Gazette Girls of Grundy County: Horse Trading, Hot Lead, and High Heels

Overview

It was 1933 when Gwen and Ardis Hamilton bought the Grundy County Gazette.  Gwen was twenty-one, barely old enough to vote, and Ardis was twenty-three.  America was in the throes of the Depression.  Buying the paper had been Gwen's idea, tossed out half in jest:  why not buy a rundown country paper, build it up, and sell it in a couple of years?  And so that hot July they set out in Nancy, Ardis's 1930 Chevrolet, with their cat, Tarzanna, and all their wordly possessions, and headed to ...

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Overview

It was 1933 when Gwen and Ardis Hamilton bought the Grundy County Gazette.  Gwen was twenty-one, barely old enough to vote, and Ardis was twenty-three.  America was in the throes of the Depression.  Buying the paper had been Gwen's idea, tossed out half in jest:  why not buy a rundown country paper, build it up, and sell it in a couple of years?  And so that hot July they set out in Nancy, Ardis's 1930 Chevrolet, with their cat, Tarzanna, and all their wordly possessions, and headed to Spickard, a north-western Missouri town of six hundred.

In chapters that alternate between the sisters' distinctive voices, The Gazette Girls of Grundy County tells a captivating story of two women's adventures in a small midwestern town.  Although both women had been trained in journalism, their education hadn't prepared them for the realities of running a country newspaper.  While Gwen sold advertising to local businesses, Ardis worked financial wizardry, often dipping into her own savings, to keep the Gazette in the black.  With no money for subscriptions, Grundy County residents taught the sisters the fine art of horse trading, offering dressed chickens, quarters of beef, "ricks" and "racks" of firewood, and countless other goods in exchange for subscriptions to the ever-improving newspaper. 

The "Gazette girls," as they were known by the locals, were as different as they could be.   At five foot two (in very high heels), Ardis was a serious career woman who dabbled in  Republican politics.  At five foot nine, Gwen was a gregarious, sometimes impetuous, closet Democrat.  But both shared persistence and dedication in equal measure.  As the sisters waged daily battles with their tempermental printing press, Old Bertha, and their sometimes more temperamental press operator, the Gazette began to garner awards for editorials and features and-more important-to earn the enthusiasm of its readers.

Filled with hilarious stories of small-town life, The Gazette Girls of Grundy County is a remarkable story of two women coming of age in the newspaper business and an extraordinary slice of Americana.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In alternating chapters, perfectionist, no-nonsense Ardis and her more gregarious, enthusiastic sister (one spelled, the other didn't) recall the days when type and women were hot. It is a thoroughly charming little memoir, treating not only of small-town newspapers but of the small-town America they reflected. Plus, of course, a pre-Lib primer on what a woman could do when she set her mind to it, even in the '30s, without losing her rightly cherished femininity."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Gwen and Ardis Hamilton’s exploits make for fascinating reading.” –Rural Missouri

Library Journal
Buying a newspaper seemed like a good idea to two sisters looking for a way to employ themselves and their writing talents during the Depression. Gwen and Ardis Hamilton owned and published The Grundy County Gazette in Spickard, Missouri, from 1935 to 1940. In alternating voices, the sisters reminisce about the details of running a small country newspaper. From trading subscriptions for dressed chickens to operating their temperamental Linotype, they learned about the aspects of getting out a paper not covered in journalism school. The stories of the lives of the people they met are interwoven with their own remembered hopes and dreams. Although the Hamiltons were among the early women newspaper publishers, this book is more a snapshot of a moment in their lives than an examination of their role in journalism history. It will appeal to readers interested in biographies and Americana.-Judy Solberg, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park
Booknews
The story of the Hamilton sisters and their adventures running a country newspaper in Depression-era Missouri, filled with hilarious stories of small-town life. The Gazette Girls learned horse trading, and bartered food and firewood in exchange for newspaper subscriptions. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826209863
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/1994
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

After selling the Grundy County Gazette in 1938, Gwen Hamilton Thogmartin worked for Emporia State University and the Lyon County Historical Society Museum.  Financial difficulties had made it impossible for her to complete her undergraduate studies in the early 1930s, but she completed her degree in 1975.  Ardis Hamilton Anderson continued her work in journalism as a reporter.  She was the youngest charter member of the Missouri Women's Press Club, in which she remained active until leaving the state in 1990.  Both women now live in Emporia, Kansas, not far from their hometown of Waverly. 

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