman's Home Companion. After the war, she returned to Washington and began a column on political affairs, which appeared first in The Washington Star. In 1958, Fleeson married Dan Kimball, who was President Harry Truman's Secretary of the Navy.
By the time Fleeson went into semi-retirement in 1967, her twice-a-week column was distributed by United Features Syndicate, Inc., to 90 newspapers. Her reporting over the years earned her a number of awards and citations. A champion of women's rights, she was an active member of the Women's National Press Club and an inveterate foe of the National Press Club, which did not admit women members.
Another Kansas woman, Carolyn Sayler, wrote a book about Doris Fleeson titled, Doris Fleeson: Incomparably the First Political Journalist of Her Time.
Fun Factoid: Doris Fleeson graduated from Sterling High School in 1918, where she was the class valedictorian. So, stay in school, kids! You too could become a future Kansas Trivia question!
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