Few residents knew that Western Springs, Illinois was once the home of a prominent Chicago newspaper reporter, a pioneer for her gender who was remarkable for having a byline, a desk, and many first page stories when most women writing newspapers were anonymous and submitting their reports for the women's pages from home. Her name was Ione Quinby, and she is mostly forgotten today, but a couple of authors from Milwaukee, once reporters themselves and now college professors, are writing a book about her. The Western Springs Historical Society brought Genevieve G. McBride and Stephen R. Byers to the Thomas Ford Memorial Library this past Wednesday night to tell us about Quinby and their upcoming book.
The Quinby name may not be familiar to many but her character is. She was a "girl reporter" for the Chicago Evening Post in the 1920s and early 1930s, covering many beats, but she is mostly remembered for her reporting of crime. Especially famous were her stories about women who killed. For this her friends Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote a character like her into their Broadway comedy The Front Page. You can also see her character among the murderesses in the corridors and cells of the Cook County Jail whenever you watch the musical Chicago.
Quinby was a fearless reporter, who walked the most dangerous streets of Chicago and said that she once shared a candy bar with Al Capone. She did not, however, live among her subjects, taking a late train to the tranquil suburb of Western Springs almost every night.
She may be partly responsible for the obscurity of her name. After the Chicago Daily News bought and closed the Chicago Evening Post, Quinby was without a job. Within ten days, she married and moved to Milwaukee where she resurfaced as an advice columnist for the Milwaukee Journal. She wrote for that newspaper from the 1930s to the 1980s, using the byline Mrs. Griggs. She never used the Quinby byline again.
Her career as Mrs Griggs is the central subject of McBride and Byers upcoming book to be published by Marquette Press this spring, but her life in Western Springs and Chicago will be included. I know our library will want to get at least two copies.