It’s no secret that hundreds of women have shaped The Cavalier Daily throughout its 127-year history.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. The University did not co-educate until 1970. And some male students were skeptical when the first women enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences (see below).
Still, the CD quickly became a place where women worked to affect change — both within the paper and across Grounds.
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, here are three Cavalier Daily alumnae who left the organization and the school better than they found it.
Holly Smith (Class of 1972)
Smith was part of the first class of undergraduate women at the University of Virginia. And she showed up ready to get to work.
“I arrived in Charlottesville in September of 1970 ready to do battle in the cause of making sure that women were given equal treatment at the University,” Smith said in an interview with Virginia Magazine.
Smith decided to join The Cavalier Daily’s staff and use the paper as a platform to highlight gender divides on Grounds. She tackled issues ranging from health care access to women’s athletics, according to the magazine profile.
Smith took particular aim at equity on the Lawn, looking into whether the University’s axial space would open up rooms to female applicants. For one story, she posed inside room 48 East in a bathrobe.
Marjorie Leedy (Class of 1977)
Leedy was the first female editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily. She was elected to the role as a third-year student in 1976 after serving as news editor.
There were already a number of women on staff by the time Leedy joined. Mary Love, the first woman to serve on the managing board, was elected business manager in 1973.
“The women in editor positions at the time tried hard to be mentors and to encourage other women to succeed,” Leedy said.
Leedy’s election generated conversation, but she said a lot of the buzz had to do with newsroom politics and other standard fare.
“I think the staff was excited about electing a woman, but the overall feeling was more one of relief that the CD was able to keep both me and Scott Weisenberger, the other News Editor, who ran against me,” Leedy said.
During her term, Leedy and her team fought to maintain the paper’s independence from the administration.
At the time, University President Frank Hereford and the Board of Visitors were trying to exert control over the paper. They formed a Media Board and attempted editorial oversight in the wake of a series of investigative pieces.
Leedy decided it was time to lay the groundwork for an independent Cavalier Daily.
“We realized… that the CD ultimately would be best being as independent as possible of the University — in the best of all possible worlds paying for Newcomb Hall space, for instance — and we began the process of figuring out how to get there,” Leedy said. “…I’d like to think that the CD today is in a place in which it can no longer be threatened like that.”
The paper became independent of the University in 1979.
Lianne Provenzano (Class of 2017)
Provenzano was first elected to the Cavalier Daily’s managing board as a first-year student. She went on to serve three full terms on the paper’s leadership team — including the first all-female managing board, which was elected in 2015.
Provenzano started out as a member of the production team. When she first arrived at U.Va., the design staff was still primarily focused on putting out the print edition of the paper.
That changed throughout the course of Provenzano’s time at The Cavalier Daily.
In her two terms as operations editor, she helped incorporate online graphics into the paper’s nightly routine. And as chief financial officer, she worked with the paper’s business manager to bump up digital ad sales.
“We began focusing more on… sponsored content and other methods of increasing revenue that did not rely on the print paper,” Provenzano said.
She was also part of the team that completely eliminated the paper’s debts, negotiated a new printing contract and arranged a five-year lease for space in Newcomb Hall, ensuring financial independence in a digital-first news environment.
Working with the first all-female managing board was a unique part of her experience, Provenzano said.
“There was a different kind of closeness among the group that allowed us to work well together,” Provenzano said.
I found your piece on women who were a part of the Cavalier Daily to be very interesting, but was disappointed that you did not recognize a few who wrote for the paper in the late 50s and early 60s! While women were slow to be admitted to the College, some of us at the Curry School were there; I was a member of the features staff.
Thank you for your kind words Julia. I’m honoured to be mentioned here.
I’d like to add that the CD was by far the best class I took at the University (we called it “teach yourself journalism).” I loved working on the paper, and it prepared me for a career that I adore and still pursue today.
The equality battles that we women in the Class of ’72 fought were, I found, largely enjoyable, because the barriers fell down fairly quickly and easily – much to the University’s credit.
During the mid-1970s, a generation of change happened at the Univerisity and on the CD. It was an exciting time to be there and involved.