Jane Cunningham Croly (1829-1901) was probably the first female American journalist. For over forty years she held various editorial positions on newspapers and magazines. In 1868 she founded Sorosis, which became the first American woman's club of any consequence or endurance.
Jane Croly was born in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England, on December 19, 1829. She was the daughter of the Reverend Joseph H. and Jane Cunningham, and came to the United States when she was twelve years old. In her childhood she was taught by her father and brother at their home in Poughkeepsie, New York, and later in New York City. In her early girlhood Croly attended school at Southbridge, Massachusetts, where she edited the school paper, wrote plays, and acted as stage manager.
Wrote on Women's Fashions
In 1855, Croly gained a place on the staff of the Sunday Times and Noah's Weekly Messenger, writing under the pseudonym, "Jennie June," because she felt the traditional shyness concerning women in public life. She became a special writer on women's fashions and was among the first to "syndicate" her articles. In 1856 she married David Goodman Croly, a New York journalist. Five children were born to them, but Jane Croly departed from the conventional mode of the time and continued her journalistic work.
For over forty years she held various editorial positions on newspapers and magazines. In the year of her marriage she called the first Woman's Congress, to meet in New York. She was editor, for a time, of Demorest's Quarterly Mirror of Fashion, and in 1860, when that journal and the New York Weekly Illustrated News were incorporated into Demorest's Illustrated Monthly, she became its editor, remaining as such until 1887. She was also connected with Godey's and with the Home-Maker. Jane Croly was probably the first woman correspondent in New York for out-of-town papers. For fifteen years she wrote letters for the New Orleans Picayune and the Baltimore American. She represented in New York the New Orleans Delta, the Richmond Enquirer, and the Louisville Journal. At various times she was editorially connected with the New York World, and the Graphic Daily Times, and, for nine years with the New York Times. She was also dramatic critic and assistant editor of the Messenger from 1861 to 1866.
Founded Woman's Club
In 1868 Croly, in common with a number of New York women, was extremely indignant because her sex was completely ignored at the Charles Dickens reception. In protest and consistent with her advocacy of everything she considered for the betterment of women, she founded Sorosis, which was not the first woman's club, but was the first of any consequence or endurance. Croly was the first president of the New York State Federation of Women's Clubs. When her husband attempted to teach in America the philosophy of Positivism originated by Auguste Comte, Croly endeavored to aid him. In 1889 she founded the Women's Press Club in New York.
Of Croly's separate publications the most notable was The History of the Woman's Club Movement in America, a large volume published in 1898. In 1866 she published Jennie June's American Cookery Book, and in 1875 For Better or Worse. A Book for Some Men and All Women. In 1898 she met with an accident which crippled her, and subsequently she spent much of her time in England seeking rest and cure. She died in New York City on December 23, 1901.
Cunningham, John, Jane Cunningham Croly, "Jenny June," 1904.
Critic, March 1904.
Harper's Bazaar, March 3, 1900.
New York Times, December 24, 1901.
Woman's Journal, January 4, 1902.