The dream of an organization of women bowling writers was that of Lola Yoakem of Los Angeles, California. She presented the idea in 1947 in a letter to Alberta Crowe, then Public Relations Director for WIBC. Mrs. Crowe also had visions of the benefit of such a group and in response to Miss Yoakem's letter, Mrs. Crowe wrote, "Your suggestion of a National Association of Women Bowling Writers is a worthy one and one I thought of a good many times in the past few years."
After exchange of correspondence between Miss Yoakem, Mrs. Crowe, WIBC President Jeannette Knepprath and Georgia Veatch, who was Editor of the Woman Bowler magazine, plans began to take shape. Mrs. Knepprath wrote, "Personally, I feel it would be an asset to the bowling game and I feel sure WIBC would do much to help such a venture." It was Miss Yoakem's original plan to limit membership, "to those women who were actively engaged in some form of professional writing that has to do with bowling; to those women who derive some part of their income from writing and that such writing should appear in print in bowling or sports publications, or on the radio."
Mrs. Crowe believed otherwise and on February 23, 1948, she wrote to Miss Yoakem suggesting that membership not be limited to professional writers. "While we are in accord with your plans for the association," she wrote, "we, (Mrs. Knepprath and I) feel it should not be confined only to professional writers, but should also include the many publicity directors that we have in the various city associations."
Mrs. Crowe again wrote to Miss Yoakem and suggested that the initial meeting of the group could be held in April in Dallas, Texas, at the site of the WIBC Annual Meeting. And in another letter that soon followed, WIBC President Knepprath offered the use of her room at the Baker Hotel in Dallas. As a result, the first meeting was scheduled for Sunday evening preceding the WIBC Annual Meeting.
In the first news release sent out by Miss Yoakem, dated April 10, 1948, she announced plans for the organizational meeting. In the release, she invited all women writers who were professionally connected with bowling publications, to become members of this new organization.
"The primary purpose will be the promotion and circulation of material to aid writers in their work and to help increase interest in the bowling game among women throughout the nation," wrote Mrs. Yoakem. The WIBC board saw the merits of Miss Yoakem's plan, approved the formalization of a writer's organization, and pledged its full support.
According to the minutes recorded by Mrs. Crowe, the first meeting was called to order at the Baker Hotel in Dallas, on Sunday, April 18, 1948, at 8:30 p.m by Mrs. Knepprath who then turned the meeting over to Miss Yoakem. In addition to Mrs. Knepprath and Miss Yoakem, those present at the meeting were Emma Nezon, Dayton, Ohio; Jo Ettien, Santa Monica, California; Georgia Veatch, Chicago, Illinois; Dixie Ticknor, San Diego, California; Nita Lindgren, Seattle, Washington; Isabel Kress, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Ila Callaway, Miami, Florida; and Alberta Crowe, Liverpool, New York. These are the ten Charter Members.
Miss Yoakem noted that letters were also received from Caroline McBride, New York, New York; Ellen Kopperud, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Frankie Capps, San Diego, California. The Charter Members chose the name PROFESSIONAL WOMEN BOWLING WRITERS, INC. (PWBW), and the purpose of the organization, as it was set forth in the minutes, was to foster and promote better publicity for organized bowling.
It was further understood that active membership would be confined to women bowling writers who receive compensation for their published writings and who are members of the WIBC. The status of Associate writers, they noted, shall be decided by the membership committee. The first Associate membership accepted was that of WIBC President Jeannette Knepprath.
At the meeting, Lola Yoakem was elected the first president of the new writer's organization. Also elected were Nita Lindgren, vice president; and Isabel Kress, secretary-treasurer.
The first year was consumed mostly with setting up the organization. However, much was accomplished. Through the efforts of Georgia Veatch, Nita Lindgren, Lola Yoakem, and Jo Ettien, each member received a series of writer's aids which included suggestions for improvement of general writing, and guidance for writing news releases.
The organization's foundation was sound and goals were definite. When the first annual meeting was held in Columbus, Ohio, in 1949, the membership had increased to more than forty non-professional and four additional professional members.
Mrs. Crowe suggested that WIBC underwrite a buffet lunch for the members and Associate members of this new group. The luncheon would be held the Sunday before the opening of the regular WIBC Annual Meeting. The NWBW continues to conduct its activities on Saturday and Sunday preceding the WIBC Annual Meeting. And, WIBC, along with Anheuser Busch, have continued to co-sponsor the NWBW Annual Awards Luncheon.
A most unusual application was received from Mr. Paul Walker, president of the National Bowling Writers Association. President Yoakem said, "Since he included his $1 fee with his genial letter, it is doubtful that such a courtly gesture could be rejected - or his dollar returned. He will doubtless have the distinction of being the number one member of the Men's Auxiliary.
"It has been suggested," she added, "that Sandy Fisher, Al Bine, Don Snyder and Carl White, among others, also be invited to join as Allied members."
The membership of the organization was developed around the Charter Members - women writers who were active in the formation of the group and present for the organizational meeting. Through the years, membership has included, in addition to the Charter Members, Professional, Non-Professional, Allied and Associate Members, Life Members and Member Emerita. Professional membership is held by those who receive payment directly and explicitly for writing bowling articles. Non-Professional membership is held by those who write bowling articles but receive no compensation for their service. Life Member and Member Emerita are elective membership status presented to individuals for recognition of outstanding service to the organization.
The year 1975 was historic for NWBW as males and professional journalists were permitted to apply for Associate membership. Allied membership was eliminated in 1952, while Associate status was eliminated for the second time in 1981. Members are now classified only as Professional or Non-professional in addition to any honorary status that may be accorded any member.
Lola Yoakem was elected the first Life Member of the organization in 1951.
The Charter Members thought it only appropriate that members be recognized for their writing and promotion efforts and the first annual awards program began in 1949. In 1950, the first Brunswick Distinguished Bowling Writing Awards were presented to Lola Yoakem in the professional class and to Peg Yordy of Hamilton, Ohio, in the novice class. Over the years, NWBW's awards program, particularly the writing, publication and photography contests, has seen significant growth. A new dimension was added to the traditional writing and publication contest in 1969 with the addition of an audio-visual category. It was eliminated several years later. The year 1979 saw the establishment of the NWBW Writer of the Year award. In 1981, Marti Werner of Toledo, chaired the first Dudley Peebles Photo contest and awards were presented to members for their photography skills.
Life Member Billy Hughes of Springfield, Missouri, suggested that publicity chairmen be recognized for their efforts in promoting and publicizing bowling at the local level. In 1998, the first Local Publicity Chairman of the Year award, sponsored by Mrs. Hughes, was presented to a deserving member.
Since 1948 when the first Jo Ettien Award for Distinguished Service to the Game of American Tenpins was presented, NWBW has recognized many members and enthusiasts for their outstanding contributions to bowling. Special awards are presented in four categories - distinguished service to the game, distinguished service in the field of communications, promotion of local bowling and service to junior bowling.
Sponsors have been vital to the success of the awards program. Because of corporate sponsorship and that of several dedicated members who encourage participation and perpetuation of the contests, the awards program has survived and grown.
Progress and Growth
Organizations must be progressive and adaptable in order to fulfill the needs of their members and the ever-changing times. And so it was, and continues to be, with NWBW.
In 1952 members were persuaded to adapt their publicity efforts around the policies of WIBC. Local associations were encouraged to appoint a publicity chairman and pay her membership dues into this national writer's organization.
The year 1954 brought about the elimination of Professional from the organization name and that same year the members adopted a new name - NATIONAL WOMEN BOWLING WRITERS. This was also the year of the first Knows for News bulletin committee. Agnes Duffy was named chairman. The committee included Mary Jannetto and Helen Fischer.
At the annual meeting in 1964, Mrs. Jannetto, who was then president, suggested that NWBW initiate an Exchange Mart. The idea and purpose of the Mart would be for NWBW members to have a visual means of sharing and learning the various publicity and promotion techniques of the members. The first Exchange Mart, chaired by Dorothy Mauldin of Marietta, Georgia, was held in 1966 at the NWBW Annual Meeting in New Orleans. The idea caught on and Miss Mauldin chaired many more successful Marts.
In 1967, Miss Mauldin recommended that NWBW design an organization flag. A contest was held and Mary Meglemre of Long Beach, California, submitted the winning design. The new NWBW flag was presented at the 1969 annual meeting.
It was the suggestion of past president, Pearl Keller of Chappaqua, New York, that proceeds from the annual Arts & Crafts Fair be donated to the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in St Louis. Through 1997, NWBW has donated more than $38,000 to the Museum and Hall of Fame.
The Museum and Hall of Fame is home to the NWBW historical volumes that are available for visitors to peruse and learn about the many activities of NWBW and the talents of its members.
In fifty years, the National Women Bowling Writers has grown, not just in numbers, but in the services and recognition afforded its members. The members have responded with quantity and quality writing and promotion efforts.
The strength of the National Women Bowling Writers is realized in the effectiveness of its grassroots members who continue to do much to communicate the story of bowling to local bowlers. This is especially true in those areas where there may be no other media outlet for bowling news except a local association newsletter, and with the efforts of professional members, NWBW has opportunities to communicate bowling news throughout the world.
The members of the National Women Bowling Writers are an important element in promoting and perpetuating the sport of bowling.
Although they were but a relative handful when they first met in 1948, the high ideals the Charter Members envisioned for the organization and set forth in the bylaws, have remained these many years.