The National League of American Pen Women was founded in 1897 as an alternative to the (then) all-male National Press Club. Realizing a need for an organization that would include women of the press, Marian Longfellow O’Donohue, niece of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, decided to create such an organization. Along with Margaret Sullivan Burke and Anna Sanborne Hamilton, she made plans for “bringing together women journalists, authors and illustrators for mutual benefits and the strength that comes of union.”
On June 26, 1897, the three women brought together 17 writers, novelists, newspaper women, a teacher, a poet and an artist for the first meeting. Alice R. Morgan, an illustrator for New York publishers, designed the League insignia, the owl, symbolic of wisdom, placed in a triangle formed by a red pen, a blue pencil and a white brush, colors of the American flag (at right).
The first National Convention was held in Washington, DC, in April, 1921, and the 300 women in attendance were received by President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding. Mrs. Harding was a distinguished member of The League, as was Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 1978, following its 80th birthday, The League was presented with the Literary Hall of Fame Award in recognition of its contribution to the cultural life of the United States Other recipients of the award have included Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ariel and Will Durant and Charles Schulz.