National History of Pen Women

2018-2020 NLAPW Board of Directors (R-L): Evelyn Wofford, Sheila Byrnes, Norma Jean Hagstrom, Bev Goldie, Robin Johnson Moscati, Laura Walth, Mary Patricia Canes, and Barbara Nunes. Not pictured: Marge Dodge.  Photo by Anne Baehr.

The Sarasota Branch welcomes the 2018-2020 NLAPW Board of Directors. We feel honored to be members of this historic organization. The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. was founded in 1897. Realizing a need for an organization that would include women of the press, Marian Longfellow O’Donohue, niece of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, decided to create such an organization. Along with Margaret Sullivan Burke and Anna Sanborne Hamilton, she made plans for “bringing together women journalists, authors and illustrators for mutual benefits and the strength that comes of union.”

On June 26, 1897, the three women brought together 17 writers, novelists, newspaper women, a teacher, a poet and an artist for the first meeting. Alice R. Morgan, an illustrator for New York publishers, designed the League insignia, the owl, symbolic of wisdom, placed in a triangle formed by a red pen, a blue pencil and a white brush, colors of the American flag.

The first National Convention was held in Washington, DC, in April, 1921, and the 300 women in attendance were received by President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding. Mrs. Harding was a distinguished member of The League, as was Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1978, following its 80th birthday, The League was presented with the Literary Hall of Fame Award in recognition of its contribution to the cultural life of the United States Other recipients of the award have included Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ariel and Will Durant and Charles Schulz.

The official League headquarters is the Pen Arts Building, built in 1895 and part of the Dupont Historical District in Washington, DC. Its most famous occupant was Robert Todd Lincoln, eldest son of President Abraham Lincoln. This 20 room mansion was purchased by The League in 1951 and was entered on the National Register of Historical Sites in 1978.

Membership in The League is comprised of Active, Associate, International Affiliate, and Honorary members engaged in creative work in one or more of the three comprehensive membership classifications: Letters, Art, and Music.

The League offers its members association with other creative professional women: workshops, discussion groups and lectures related to the creative process. Writing and poetry contests, art exhibitions (both juried and judged), and music composition competitions conducted at local branch, state and national levels of the organization.