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Our first century

A mandate to 'lighten' still drives the Monitor at the dawn of its second 100 years.

(Page 4 of 9)

The assignment to rebuild the Monitor went to Willis Abbot, a highly experienced newspaperman who had worked at Hearst-owned papers in Washington, Chicago, and New York.

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A co-worker said the distinguished-looking Abbot, who sported a white mustache and goatee, was "one of the most genial, lovable, and interesting of men and the paper reflected his warm qualities." In addition to his editing duties, Abbot traveled widely and contributed to the paper's coverage. Under his leadership the paper recovered, with circulation hitting 129,000 at the end of his term in 1927, when leadership of the paper passed for a time to an editorial committee.

Abbot was a trail-blazer in the treatment of women at the Monitor. While Monitor executives treated the paper's female founder with reverence, her paper was not a woman-friendly zone for many years. But in 1922, Abbot named Cora Rigby as the paper's Washington bureau chief, making her the first woman to hold such a role at a major paper. She had the experience for the job since she came to the Monitor after 15 years on the New York Herald.

In October 1919, Ms. Rigby and five other women met in her Monitor office to organize the Women's National Press Club. The club got a boost when Eleanor Roosevelt joined and began hosting women-only press conferences.

Rigby was one of the first in a line of pioneering and courageous women journalists at the Monitor that included World War II correspondent Mary Hornaday; Charlotte Saikowski, who served in Moscow, Tokyo, Washington, and as chief editorial writer; and Elizabeth Pond, who covered the Vietnam War and later was Bonn bureau chief.


As the US economic depression deepened, the Monitor gave President Herbert Hoover "unswerving support," as Canham put it, in the 1932 election. One reason: Franklin D. Roosevelt favored repeal of Prohibition and Christian Scientists are generally teetotalers.

The tough economic climate did not prevent the Church from building a handsome new home for the Monitor and its sister periodicals. The nine-story Publishing House was completed in 1934 and its second floor has served as the Monitor's newsroom ever since.

The Depression's negative effects on circulation and advertising revenue triggered an internal study of the Monitor's purposes and performance. As a result, Boston editions were strengthened, editorial taboos were eliminated, and a weekly magazine, produced using a high-quality color printing process, was launched. This editorial strengthening took place under the editorship of Roscoe Drummond, who was named to the job in 1934. He later wrote a widely syndicated Washington column. His close friend Canham called Mr. Drummond a "journalistic genius."