Women's contributions to American public relations, 1940‐1970

J. Suzanne Horsley (University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Publication date: 8 May 2009



This paper seeks to map the employment of female professionals to create a collective biography of women in US public relations from 1940‐1970. It aims to suggest that women were active leaders in many areas of public relations, despite the exclusion of women from most historical accounts.


The author completed a content analysis of a women's professional directory published in 1970. This directory summarizes women's accomplishments during this critical time period in the development of the public relations profession. The sample of 520 entries was analyzed for demographics and career statistics in relation to social perceptions that prevailed during this timeframe.


The paper offers empirical insights into the work of female public relations practitioners. It quantifies employment in managerial and technical positions in a variety of industries, charts the trends in employment, and offers support for theoretical explanations for why women were essentially invisible in public relations publications and historical records.

Research limitations/implications

The findings from this research are limited in that they are based on a directory full of self‐reported success stories. Therefore, additional research is needed before these results can be generalized to the population under study.


This paper creates a collective biography of women in public relations that complements the research that has been done on a few individual women. This research contributes to a more robust explanation of the development of US public relations.



Suzanne Horsley, J. (2009), "Women's contributions to American public relations, 1940‐1970", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 100-115. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540910951731

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