Groundbreaking Bear was Houston paper’s first female reporter
The year 1915 was a time of great change all across the globe. World War I had broken out in Europe a year earlier, and while the United States had not yet officially entered the conflict, the move began to seem inevitable that summer when the Germans began attacking American and British civilian ships.
At the time, Bess Whitehead Scott, BA 1912, was a 25-year-old high school English and Latin teacher in Houston — but her sights were set elsewhere. Specifically, she wanted to write for the Houston Post — a job that, at the time, was limited to only men. But by pointing out that men would likely be away at war during the next few years, she managed to talk her way into a trial-run position. That initial two-week run made Scott the Post’s first female reporter — and marks the beginning of her 77-year career in journalism.
“It wasn’t easy in those days for a woman to get her foot in the city room door,” remembered William P. Hobby Jr., who ran the Post from 1963-83. “Bess made it because she understood one of the basic principles of the newspaper business — everyone has a story. You have only to discover it and tell it well.”
Over the years, Scott covered such major events as the Galveston floods of 1915 and the Democratic Convention of 1928; she also interviewed (and regarded as good friends) such names such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson and Clark Gable. In fact, when she wrote her autobiography at age 98, she titled it You Meet Such Interesting People.
In 1991, shortly after Scott celebrated her 100th birthday, the Writers’ League of Texas honored her by creating the Bess Whitehead Scott Journalism Scholarship, to be awarded annually to promising upper-level journalism students at an eligible Texas university. (Fittingly, one of this year’s winners is also a Baylor Bear: senior journalism major Rae Jefferson.) At age 102, Scott was recognized by Baylor as a Distinguished Alumna, and two years later, she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.
Scott passed away in 1997 at the age of 107, having remained an active writer even after her 100th birthday. One of her final assignments was covering Baylor’s Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village for Texas Highways in 1994. With the impact she made on journalism and on women in the workforce, we are honored to call Bess Whitehead Scott a fellow Bear!
Sic ’em, Bess Whitehead Scott!