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Cissy Patterson

AKA Eleanor Josephine Medill Patterson

Born: 7-Nov-1881
Birthplace: Chicago, IL
Died: 24-Jul-1948
Location of death: Marlboro, MD
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, IL

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business, Journalist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: First female newspaper publisher

Cissy Patterson was the first woman to run a major metropolitan newspaper in America. She was raised in luxury, educated in an elite private school, and along with the young Alice Roosevelt she was one of Washington DC's most famous socialites. She later gained some notoriety for a messy and protracted divorce -- after she left her husband, he kidnapped their daughter, and she was only able to locate and recover the child with the personal intervention of American President William Howard Taft and Russian Tsar Nicholas II. She then married a prominent attorney, Elmer Schlesinger, and after his death she asked her friend, William Randolph Hearst, for a job, and he gave her charge of a money-losing newspaper, The Washington Herald.

It was not entirely a strange position for Hearst to hand her -- her family had been immersed in the newspaper business for generations. Her grandfather, Joseph Medill, her father, Robert W. Patterson Jr., and her cousin, Robert McCormick, were publishers of the family-owned Chicago Tribune. Her brother, Joseph Medill Patterson, was founder and publisher of the New York Daily News, and her niece, Alicia Patterson, was founder and publisher of Newsday. Taking charge of the Herald in 1930, Patterson added a gossip corner on the paper's front page, had her editors play up the city's political feuds, and scored a personal interview with Al Capone by ringing the doorbell at his Miami Beach mansion, unannounced. She used the paper to crusade for DC home rule, hot lunches for public schoolchildren, and the humane treatment of animals.

Over the next several years the Herald's circulation almost doubled, and after Eugene Meyer, publisher of the Washington Post, offered to buy and close the Herald, she instead leased and later purchased another Hearst paper, the Washington Times (no relation to the present-day paper by that name), then merged the papers as the Washington Times-Herald. She signed editorials using the name Cissy Patterson, but also wrote novels under her name from her first marriage, Eleanor Gizycka. She was born Elinor Josephine Patterson, but changed the spelling of her first name in admiration of Eleanor Roosevelt. After her death in 1948, the Times-Herald was published by her brother and cousin in addition to their other newspapers, until it was bought and merged into the Washington Post in 1973. Patterson's daughter, Felicia Gizycka, married and divorced noted newsman Drew Pearson.

Father: Robert Wilson Patterson Jr. (Chicago Tribune publisher, b. 30-Nov-1850, d. 1-Apr-1910)
Mother: Elinor Medill Patterson ("Nellie", b. 3-Jan-1856, m. 17-Jan-1878, d. circa 1948)
Brother: Joseph Medill Patterson (New York Daily News publisher, b. 6-Jan-1879, d. 26-May-1946)
Boyfriend: Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff (German Count, b. 1862, dated ealy 1900s, d. 1939)
Husband: Joseph Gizycki (Polish Count, b. circa 1868, m. 14-Apr-1904, sep. 1908, div. 1917)
Daughter: Felicia Gizycka Pearson de Lavigne Magruder (novelist, b. 1905, d. 26-Feb-1999)
Boyfriend: Cal Carrington (Wyoming rancher, b. 1875, dated before, during, and after marriage to Schlesinger)
Husband: Elmer Schlesinger (tennis player/attorney, dated 1923-25, m. 1925, d. Feb-1929 heart attack)

    High School: Miss Porter's School, Farmington, CT

    Washington Times-Herald Publisher (1939-48)
    Washington Times Publisher (1936-39)
    Washington Herald Publisher (1930-39)
    McCormick Family
    Canadian Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Alcoholism, Obesity

Author of books:
Glass Houses (1926, novel, as Eleanor Gizycka)
Fall Flight (1928, novel, as Eleanor Gizycka)


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