Importance of History Leads to Book on NFPW Leadership

As Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas became more involved with the Illinois Woman’s Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women she became intrigued by the women who created both organizations.

When NFPW celebrated its 75th anniversary, Marianne researched further about the history. It wasn’t until her husband was diagnosed with a brain cancer, ironically, that the history of NFPW came to life.

“Early into his recovery period, I needed to find something to clear my mind,” Marianne said. “During those hours when he was resting or asleep, I would find myself going through the boxes of material I had stored.”

Without even realizing it, Marianne was beginning to pull together the capsules of information for her book, Leadership 1937-2013.

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas wrote a book on NFPW's leadership.

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas wrote a book on NFPW’s leadership.

“The leadership of NFPW has been amazing! Each woman brought something unique and exceptional to the federation. Each had her own style. Each had her own struggles to deal with,” Marianne said. “Collectively they grew a dynamic energy and resolve to the history of women in this country.”

“For me, it’s important for the membership of NFPW to know who came before them,” Marianne added. “More importantly, these first forty remain an important chapter in the history of women journalists and writers.”

History has always been important to Marianne. “History remains important to me because it helps me to understand the how, why and what ifs of my own personal life. It also gives me a greater appreciation for what took place before me.”

The book was published by Dreamers Tapestry, which is owned by fellow IWPA/NFPW members Susan and Art Brauer. “One of the best results of being a member of IWPA and NFPW is the networking,” Marianne said. Once she had her “aha” moment about reaching out to the Brauers the plan to publish came together.

During the fall conference in Utah, Marianne surprised attendees by presenting a copy of her book to each of the NFPW presidents at the Saturday night banquet. She also presented everyone else in attendance with a copy. Her husband Jonas was beside her beaming with pride at what Marianne had accomplished.

Editor’s Note: Copies of the book are available for purchase through the Illinois Woman’s Press Association website . A portion of the proceeds are split between the Education Funds of NFPW and IWPA.

The Past Is the Future

Each year at the NFPW conference I hear stories from our distinguished members about their early experiences in journalism. Years later as they share the stories, we can laugh and marvel at what they experienced.

Most of us believe that we’ve come so far from those days. But as with all history it’s good to not forget. And several recent studies point out that women still aren’t equal to their male counterparts.

The American Association of University Women reported in a study a few years ago that women right out of college make only 80 percent as much as their male peers. It’s also one of the reasons the National Council for Research on Women has begun promoting mentors and peer support for younger women.

And here’s where NFPW can come in. How simple would it be to partner one of our experienced members with a first-timer at the next national conference? That’s one of Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas’ ideas for the conference next year. The two can meet in Chicago “Face to Face” and then continue the mentoring via phone, email, text, Twitter or whatever the newest way to communicate will be.

We also don’t want to lose the lessons and stories of those who blazed the trails for us. Over the next few months, I plan to interview former NFPW presidents about their experiences and lessons learned. Our membership is rich with experience; we need to capture it and learn and grow from it.

NFPW also provides newer, less experienced members with outstanding leadership and learning opportunities. Assisting with a conference or serving on the state affiliate board or the NFPW board provides opportunities that often enhance leadership opportunities in the career sector. I learned my event planning skills by coordinating several conferences for Virginia Press Women and eventually co-chairing the 2007 NFPW conference in Richmond. When I began my career, I would not have known the first thing to do.

I first heard about social media years ago at an NFPW conference. I remember sitting in the room (I don’t even recall what state we were in) and being completely overwhelmed. I wasn’t alone. But I realized that was the future,and I needed to understand it. Today I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and have my own blog.

Without NFPW I would be behind the curve.

So let’s learn and grow,taking the wisdom of those who have gone before us. And let’s help our younger, newer members so that they, too, can continue to blaze the trail for the next generation.

The Power of the Ask

“Just ask.” That’s my new motto.

A few years ago when Pam Stallsmith and I were co-chairing the 2007 NFPW conference, we knew we needed to raise funds. I’m not really good about asking for money, but if you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get anything. And so taking Pam’s advice to “just ask,” I began my calls.

And then, I asked.

And most everyone gave.

As I was preparing to become president, I needed to find members to serve on the appointed board. Pam reminded me, “Just ask.”

Our members want to be asked. More importantly they understand the power of making NFPW stronger.

I called Teresa Ford in Colorado and asked if she would design our newsletter. I had been impressed by the design of the NFPW conference program in Colorado, which she had designed. I gave her time to think about it.

When I called back she said she was busy but would do it because she, too, is involved with volunteer groups and it’s hard to get people to volunteer. She didn’t want to be the one who didn’t.

I asked Linda Koehler to edit the newsletter. Texas was only her second conference but we had spoken last year — we connected because she is from my home state of Pennsylvania. She said yes.

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas offered several excellent suggestions during our general meeting on membership. So… I asked her to join the board spearheading membership. She was a tough sell because she wanted to be sure we (or should I say I) was going to do what I said I would do as president. But I asked, and she said yes.

And so I’ll continue to ask.

I hope you’ll answer.