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Forbes Business Feature: A Few Pioneering Women Every Advertising Industry Pro Should Know

How well do you know the names of women who pursued careers in advertising and media despite the odds stacked against them and the norms of their time? Although I read marketing industry stories every day, I must admit I just learned about many of these trailblazing women while researching this post. As we celebrate Women’s History Month and continue to work toward a more equal playing field for women behind the scenes and depicted on-screen, here’s a brief timeline of a few noteworthy firsts.

1828: Sarah Josepha Hale, hired as editor of the Ladies’ Magazine in Boston, became the first female editor of a U.S. magazine. Sarah went on to publish Poems for Our Children in 1830, which included her most famous piece, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

1876: Eliza Jane Nicholson became the first female publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper in the United States. During her time running the Daily Picayune in New Orleans, she advocated for increased hiring and equitable pay for women on staff. If you’re ever in the French Quarter area, you can visit her namesake hotel, located on the paper’s old grounds.

1880: Mathilde C. Weil founded the first female-run advertising agency, the M.C. Weil Agency in New York. For the century that followed, if a woman wanted to command the top spot at an agency like Weil, she would have to start her own.

1904: With $1.25, Madam C.J. Walker launched her own line of black hair care products and ultimately became America’s first female self-made millionaire.

1908: The J Walter Thompson agency hired its first female copywriter, Helen Lansdowne Resor. Creating ads for P&G and the Red Cross, Resor is credited as the first woman to plan and write for major advertising campaigns outside of retail. She was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 1967.

1912: Christine and J. George Frederick founded League of Advertising Women to encourage women to pursue careers in the ad industry and provide an alternative to men-only clubs. The organization (rebranded as She Runs It) has since grown to cover all areas of marketing and media.

1926: Nedda McGrath became the first female art director at a major U.S. agency when she joined the Blackman Agency. “I know of no other woman art director in the field,” she was quoted as saying in the ad history book, The Mirror Makers. “I was discouraged by everyone from making the attempt and had to work perhaps harder than a man.”

1939: NBC hired Thelma Prescott as television’s first female producer/director.

1952: Erma Proetz became the first woman elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame. She climbed the ranks at Gardner Advertising Company of St. Louis for two decades, from copywriter to executive vice president.

1968: Mary Wells Lawrence became the first female CEO of a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange when the agency she co-founded—Wells, Rich, Greene—went public.

1970: Barbara Proctor founded Proctor and Gardner Advertising, becoming the first African-American woman to own an ad agency.

1977: Caroline Robinson Jones became the first black female VP of a major advertising agency at BBDO. Throughout her career she fought to create more diverse representation for people of color in a predominantly white male industry and broke glass ceilings at a number of agencies. She went on to found her own firms, and her TV work for brands like Goodyear and Anheuser-Busch has been featured at the American History museum.

1985: Having climbed the ladder at Della Femina, Louise McNamee became the first woman appointed to run an established advertising agency. She later took on the title of first woman to helm a global advertising agency as partner at MVBMS.

2008: Jacqueline Parkes became the first female chief marketing officer in professional sports when she took on the role at Major League Baseball. In June 2018 she was named CMO and EVP of Digital Studios for Viacom’s VH1, MTV and Logo networks.

2018: A group of 200 ad agency executives, including Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Andrea Diquez and Droga5 Global CEO Sarah Thompson, joined forces with Time’s Up to fight sexual harassment and other forms of abuse in the industry. What started out as a series of emails, phone calls and meetings among peers evolved into the Times Up Advertising movement.

2018: With A Wrinkle In Time, Ava Duvernay became the first black woman to direct a film grossing over $100 million at the domestic box office.

Original Article