Adelaide V. Lake

Adelaide V. Lake (1897-1970) ─ Journalist/Publisher, Opened the way for Women to have Careers

Journalist and publisher Adelaide V. Lake grew up in an era when women couldn’t vote, couldn’t smoke in public, and were expected to get married and become homemakers.

A fiercely-independent individual, Lake opened up the way for women to be respected as professionals in their own field –whatever they chose to be.

A reporter for the Portland Oregonian newspaper and several other newspapers, Lake traveled to Turkey as a foreign correspondent in the 1920s. During her lifetime, Lake was also the editor/owner of the Sheridan Sun newspaper in Sheridan, Oregon.

With a Master’s Degree in Education from Oregon State College in 1942, she went on to teach Journalism at Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) and earned the professional respect of all who knew her.

Adelaide V. Lake was born in 1897 to a rather well-to-do family in Eugene.  However, because of being a woman (and having unsightly reddish-purple birthmarks on her neck and face) Adelaide faced adversity all of her life.  In her own determined way she overcame whatever adversity the world dealt her.

As an undergraduate at the University of Oregon in 1916, family members recalled that she was so hard to look at none of the campus sororities would allow her to pledge. However, in her junior year, Lake was elected editor of Oregana, the UO’s annual yearbook.

Most notably, Lake was a well-known newspaper editor/owner in an era when only men were allowed to do that sort of thing. In the 1940s Adelaide had written a front page article that was critical of the Longshoreman Labor Union in Coos Bay, Oregon. Shortly thereafter she received a visit by two representatives who told her that: IF she ever wrote another article like that THEN they would dynamite her newspaper presses.

Legend has it that Adelaide drove alone to the next meeting of the Longshoreman Labor Union in Coos Bay, Oregon. She walked into the meeting smoking a cigarette, and announced:
“My name is Adelaide Lake, I am the owner of the Sheridan Sun newspaper. Recently I received a visit by two very rude and mean-spirited men from your organization who threatened to dynamite our presses. IF that ever happens again, THEN I personally will come down here and dynamite this entire damn hall!” Adelaide walked out and drove home. Apparently they never bothered her again.

Descendents remember that a visit to “Aunt Adelaide” included supper on genuine China trimmed with real gold. Sterling silver knives, forks and spoons were placed on the table. Aunt Adelaide always had the very finest.

“Looking back, I believe this was Aunt Adelaide’s way of rewarding herself for the tremendous adversity that she always faced.  Adelaide had to fight so hard for everything that she ever achieved,” said her great nephew Dr. Quentin Holmes of Marcola.

An article “Editors Gather for 3-Day Meet” published in the Portland Oregonian January 21, 1938 included Lake in the ranks as an influential editor of the time.

In 1965, she was the advisor to OSU’s Theta Sigma Phi Chapter when the professional organization received an award for being the most Outstanding Student Chapter in the Nation (Oregonian,  September 2, 1965.) Without heirs or close family, in 1966 Lake established a scholarship for high school students pursuing journalism in college in her name at OSU (Oregonian, January 10, 1966.) The same year, a Women of Achievement Award at OSU was also established in Adelaide’s name (Oregonian, April 7, 1966.)

Adelaide Lake passed away on April 10, 1970 at the age of 72. In retrospect, being a heavy smoker for years didn’t help her health any. Even dying was difficult – she passed after weeks and weeks and weeks in Hospice Care. Her niece Ruth “Lake” Holmes was with her and put it like this: “Nothing in Adelaide’s entire life ever came easily, and dying was no exception.”

After Adelaide passed, a senior editor at the Portland Oregonian wrote a half-page article about her life and what it was like to work with her on the newspaper – a very touching tribute in a Sunday edition of the newspaper to a capable and determined woman who walked in a man’s world.