Reflection by Bethany Weston
I initially approached this project with a great amount of trepidation. When I first started glancing over the finding aids available through TWU's Special Collections, I truly had no idea what I was looking for. I did not want to exclude any women as possibilities for my subcollection, but, at the same time, did not know what my focus should be. Caro Brown stood out to me from the very beginning because she was one of the few journalists whose materials were in the archives. The other thing that intrigued me about her was the way that was that she was referred to in the articles I found and the clippings that were included in her collection. She was referred to over and over as a “90-pound housewife,” yet she played a prominent role in local politics and journalism. I wanted to find out more about this “diminutive” woman who gained national recognition and a Pulitzer Prize in the course of a journalism career that lasted only five years.
Combing through her boxes, folders, and documents, I gained an understanding of who this woman was and what her accomplishments were. The main pieces of correspondence I discovered were a wide variety of notes, telegrams, and other documents, mostly congratulating Caro Brown on her receiving the Pulitzer Prize for her work reporting on the Parr case and the boss political system that was prevalent in Duval County in the 1950s. There were not many letters actually written by Brown but the fact that there were so many other documents written about her spoke to her legacy and impact as a journalist on a local as well as a national scale. I realized I would have to alter the perspective and narrative that I wanted to present through my subcollection. Rather than it being her voice that took center stage, it became a symphony of voices all chorusing the praises of her work. Though somewhat disappointed that TWU did not have more of her actual writings and articles, I was still thrilled to be learning more about her in such an intimate way.
As I researched, Brown’s life and legacy came to life, and I began to more fully understand her contribution both to her community and to the journalistic field. Through my research, I used the full range of resources that the TWU library had to offer. A quick search through the TWUniversal function pulled two books that focused on the corruption in Duvall County but also spent ample time talking about Brown which helped immensely in establishing the historical context of her life and documents. In the face of threats and discrimination, she refused to back down and compromise her professionalism and personal beliefs, and, really, I marveled that I had never encountered her or her work before. After working with her materials and creating this collection, I feel that I have a better understanding of how important local politics are as well as what a disservice we are doing to our communities by not bringing these stories to the forefront of conversations about local history. History is a layered narrative that often excludes the people who need to be heard the most; after this project, I would be unlikely to ignore those layers in the future. In fact, I think I will always be thinking about them.