Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ethel Fights A Bitter Election

As promised, we are taking a small detour from Ethel's scrapbook, in order to peak at The Thresher, the Rice Student publication and learn more about why in 1939, Ethel took a backseat at the student publication where she had been since her freshmen year.

Friday April 15th, 1938
On April 15th, The Thresher staff endorses Ethel as Staff Nominee for assistant editor. Here is the fabulous endorsement they gave her:


By Francis Collins 

Ethel Bloomfield present associate editor, and Claude Maer, present sales promoter have been nominated staff candidates for assistant editor and business manager of the Thresher in the general Student Association election April 25th. 

Unanimously chosen by the 24 members of the editorial staff, and endorsed by the heads of the business staff. Ethel has worked consistently on the Thresher since September. 

During the Thursday afternoon sessions before publications, when routine work piles up, she has been invaluable as a technical assistant, correcting copy writing headlines, and reading proof. 

But besides being well trained in the mechanical details of issuing a newspaper, Ethel also has an original touch in composing her own copy. Her special "Ethyl" feature stories with a punch occasionally signed, appear regularly in these columns, and there is not a type of newspaper article she cannot write well. 

As a granddaughter, I particularly enjoyed this clip which left me feeling very proud of my grandmother. As a researcher, I found it rewarding that my hunch was true. Many of Ethel's articles are not signed. I feel lucky she did signed several, but I now know for sure, that if I want to find all her writing, I need to become familiarized with her special "Ethyl" punch and try to identify her unsigned articles.

This article fails to mention that Ethel was nominated over classmate and the current assistant editor, Bill Ballew, whom she worked under as an associate editor. The staff must have been really pushing for Ethel since the following week, only three days before the election, this small blurb with Ethel's photo appears on the second page of The Thresher.

The caption reads:
ETHEL BLOOMFIELD Present associate editor of The Thresher, has been unanimously chosen by the staff members as their nominee for assistant editor in the general election Monday.

Friday April 29th, 1938
The elections on April 25th, were too close to call. Here is a clip from April 29th, describing what happened with assistant editor position:

Neither Thresher positions were decided. Bill Ballew and Ethel Bloomfield staff nominee, are run-off  candidates for assistant editor. Ballew led the race with 384 votes to 267 for Miss Bloomfield and 189 for Robert Murphy.

It looks like, the student body voted more on popularity, while the staff felt strongly about Ethel. They took out a nice size add endorsing Ethel once more.
Friday April 29th, 1938
On Friday, May 6th, in one small line, it was announced that Bill Ballew defeated Ethel in the election. 

Friday May 6, 1938

1938 Rice Yearbook
I have a feeling she must have been crushed. The scrapbook, a collection of the articles she wrote as the Rice correspondent to the Houston Chronicle, show the pride she took in this job. I would like to think this defeat was bitter sweet. She lost the position at her beloved student publication, but remained as on staff as a contributor. Out of the defeat, came the even better, paying position in much larger local paper. I certainly would not have liked to be in Bill's shoes. He won a close race where he was unanimously un-endorsed by the staff he worked with. I hope that the fact Ethel chose to work for the Chronicle but continued to contribute to the Thresher, helped bridge a peace.

Source: The Thresher (Houston, Tex.), 1938, Newspaper, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Rice University: Woodson Research Center, Houston, Texas.


  1. Oh! Too bad that Ethel lost this close-call election, and isn't is just the "way of the world" that what we used to call "popularity" won over talent. I love that the paying position came "out of defeat." Poetic justice. Well, he got the election but she still had the talent and admiration!

    That "Ethyl" feature is a chemistry reference, right? "Ethyl" reminds me of "methyl" -- it's probably an organic compound component.

    1. She lost the election so long ago, and I felt so bad also when I read about it and worked out the story through finding the different mentions. My mother didn't know this story. It was either a forgotten story, or just too painful to have to recall. It does fit in with the stories of her feeling discriminated against at Rice for being a woman and Jewish, and also insecure because of how young she was. I
      I think it is nice to think that they paying job came out of the defeat. I don't know that she saw it that way. That is my conjecture.
      I love your interpretation of the "Ethyl" reference. I hadn't thought of that! Thanks for your thoughtful comment and close reading, Mariann!


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