Skip to main content

Mary Patterson Routt papers

Identifier: D.Mss.0719

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection contains correspondence, photographs, writings, and newspaper clippings related to Mary Patterson Routt's private life and to her career as a Washington correspondent. A number of drafts and clippings of her newspaper articles can be found in the collection as well as the drafts and galleys for her book, The Life and Times of a Washington Correspondent, 1933-1945. Although there is little material related to the founding of Scripps College or to her time as a member of the board of trustees from 1926 to 1965, the collection does contain board of trustees' reports from 1967 to 1983. The collection also contains a great deal of photographs and ephemera from her days as a college student at Grinnell and Wellesley College. The materials in the collection range from the 1850s to 1983 with the bulk of the collection dating from 1905 to 1983.


  • 1776-1983 1905-1983
  • Majority of material found within 1905 - 1983



Collection open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish must be submitted in writing to Denison Library.

Biography / Administrative History

Mary Patterson Routt was a founding trustee of Scripps College as well as one of the first female members of the White House press corps. She was born on May 13, 1888 in Mitchellville, Iowa, a small farming community. The only child of Burton Robert Patterson, a grain broker, and his wife, Ida Patterson, it was always understood that she was expected to attend college; as a child, her mother had sent in an application for her to attend Wellesley College in Boston. Because the local high school she attended was unaccredited, after graduating, Mary enrolled in a preparatory high school in Grinnell, Iowa. Having made many close friends there, Mary persuaded her parents to allow her to stay and enroll in Grinnell College. Her parents relented only after she promised to attend Wellesley College after graduating from Grinnell; her father felt that her education should not be limited geographically to the Midwestern area. Thus, after graduating from Grinnell in 1908 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy, Mary earned a bachelor's degree in English and history from Wellesley. After graduating from Wellesley, Mary taught at Sutherland High School in Iowa for a year. In 1912 she married Orville Routt, whom she had met at Grinnell College. After the two married, the couple moved to Southern California where her husband became the owner of a successful lumberyard business. In 1920, Mary gave birth to their only child, Robert.

As a student at Grinnell College, Mary had met Ernest J. Jacqua, a fellow student who later became the first president of Scripps College. Over the years, Mary and her husband had become good friends with Jacqua, and in 1926, he asked Mary to become a member of the first board of trustees for Scripps College. Mary served on the board from 1926 to 1965 and played an active role in the development of the college. She and her husband made several donations to the school, and in 1966, a residence hall on the Scripps Campus was named in her honor. In 1981, the Scripps College board of trustees awarded the first Distinguished Service Award to Mary for her many contribution to the institution.

Mary entered the field of journalism in 1922, writing a regular column in the Beverly Hills Citizen News called "Facts, Folks, and Fancies." Her editor, recognizing her talent for writing about politics, decided to send her to Washington, D.C. to cover the 1933 inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her coverage of the even gained her renown and earned her a spot as one of the first female members of the White House press corps. In addition to the bi-weekly press conferences given by Roosevelt, she also attended the exclusive press conferences that Eleanor Roosevelt held for the female journalists.

In 1933, Mary was one of two female journalists invited to attend the London Economic Conference. At the conference, she was the only woman in a subgroup of journalists traveling by foot through the countryside of Russia. Some of the men protested against her presence, arguing that a woman would not be able to endure such an arduous trip. Mary, however, was the only member of the group that did not become sick on the trek through Russia.

As a Washington correspondent from 1933 to 1945, Mary divided much of her time between California and Washington, D.C. She became a nationally syndicated columnist for the Beverly Hills Citizen News and the Pasadena Star News and was frequently invited to give talks by various organizations across the country. Throughout her career, Mary's husband was very supportive and would at times write articles in her place when she was ill. Mary also became good friends with the Roosevelts and was a frequent guest at the White House. In 1966, Mary was awarded an honorary doctorate by Grinnell College for her achievements in journalism.

After her husband passed away in 1972, Mary moved into an apartment in the Mary Routt Residence Hall on the Scripps College Campus. In 1983, she wrote a book on her experience as a Washington correspondent, entitled The Life and Times of a Washington Correspondent, 1933-1945. At the age of 98, Mary passed away on June 19, 1986.


4.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Mary Patterson Routt was one of the original signers of the founding articles for Scripps College and served on the college's first board of trustees from 1926 to 1965. She was also one of the first female Washington correspondents and had a nationally syndicated column from 1933 to 1945. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, writings, and newspaper clippings related to her private life and to her career as a Washington correspondent. Also included in the collection are Board of Trustees' reports for Scripps College from 1976 to 1983. The materials in the collection range from 1776 to 1983 with the bulk of the collection dating from 1905 to 1983.

Physical location

Please consult repository.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mary Patterson Routt, 1973.

General Physical Description note

(8 manuscript boxes and two oversize boxes)

Processing Information

Because no organization appeared to exist, the materials in the collection were rearranged and organized according to series and subseries type. Some of the items in the collection were left on display in the Mary Routt Memorabilia Room on the Scripps College Campus. Collection processed by Lorain Wang, 2003.

Guide to the Mary Patterson Routt Papers
Lorain Wang
© 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in: English

Repository Details

Part of the 01 - Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library Repository

800 North Dartmouth Ave
Claremont CA 91711 United States