Today’s post was written by my Alpha Xi Delta friend, Janet Hutchins. I am grateful for her research and generosity in allowing me to use it.
Persis Dwight Hannah (1886-1965) was one of the charter members of Alpha Xi Delta’s Lambda Chapter at Tufts College (now Tufts University) in Medford, Massachusetts. A student of Latin, she graduated in 1907. While in college she demonstrated literary skill, publishing numerous essays in publications such as the Tuftonian.
Upon graduation, she was hired as a journalist by the Boston Journal newspaper, soon moving to the Boston Herald and the Boston Traveler. Her assignments included city page reports, women’s features, and interviews with celebrities such as Julia Ward Howe and Admiral Peary. An entry in the Tufts College Graduate in 1908 said of her:
Shrinking from the vision of a school teacher’s life, endowed with good health and a love for face-to-face study of human nature, Miss Hannah entered journalism. Cleverly conceived, tersely and entertainingly told, with a thread of humor or pathos delicately woven, Miss Hannah’s news stories of Boston slum life, and of country excursions of the city’s poor, attracted much favorable comment last summer. Hard as is the existence of a newspaper writer, Miss Hannah has trampled every obstacle under foot, and is striving for victory in a profession that few women enter.
Beginning in 1909, she started writing a regular column under the pen name “Ruth Cameron.” She would continue producing the feature for 37 years, at one time being syndicated in over 150 newspapers nationwide. She married fellow reporter Royal Brown, who would become a prominent writer of short stories, in 1912.
Her columns had a conversational tone, and she referred frequently to her “letter friends” – the many people who wrote to her about her articles and shared their own observations. In 1934, on the 25th anniversary of her column, she modestly commented on her connection with her readers:
…The real marvel is: ‘How do you get people to listen to you when you don’t know any more about life than they do?’ The answer, I think, is this: It isn’t that I tell them anything new. It’s just that I think their thoughts out loud for them, and that we all like to see our own thoughts in print without the bother of shaping them and putting them there.
Persis remained involved with her fraternity through the Boston Alpha Xi Delta Alumnae association and assisting with The Alpha Xi Delta. One of her contributions was composing the lyrics to “The Rose of Alpha Xi,” which is still sung by all chapters.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory.