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The Trails Gal vs the Super-brain Hunter-Uppers
An introduction to Nellie Manley Buck a female news editor from the 1920s-1940s
Since it’s Women’s History Month it seemed like a good time to introduce one of the more interesting people whose letter is included in Dear Mister Ward.
Nellie Manley Buck was born Helen Maude Manley in 1879 in Farmington Hill, Pennsylvania but she was always known as Nellie. Her family moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin when she was young and that’s where she grew up. She married her first husband, Otis Smith, in 1899 and they had two children. They were only married about ten years before they got divorced and not long after she married a man named Vernon Buck.
When Vernon died in 1930 she was left to raise their son Space Buck alone in Coleraine, Minnesota. Fortunately she already had a job as an Associate Editor at the local paper, the Itasca Iron News. In fact she had been a contributor to that and other papers for quite some time at that point.
She had her own column known as “By Winding Trails,” which was often syndicated in other regional papers. Segments from that column were later compiled into a book which she edited with the incredible title:
"Outdoors With "Dad" Lammon: Compiled and Published as a Distraction to Relieve the Tedium of the Great American Depression from the Office of The Itasca Iron News Coleraine, Minn.
She was also a poet and published a book of poems with the same name as her column. I was able to find a copy online and will post more about that later.
Unfortunately the Itasca Iron News isn’t digitized and its going to be awhile before I can get to the Minnesota Historical Society to look through the archives. However I did find some interesting mentions of Nellie as well as a few syndicated pieces.
One in particular stood out. She writes about the attitude towards rural families during World War II. She refutes the condescending attacks on rural communities by recruiters claiming that somehow they aren’t doing their part for the war effort. When I read this I hear her narrating it with the voice of Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday.
She would later move on to be the city editor at the Shippensburg News Chronicle in Shippensburg PA, near where she was born. The hiring was announced in the paper on May 4th of 1943.
I thought these two connected well since Nellie is moving into the new position because Mr. Crane is entering the military.
Also of note is this editorial from the Eleveth News-Clarion from Eleveth, Minnesota about her leaving the paper.
It’s good to know that at least someone from a competing paper appreciated her contributions. Who knows if her employers did.
Nellie’s way with words is evident in the letter she sent to Montgomery Ward. It’s one of the shorter letters but also one of the most pointed and humorous.
The letter is read in this video by Kat Adler at the Shea Theater on December 2nd, 2022. I plan to post the complete performance soon so become a paid subscriber for access when I do.