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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Student’s research leads to induction of woman into
Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame

KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 2, 2003 -- Although University of Rhode Island senior Amanda Selvidio of Westerly wants to be a journalist, she would also make a superb archeologist.

That’s because she’s great at unearthing information about women journalists, particularly getting the scoop on Emma Shaw Colcleugh who began writing for The Providence Journal in 1875, a time when women appeared in newspaper’s society pages not the newsrooms.

Information about women journalists is as scarce as elves in July. For that reason, Barbara Luebke, professor of journalism, last fall required students in her "Perspectives on Reporting" class to research women journalists in Rhode Island and write biographical essays on them.

Selvidio chose to research Emma Shaw Colcleugh. As a result of the URI student’s hard work, Colcleugh was inducted in the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame in November.

Luckily, Selvidio discovered a book at the Westerly Public Library, 100 Years of the Providence Journal. Colcleugh was the only woman journalist whose picture appeared in the book. "I figured that it would be easier to find information about her career," said Selvidio.

It wasn’t. However the URI student finally hit pay dirt when she discovered scrapbooks and articles Colcleugh donated to the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology in Bristol.

Wearing latex gloves, Selvidio looked through primary sources of Colcleugh’s life. "Colcleugh saved everything, there were copies of interviews she gave, articles she had written, invitations to weddings, and family obituaries. Looking over her life made me realize how much she had accomplished during her 43 years at The Providence Journal," said Selvidio.

Born Emma Shaw in Thompson, Conn., Colcleugh became a teacher in Providence when she was 18 in 1864, which allowed her to travel in the summer. In 1875, when planning a trip to Canada, she asked Journal editors if they would publish stories she wrote about her travels. They agreed. Her freelance writing eventually led to her tenure as a reporter for the newspaper. She had the less than glamorous task of writing and editing a weekly column that covered Providence women’s club news most of the year. However, because the clubs didn’t meet during the summer, Colcleugh was able to take trips to places as far flung as Cuba and the Hawaiian Islands, writing articles about her visits.

With fellow journalist Sarah Hopkins, Colcleugh wrote incisive articles about the poor conditions after the Spanish American War. She also traveled the U.S. lecturing on her adventures.

"Colcleugh was doing all this during the late 1800s when most women did not have careers, especially in journalism," said Selvidio who writes for the URI student newspaper, The Good 5¢ Cigar and interns at The Newport Daily News.

Impressed with Selvidio’s findings, Luebke forwarded a copy of her student’s research to the subcommittee of the Rhode Island Press Association which selected Colcleugh for the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame. A plaque with her likeness and her biography hangs with other hall of fame journalists in the lower lobby of the Chafee Social Science Center.

The URI student will conduct further research on Colcleugh during her independent study project with Luebke for the spring semester.

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