Arizona Centennial: “Skirting Traditions”

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“Skirting Traditions: Arizona Women Writers and Journalists 1912-2012”, is a book written by members of the Arizona Press Women. Co-editor Brenda Warneka will talk about the amazing women the book features. The book has been designated an official Arizona Centennial Legacy Project.

Ted Simons: "Arizona Press Women" has released a new book in time for Arizona's centennial. The book features the lives of pioneering women writers and journalists who left their mark on Arizona. Here to talk about "skirting traditions: Arizona women writers and journalists 1912-2012" is the book's creator and coeditor Brenda Warneka. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Brenda Warneka: Thank you, nice for to be here.

Ted Simons: What got you started on all of this?

Brenda Warneka: In 2009, I was the incoming president of Arizona Press Women and asked by the board to come up with a project for the centennial, which was coming up in 2012. And I had edited and written a couple of other anthologies -- anthologies and this came to mind, the fact that it should be an anthology. It was a natural association.

Ted Simons: They're fascinating stories. The title, "Skirting Traditions," how much did they have to fight tradition, the status quo?

Brenda Warneka: A lot. The truth is for a good part of this 100-year period of time, women didn't have the -- the rights in the workplace, didn't have the ability to perform that men were given because they -- they didn't have the same rights. And so for the women involved in this book, over this 100-year period of time, they really did skirt traditions because they weren't the traditional housewives, the traditional secretary in the workplace. But they really took over tan did things kind of their way. We have some of the women in the book, for example, that had problems in the workplace because they were told they couldn't wear pants, had to wear skirts.

Ted Simons: Yeah, yeah.

Brenda Warneka: This is just an example, and it kind of is where this title "Skirting Traditions" came from.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, there's one of the photographers in here, couldn't take a photograph because she had to climb up onto a ladder and she was wearing a skirt and someone else had to do the job.

Brenda Warneka: That was Wilma Hopkins, she's on the cover, and dressed up, she has a slim skirt and high heels. And she has this big camera. And it's kind of laughable today to see her in that position trying to see her do her job, but, yes, she was expected to climb a ladder in that outfit and as a result, she handed the camera it a man, and told him -- to a man and told him, and he climbed the ladder.

Ted Simons: She was a pioneering news photographer and wartime news photographer and wound up doing fashion because when the soldiers returned they wound up doing news photographer but she liked doing fashion, so wasn't that big of a sacrifice, apparently.

Brenda Warneka: That's true, she got into photography in the first place because the "Columbus Citizen," all of the men photographers had gone off to war and the city editor was looking for someone to replace them and he knew her from their camera club and approached her and said you're going to be a news photographer.

Ted Simons: And then she was.

Brenda Warneka: And then she was, and from there, eventually, ended up in -- at the "Tucson Citizen."

Ted Simons: Let's go to the other women profiled. Frank Lloyd Wright's, I guess, last wife, correct? Olgilvanna Lloyd Wright. She lived a fascinating life.

Brenda Warneka: First, I knew nothing about her when I started to research the story. I wrote that chapter. And I really had no idea she was a writer. Because I didn't know that much about even Frank Lloyd Wright at this point. But I was at the state archives doing research on one of the other women I wrote about and there on the membership rolls, I saw her name and thought, wow, this sounds interesting. So then I proceeded to research her. And I had a lot of help, by the way, from others. And she was born in Montenegro, which later became Yugoslavia and ended up in Paris at one point, in an institute of spiritual enlightenment, where she was studying under a guru.

Ted Simons: Yeah?

Brenda Warneka: And from there, when that institute was disbanded came to the United States, and it was then in the United States in Chicago, she met Frank Lloyd Wright. But this -- the fellowship, then, that Frank Lloyd Wright set up with the architects was really her idea and based on this institute she had lived in in Paris.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Brenda Warneka: Where all of the people that live there had participated in the work and the house and on the grounds, as part of their compensation for living there. And so -- and so this is really the basis for the fellowship and it is her idea they should do this because at the time she married Frank Lloyd Wright, he was pretty broke and, in fact, he said, penniless. Pretty penniless, the way he put it and they were out here because he was consulting on the Arizona Biltmore and they brought in, then -- when they were -- when he was working on the Biltmore, he met Dr. Chandler and started working with Dr. Chandler on a project. San Marcos in the desert out near Chandler and Frank Lloyd Wright brought in 16 assistants from -- brought in assistants to help him on the project and they had no money, really, to pay them and they ended up in the desert living in canvas tents and what they called Ocotillo camp, which was the prototype. And as a result of this, she had an idea, well, why not have young people who want to study architecture, come and study under you and they can pay us --

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Brenda Warneka: -- to study. And then they also did the work at the fellowship.

Ted Simons: The brains behind the operation there.

Brenda Warneka: Yeah.

Ted Simons: There's so many other women, but we're running out of time I wanted to mention Esther Clark. A female Ernie Pile, she was called and she was a Vietnam -- embedded I think with the south Vietnamese troops and a wartime correspondent, underline capital letters.

Brenda Warneka: She was embedded with the troops in Vietnam for I think three months and also took part in war exercises down in Panama. She flew in jets with the military. She was under the sea in submarines with the military. All of her adventure, she talked about in her articles and so her followers could enjoy with her the thrill of participating in these things.

Ted Simons: Well, her story is wonderful. We've got a woman named Sister Born who you have to get the book it read about, a character and three different lives and these things. But it's a wonderful compendium of people that Arizona should know especially in the centennial year. We appreciate you here talking about it and it must have been fun to work on.

Brenda Warneka: It's available online, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, our publisher, in Tucson, and also should be available in any bookstore in Arizona. It's showing up and can be ordered.

Ted Simons: Thank you for being here, we appreciate it.

Brenda Warneka: Thank you, bye-bye.

Ted Simons: Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon" -- Get caught up on what's happening at the state capitol in our weekly legislative update. And hear from those opposed to a controversial copper mine near Florence. That's Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," 5:30 and 10:00 right here on eight H.D. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us! You have a great evening!

Brenda Warneka:Co-editor, "Skirting Traditions: Arizona Women Writers and Journalists 1912-2012";

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