When it comes to women who broke the gender barrier, Adele Ferguson was certainly one of them.
Longtime columnist for the Kitsap Sun, Adele Ferguson will be honored at the 2015 YWCA Women of Achievement event for her contributions to women in the news business. She will receive, posthumously, the Special Recognition award.
Ferguson died March 2 at the age of 90. She was a resident of Hansville and had been a pioneer in Olympia political journalism.
“She had an incredible impact on state government, probably more than any reporter ever in Olympia,” said former Secretary of State Ralph Munro.
She was known for her brash personality and for being direct. She didn’t beat around the bush and her abrasive ways sometimes made her enemies.
But she had an incredible knack for knowing the news and getting it in print long before other reporters. She entered journalism and newspaper reporting in the 1940s when it was mostly a “men only” career. In 1957, she took on the U.S. Navy for not letting her sail on a two-hour tour aboard a submarine. They told her she couldn’t go because there was no “ladies room” onboard. The column she wrote about that gained national attention, and later she was allowed to sail with the Navy, but was still restricted to the upper deck.
She never went to college and didn’t attend journalism school. She first set foot in a newsroom in 1943. She wrote for the Navy shipyard paper before going to work at the Sun. She broke gender barriers in Olympia when she joined the press corp there in 1961 reporting for the Sun.
Bob Parloe, of The Olympian newspaper said of Ferguson, “She was a reporter’s reporter. She could drink with the boys, cuss with the boys and in every way hold her own with the boys. She came on the scene at a time when there weren’t many women in the press corps. It was tough being a capitol correspondent. She had to fight and claw into the male establishment and cut through the crap.”
Ferguson had written for other newspapers in Kitsap County and left the Sun in 1993. She continued to write columns that ran in papers throughout the state up until the time of her death.
Although she was at times a controversial figure and her views were not always in line with those of the YWCA, Executive Director Denise Frey said the YWCA is honoring her for her work in advancing women in the news media.
“Adele ruffled many feathers but when you balance everything out, she was an incredible force here in Kitsap and in Olympia, bringing important information to her readers, at a time when women were not accepted in the profession,” Frey said.
Ferguson is sometimes remembered for being the first woman to go up in the Seattle Space Needle, something she arranged by knowing the manager of Century 21, sponsor of the Space Needle at the 1961 World’s Fair. When another woman, a friend of Howard S. Wright, who built the Space Needle, wanted to go up before her, Adele said she’d write that “the needle sways in the wind.” She got her way.
As longtime Sun reporter Rachel Pritchett said, “If there had been no Adele Ferguson, there would be no Rachel Pritchett.”
(Some material taken from the “Inimitable Adele Ferguson, Legacy Project.”)
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Sound Publishing’s Special Section, “Women of Achievement.”