The first biography of Marie Mattingly Meloney (1878-1943), “a journalist, publicist, social reformer, mother, rainmaker, diplomat, political operative, and patron of women, the arts and sciences.”
After her father’s death, Missy (as the author refers to her throughout) used her literary and social knowledge to introduce herself into Washington, D.C., society and the sophisticated world of statesmen and men of letters. She began a lifetime of making contacts and went on to have a “public impact [that] reverberated broadly,” writes former history professor Des Jardins (Walter Camp: Football and the Modern Era, 2015, etc.), a board member of the National Women’s History Project. A fall from a horse left Missy with a permanent limp, and her recurring battles with a tubercular lung could have condemned her to a restricted life. However, “she vowed never to be the unavailable convalescent her mother had been.” When the Washington Post published her letter promoting a church, a journalist was born. Not long after, she captured a scoop on Spanish-American War hero George Dewey. Missy delivered not only a story, but also photos and connections to famous neighbors, whom she knew personally. As Des Jardins clearly demonstrates, she never stopped looking beyond the story. In 1900, she went to Colorado to recuperate from a TB attack and returned home as the Denver Post’s Washington correspondent—at age 18. One of Missy’s strengths was her patience. Whether seeking a story, convincing someone to write for her national publication, This Week, or gaining access to the Senate press gallery, she waited, worked, and always succeeded. What she discovered along the way was the strength of women’s ability to accomplish things through contacts and friendships. Without the vote, titles, or positions, one could still master the art of influence. Missy’s network extended across Europe and America and the political and intellectual spectrums. Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Lou and Herbert Hoover are only some of the people whose lives she affected. Her accomplishments were vast, and Des Jardins capably brings them to light.
The author opens our eyes to a woman who should be a household name.