Marie “Missy” Mattingly Meloney was born in 1878, in an America where women couldn’t vote and had extremely limited political power. By the time she died in 1943, women had been voting for over two decades and were a recognised political block. This seems like an inevitability but in many ways it was Missy who created the idea of the female demographic. As a journalist, editor and political adviser, Missy is responsible for bringing women into American political culture as recognised consumers of political content, as a voting demographic to be targeted and reckoned with and as political operatives in their own right.
Even before the passage of the 19th Amendment, Missy was carving out space for women in politics. As Editor-in-Chief of three major women’s periodicals (at a time when few women held positions of such power), Missy forced publishers to recognise women writers and readers as cohorts worth taking seriously. She was aware of the purchasing power of women but also of the hole in the market for publications that spoke directly to them in a serious way. As a woman’s editor, she made it increasingly acceptable for women to engage with politics as consumers, authors and journalists. In the process, she brought women writers to the mainstream and helped get women in the door of political and war reporting.
Thanks to her instincts about how to appeal to women as a political cohort, she became the first campaign adviser to target them as a demographic. Hoover called her in to help him figure out how to appeal to women voters and gave her an official post in his administration. Informally, she was the first female political adviser to Coolidge, Bill Donovan and even FDR, despite being a political operative for the Republican Party. At the same time, Missy was a major player herself in early 20th century history. She was friend and confidante to artists, authors, diplomats and dictators-it was to her that Mussolini first confided his plans to invade Ethiopia. She was Marie Curie’s publicist and she secured the funding for Mount Rushmore. Missy did all this and so much more, without ruffling any feathers. No firebrand or militant suffragette, Missy worked behind the scenes, making connections and gently influencing those in power.
And so history has forgotten her.
In this first biography of Missy Meloney, historian Julie Des Jardins restores Missy to her rightful place in history-as a trailblazer who transformed America.