Hortense Myers · 1977
By Wendy Wiseman
Hortense Myers, a United Press International reporter since 1958, has carved out a career in journalism achieving many firsts for women long before the women’s movement became strong in the United States.
Myers was one of five children born to Walter J. and Stella Smith Powner. She was born July 15, 1913, in Indianapolis. With English, Scottish, Irish, and French ancestry, Myers was given the name Mary Hortense, but has consistently used her middle name.
She was graduated from Ben Davis High School in 1932, and she began attending evening classes at the Indiana University Extension in Indianapolis. Working at a part-time pace for twenty years, she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Butler in 1953.
She began her distinguished journalism career in 1934 when George Mercer hired her as a reporter on the Old Trail News, a weekly published in Bridgeport, for five dollars a week. By the time she left the newspaper in 1942, she had advanced to assistant editor.
In 1942, her journalism professor at Butler was asked by Jep Cadou Sr., head of the Indianapolis office of the International Press News Service (INS), to recommend a woman to work as an INS reporter. Myers received the recommendation, and she became the first woman to work for the INS. With World War II creating a shortage of males for journalism jobs, Myers had to handle the sports desk for one year, using M.H. Powner for a byline. She had moved up to assistant bureau chief when INS merged with United Press International (UPI) in 1958. She then began her present career as political reporter, State House correspondent and columnist for UPI.
Hortense Powner married Stanley M. Myers in 1947. One year later their son, Mark, was born. His birth was the cause of her one and only leave from work for a two-week period.
Although her life was busy with a career and family responsibilities, Myers always had been involved in professional journalism organizations. From 1954 to 1956, she served as president of the Women’s Press Club of Indiana (WPCI). She followed this with a stint as president of Theta Sigma Phi, now known as Women in Communications, Inc. (WICI), from 1957 to 1958. From 1962 to 1965, Myers served an unprecedented three-year term as president of the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW).
Although Myers had patronized the Indianapolis Press Club as a guest since 1942, she was among the first group of women to join the Press Club in 1970 when full membership was opened to women. In December 1970, Myers was the first female to be elected to the club’s board of directors.
She followed this first with another in 1973 when she became the first woman president of the Indiana Professional Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, now called the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi. Myers was chosen to fill the unexpired term of the previous president. She missed becoming president in 1972 by only four votes, which gave her the vice presidency instead. She was also a past treasurer of the organization. Myers was one of the first women members admitted in 1970 when the society dropped its men-only rule.
Besides all her professional commitments, Myers began another career as an author in 1962. She collaborated with Robert Thompson, White House correspondent for The New York Times, on a book about Robert F. Kennedy entitled The Brother Within.
With her friend Ruth Burnett of Florida, Myers began a series of children’s books in 1962 about the childhood of famous Americans. The first book, Carl Ben Eielson, Young Pilot, was followed by Cecil B. DeMille, Young Dramatist, in 1963. The third book in the series, Vilhajalmur Stefansson, Young Arctic Explorer, appeared in 1966. In 1969 Edward R. Murrow, Young Newscaster was completed. Vincent Lombardi, Young Football Coach was published in 1971, followed by Joseph Pulitzer, Boy Journalist in 1975.
Myers has received numerous awards and recognition for her writing from both professional groups and community organizations. She has covered colorful events including the Connie Nicholas trial, the Coliseum disaster, the Sylvia Likens murder, and the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes as well as her regular legislative assignments.
Myers lives in a house near Eagle Creek Reservoir, and she is an active member of the Shiloh United Methodist Church.
Hortense Myers blazed a trial in journalism history in Indiana with many firsts. She was the first woman to work for the International Press News Service (INS) in 1942. She was the first to serve a three-year term as president of the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW). She was among the first group of women to join the Indianapolis Press Club when it opened its membership to women in 1970. She was the first female to be elected to the Press Club’s board of directors in 1970. She was the first woman president of the Indiana chapter, Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, in 1973; she was among the first women to join the society in 1970 when it opened its doors to women.
In 1960 Myers earned the Francis Wright award from Theta Sigma Phi, now known as Women in Communications, Inc. (WICI), given each year to an outstanding female journalist. In 1965 she received the Kate Milner Rabb award for outstanding journalistic achievement from the Women’s Press Club of Indiana (WPCI). Myers was the first former NFPW president to receive the Woman of Achievement Award from that organization in 1966 at the federation’s national convention in Houston. At the 1967 convention in Detroit, Myers was presented a National Headliner Award by Theta Sigma Phi (now WICI) for distinguished service in the field of journalism.
In March of 1972, Myers was honored as the Indiana Newsman of the Year at the Indianapolis Press Club’s Front Page Ball. She was the second woman to win the club’s highest honor since it was established in 1956; Ruth Montgomery, a former feature writer for The Indianapolis Star and an author, was the first in 1957. Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb presented Myers with a Sagamore of the Wabash award at the ball. The Indiana Senate paid special tribute to Myers with a resolution of congratulations and a standing ovation in recognition of the Newsman of the Year award.
In 1977 Myers was inducted with four others into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. The year before, she received the annual recognition award from the Intergroup Council of Women for her outstanding contributions in communications. In 1979 she was honored for outstanding contributions to the community in the area of communications by the Greater Indianapolis Women’s Political Caucus.
Myers twice received the School Bell Award for outstanding reporting of educational news. Besides Eisenhower, Truman, and Nixon, she has interviewed Harold MacMillan, former prime minister of England, who in turn invited her to his ancestral home in England.
In 1964 she was selected to appear on the CBS television show "To Tell The Truth." After master of ceremonies Bud Collyer read a description of some of her assignments as well as noting her NFPW presidency and the panelists got an opportunity to question the three contestants, two of the four panelists were able to detect the "real" Hortense Myers.
Other contributions by Hortense Myers are included in the following list: Past vice president of the Marion County Mental Association; member and president of the Zonta Club of Indianapolis; Headed project for the Woman’s Press Club to bring Central State Hospital inmates up-to-date on current events just prior to their release; Past member of the Indiana Lincoln Foundation board of directors and public relations committee chairman; Past member of the Indiana Lincoln Sesquicentennial Commission; Vice chairman of the Indiana Governor’s Committee on the Status of Women in 1963; Past member of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Board; Established the program for selecting mayor of Santa Claus Land; Served at the 500-mile Race hospital each year; Past president of the Bridgeport Parent-Teachers Association; Former director of the Marion County Muscular Dystrophy Foundation; Trustee of Shiloh United Methodist Church; Former church treasurer and Sunday school superintendent.