1st Edition

Community Building and Early Public Relations
Pioneer Women’s Role on and after the Oregon Trail

ISBN 9780367224011
Published December 31, 2020 by Routledge
222 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

From the start, women were central to a century of westward migration in the U.S. Community Building and Early Public Relations: Pioneer Women’s Role on and after the Oregon Trail offers a path forward in broadening PR's Caucasian/White male-gendered history in the U.S. Undergirded by humanist, communitarian, critical race theory, social constructionist perspectives, and a feminist communicology lens, this book analyzes U.S. pioneer women's lived experiences, drawing parallels with PR's most basic functions – relationship-building, networking, community building, boundary spanning, and advocacy.

Using narrative analysis of diaries and reminiscences of women who travelled 2,000+ miles on the Oregon Trail in the mid-to-late 1800s, Pompper uncovers how these women filled roles of Caretaker/Advocate, Community Builder of Meeting Houses and Schools, served a Civilizing Function, offered Agency and Leadership, and provided Emotional Connection for Social Cohesion. Revealed also is an inevitable paradox as Caucasian/White pioneer women’s interactional qualities made them complicit as colonizers, forever altering indigenous peoples’ way of life.

This book will be of interest to undergraduate and graduate PR students, PR practitioners, and researchers of PR history and social identity intersectionalities. It encourages us to expand the definition of PR to include community building, and to revise linear timeline and evolutionary models to accommodate voices of women and people of color prior to the twentieth century.

Table of Contents

Part I: Overview  1 (Re)discovering the Past in Order to Understand Public Relations History Today  2 Re-examining the American West's Lure and Women’s Role Representations  Part II: Gendering and Expanding Roles as Early Public Relations Work  3 Interrogating Pioneer Women's Role as Caretaker/Advocate  4 Exploring Public Relations from the Care Perspective: Pioneer Women's Role as Community Builder of Meeting Houses and Schools  5 Civilizing Function: Pioneer Women and Religion  Part III: Ideologies, Women's Work, and the Female Frontier  6 Understanding Pioneer Women's Agency and Leadership  7 Expanding Women’s Role: Emotional Connection for Social Cohesion  8 Concluding Thoughts and Direction for Discovering More Women's Voices for Public Relations History

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Donnalyn Pompper (Ph.D., Media & Communication, Temple University) teaches courses in and researches public relations, corporate social responsibility, and social identity. Overall, her research provides routes for enabling people, globally, to achieve their maximum potential at work, to embrace their intersecting social identity dimensions (e.g., age, ethnicity, gender), and to critically examine these issues across mass media representations.

Pompper is an internationally recognized and award-winning scholar. She holds the Accredited Public Relations credential from Public Relations Society of America. Prior to joining the academy, she worked as a public relations manager and journalist, bringing 25 years of practical experience to the classroom and her research. She worked in public affairs management at Campbell’s Soup Company, marketing public relations management at Tasty Baking Company, where she created the public relations department, and as an account manager at Lewis, Gilman & Kynett (Philadelphia’s then-largest public relations/advertising firm). She also worked as a daily newspaper freelance reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Courier-Post, as well as news editor at a weekly New Jersey newspaper chain.


"This book is of immense value to public relations, its scholarly inquiry, and professional practice. However, those in a wide range of disciplines will find the volume to be both enlightening and delightful reading. The author describes the significant role in U.S. westward expansion of the brave women who had migrated over five to six months via the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail to subsequently settle in the Willamette Valley. This exhaustively researched book provides evidence of a feminist orientation when these women had assumed needed roles as caretakers/advocates, community builders, and civilizers, as well as when they had provided an emotional connection for social cohesion and complicity. Pompper’s research provides conclusive evidence that the women of the Oregon Trail were not fragile or delicate, nor were they subservient to and dependent upon men. Rather, they became essential leaders during this arduous journey and in the nascent settlements of the Willamette Valley. The author observes that there was a reason that women’s suffrage was first successful in the West.

These women became among the first historians to have recorded the Western experience. However, using feminist theory, network theory, and social constructionism, the author argues that they also were pioneers in public relations—precursors to today’s public relations practitioners in formal organizations. Pompper calls for a revisionist history as well as expanded historiographical methods to include such examples in public relations history. How we learn history influences how we think about ourselves and our career choices, and existing public relations history has been highly gendered—not a welcoming space for women or for people of color. Pompper argues that if public relations were more broadly defined to incorporate informal community work, new opportunities would exist for theorizing about public relations. The author concludes that public relations history must be expanded to include marginalized voices, such as the women community builders who had enabled the wagon trains and their destination settlement communities to connect with their past, to make sense of a new present, and to plan for the future. Then, the gaps that have been caused by patriarchal perspectives would no longer limit present-day understanding of public relations."

—Dr. Dean Kruckeberg, APR, Fellow PRSA, Professor, Department of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

"Community Building and Early Public Relations: Pioneer Women's Role on and after the Oregon Trail is well researched and a pleasure to read. More importantly, the book provides a much-needed approach to opening up new spaces for thinking about public relations history. It offers deep insights into diverse practices of public relations by giving voice to women's missing stories. Pompper traces women’s contributions to early community building and civil society. Public relations students and practitioners will benefit from this text because they will better understand how our field helped shape the communities in the American frontier."

—Professor Maureen Taylor, Ph.D., Head of Discipline, Public Communication, School of Communication, University of Technology Sydney 

"In Community Building and Early Public Relations, Donnalyn Pompper presents history from a different perspective, at the grassroots and with a lens focused firmly on women. She takes a deep dive into understanding relationship-building from the bottom up, demonstrating that in their efforts to survive as pioneers in the Oregon territory, women developed elements of what has become standard PR practice, offering a more nuanced understanding of the field. Based on evidence from women’s own private writing, Pompper also documents the violent side of homesteading, its effects on indigenous people, thus drawing attention to an overriding question about PR: can practitioners ever balance client interests with those of the public?"

—Karen Miller Russell, University of Georgia 

"This 'herstorigraphy' of pioneer women in the mid-1800s examines their voices through a contemporary lens. The review of their diaries and journals reveals the roles they served as community builders, caretakers, advocates, and social leaders. A vital step toward gender inclusion public relations history, the stories provide outstanding insight for 'herstoric' revisionism. The book is an essential course supplement for current texts and, by challenging earlier narratives, it provides a critical benchmark for social, racial, and gender inclusion in future editions."

—Pam Creedon, Professor Emeritus, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa 

"This is a novel, field-widening contribution to the ‘herstory’ of public relations in the U.S., which offers an additional conceptual model drawn from analysis of the nineteenth-century Oregon Trail."

—Tom Watson Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, Bournemouth University; Founder of the International History of Public Relations Conference