The Story of CWIP’s Roots from First CWIP President Roz Beitler

By Roz Beitler on Friday, December 18, 2020
Roz Beitler receives an engraved silver box thanking her for her service as CWIP President, 1972-1974. (Bobbie O'Brien, left; Pat Lane, right).

On the Centennial of the 19th Amendment, it is timely to celebrate a women's organization that might be compared to, "The Little Engine That Could." Founded in 1972 and still going strong, Chicago Women in Publishing's roots defy all expectations of it being so successful.  

Its origin began when several female editors at Playboy Magazine wanted to survey other editors to determine their interest in forming an organization to support women’s careers in publishing. Their motivation was inspired by some New York editors who had organized independently as well as others who had organized under the umbrella of the Meat Cutters Union. 

I was working as the staff editor at an educational publishing company and had recently moved to Chicago from New York when I was contacted by the Playboy editors. They invited me to join a small group to plan how to proceed. Our grassroots approach seems almost laughable now, but this was way before the internet.

Chicago was comprised of many associations; a number of them had only one editor. But several publishing houses had several editors. Our small planning group didn't want to involve women's place of employment, so we decided to contact the editors directly by phone. Believe it or not, we used the Yellow Pages of the phone book to find telephone numbers. We asked the editors not only if they would be interested in joining an organization but also if they would be willing to attend a planning meeting. 

We were so pleasantly surprised by the positive response from the editors that we quickly arranged to have our kickoff meeting. I remember peeking from the curtain to see a full-sized audience of 100!

There was a discussion about forming a union, though a union was never formed. At first I worried about resistance from the older editors, but they were the ones who were most enthusiastic as they had nothing to lose. One of the reasons contributing to our success was that we formed smaller committees right away to empower our members. In addition to being a founder of Chicago Women in Publishing (CWIP), I was the first president. 

Not long after CWIP's kickoff meeting, there were layoffs at several publishing houses. The company I worked for, Lyons and Carnahan, went out of business and 300 employees were out of work. After Encyclopedia Britannica had published a new edition, 500 people were laid off. CWIP offered several programs to educate and inform the members of their employment rights and offer job search assistance.

This was the beginning of the many valuable contributions available to CWIP members that is continuing to this day.

With graduate degrees in Early Childhood Education and Library Science, Roz Beitler focused on children in her career as a researcher, writer, editor, librarian, children's literature specialist, and program director. One of her favorite jobs was to run the Smithsonian Kite Festival.

One response to “The Story of CWIP’s Roots from First CWIP President Roz Beitler”

  1. I am glad I read the piece by Roz Beitler just now. It gives me a shot in the arm as a board member to keep plugging away. Sherryl Brown, Vice-President

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