Povich Rewind: Who’s She?

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Povich Rewind: Who’s She?
Aug 27, 2018

The beginning of the new school year is a time to remind students at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism involved with the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism just who was Shirley Povich.

Povich was a sportswriter, sports editor and sports columnist for The Washington Post for 75 years until his death in June, 1998, at the age of 92.

The winner of numerous awards, including the Red Smith award presented in 1983 by the Associated Press Sports Editors Association, for his exceptional lifelong service to sports journalism, Povich truly was a master of his craft.

But the one award Povich loved as much as any was his inclusion in 1959, in the first edition of Who’s Who of American Women.

Below is the rewind of the coverage that appeared in the 2005 anthology of Povich’s work, “All Those Mornings…At the Post,” including the 1959 story by Millicent Adams that appeared in The Washington Post.

Who’s She

In 1959, the Marquis Company in Chicago, who assembled the respected Who’s Who in America, decided to publish its first edition of Who’s Who of American Women. They sent a letter to Miss Shirley Povich of The Washington Post, inviting Povich to submit a biography for the book. He flipped the letter into the waste basket. But despite the fact that his daily column ran with a clear photo of the author, Povich was included in the new edition. Papers all over the country picked up the AP story on the embarrassing error. The Los Angeles Times splashed it across the page showing pictures of Mamie Eisenhower, Liz Taylor, Eleanor Roosevelt, Clare Booth Luce, and Povich – with a cigar. Walter Cronkite sent a telegram asking, “Miss Povich, will you marry me?” The Marquis Company quickly sent an apology to Povich, hoping he wasn’t embarrassed by the incident. Typically, Povich responded saying, “For years I have been hearing this is no longer a man’s world and I am glad to be listed officially on the winning side.” 

Who’s Who of U.S. Women?

18,999 Shes and One He

By Millicent Adams

The Washington Post 

The first edition of “Who’s Who of American Women,” hot off the presses, includes among the names of 19,000 prominent U.S. women, the Washington Post’s award-winning sports columnist Shirley Povich – who happens to be the proud father of three children.

But, Povich is not complaining: “I now belong to the most exclusive club in America,” said the ace writer whose accounts of bruising ring bouts and tense baseball and gridiron games are page one sports news.

And. He’s so right. The company he’s keeping in the 1,400-plus page tome includes First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt and screen siren Marilyn Monroe.

While these celebrities received the nod from the publishers, such personages as former U.S. Minister to Luxemburg Perle Mesta, the widow of former President Woodrow Wilson, and Mrs. J. Borden Harriman, former Minister to Norway, were cold shouldered.

Being mistaken for a member of the opposite sex is not new for Povich, who at one time was invited to join the League of American Pen Women.

They were a little more “alert,” he remembers. When filling out an application for membership with the group he was called upon to answer some ticklish question.

One of them read: “Has your sex been a handicap in your profession?” Povich’s reply was, “I can honestly say none whatsoever.”

Another query wanted to know: “How do you get along with the men in your profession.” Povich replied truthfully, “I simply try to be one of the boys.”

During World War II days, war correspondent Povich innocently shattered the dreams of some battle weary GIs on the tiny Pacific Island of Anguar who had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of a girl correspondent.

The Who’ Who mix-up started last July when Povich received a letter (addressed to Miss Shirley L. Povich) containing his listing as it would appear in “Who’s Who American Women.”

Povich dismissed it assuming they would discover their own error, “especially when it clearly stated that I am married to a girl named Ethyl.”

Months went by (“maybe my silence was dishonest”) and it was a forgotten matter until a coworker notified a “surprised” Povich of his conspicuous presence in the book.

“I guess you call that winning by default,” said Povich. “But, if it’s all right with them, it’s all right with me.” The book has been compiled by the publishers of the highly-esteemed “Who’s Who in America,” the Marquis Co. of Chicago.

The professions mentioned include artists, actresses, dancers, civic leaders, church women, social workers, educators, editors, journalists, music patrons, philanthropists, doctors, nurses, nuns, lawyers and stamp collectors – just to name a few!

In the case of Mrs. Eisenhower, however, any reference to a career is omitted altogether.

Former First Lady Bess Truman’s name is among the missing, but daughter Margaret is present and accounted for as Margaret Truman Daniel, “concert singer.”

Former American Ambassador to Italy Clare Boothe Luce is listed simply as Clare Boothe, playwright, ex congresswomen, ex ambassador, in that order.

Among others listed are contralto Marian Anderson, Ivy Baker Priest, Mrs. Oswald Lord, Barbara Gunderson and Elizabeth Taylor.

Along with the new editions that editors have conceded on an enclosed slip of paper that “… it is our feeling that any errors made were of inclusion rather than exclusion.”

January 14, 1959

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