Christine Sadler Coe Papers
Scope and Contents
The Coe papers consist of 20.06 linear feet and contain a wealth of material relating to Christine Sadler Coe’s life long career in journalism and to that of her husband, Richard Coe who was the longtime theater critic for the Washington Post. The papers are comprised of seven series which document her life as well as the mid-century events and crises of America and the world. A leader in the field of journalism her papers follow her career trajectory and experiences as a female journalist in a male dominated field.
In the Writings Series are manuscripts and research for her two books America’s First Ladies (1963) and Children in the White House (1967) and for an unfinished work on Nelly Parke Custis, descendant of George Washington. Also significant in this collection are articles she wrote for the Washington Post and McCall’s magazine; and correspondence, invitations, programs, notebooks, and photographs that reflect her many personal and professional friendships with first families, ambassadors, politicians, and other prominent figures in Washington, D.C. in the four decades that she lived there.
Personal and Biographical
Career in Journalism
Oversize materials in Flat box
- 1902 - 1981
Biographical Note - Christine Sadler Coe
Ella Dillian Christine Sadler was born on April 7, 1902 in Silver Point, Tennessee. She was one of seven children of Philip Edley Sadler (1875-1951) and Frances (Fannie) Williams Sadler (1880–1950). She was the sister of Martha Sadler, Mary Sue Sadler, and Cordell Lundy, all of Silver Point, Tennessee and of Philip Sadler of Pulaski, Virginia and James C. Sadler of Honolulu, Hawaii.
She attended Livingston Academy, Milligan College, and George Peabody College for Teachers where she received a BS degree on August 31, 1927. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University on June 1, 1937.
She began her career in journalism as a reporter for The Nashville Banner where she worked from 1930-1936. She moved on to be a reporter for the Washington Post where she met her husband Richard Livingston Coe, who was for over 50 years a theater critic for the Washington Post. They were married in 1946. At the Washington Post she worked as a reporter, national news bureau staffer, and Sunday Editor from 1937-1946.
Christine Sadler Coe was the Washington Editor of McCall’s Magazine from 1944 until her retirement in 1971. She also did special assignments for the Post and contributed to Canadian and British publications, notably The Montreal Standard. She was known professionally as Christine Sadler.
She was the first woman to cover a national political convention for the Washington Post, when in 1940 she helped cover the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia that nominated Wendell Wilkie to run against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She continued to cover national conventions for the Washington Post and other publications for 30 years.
In addition to covering political conventions, her assignments at The Post included World War II agencies, Capitol Hill, the White House, and the funeral of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She covered Eleanor Roosevelt’s news conferences and persuaded her to write a column for McCall’s, which Mrs. Roosevelt did from June 1949 until her death in 1962.
Christine Sadler Coe was the author of two books - America’s First Ladies (1963) and Children in the White House (1967). She personally knew all of the First Ladies from Eleanor Roosevelt to Betty Ford and many of their children. This collection reflects these personal connections in correspondence, photographs, and newspaper articles written by her and others. In 1966 she hired Lynda Bird Johnson (eldest daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson), now Mrs. Charles Robb, to work for McCall’s.
At the time of her death she was working on a collection of 50 letters by Nellie Parke Custis, stepdaughter of George Washington, which was to be called America’s First Princess. Mrs. Coe’s research for this collection of letters makes up a substantial part of the 'Writings' series in these papers.
Among her notable achievements and honors that she received was being chosen to view the Berlin Airlift (Operation Vittles) which took place from 1948-1949. She served as the president of the Women’s National Press Club (now the Washington Press Club) from 1942-43 and as chairman of its 50th Anniversary Committee in 1970. She was also a member of the American Newspaper Women’s Club; an honorary member of Theta Sigma Phi; and a member of National Women’s Democratic Club.
From 1956 through 1959 she was appointed and served as a charter member of the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). Mrs. Coe frequently was a guest on radio and television programs. She was one of ten women selected by State Department to be the guest of the German government while exploring uses to the Marshall Plan funds. This official tour in July 1964 was made in memory of President John F. Kennedy.
She was elected to the George Peabody College Board of Trust in May 1968, and she was on the board at the time of the historic merger of Peabody with Vanderbilt University in 1979.
Christine Sadler married Richard Livingston Coe (1914-1995) in 1946. He was the theater critic for The Washington Post for fifty years. He became Critic Emeritus in 1979. He was instrumental in establishing the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the nation’s capital and in efforts to end racial discrimination of African Americans attending The National Theatre prior to the civil rights movement. Mr. Coe received the Critic of the Year award by the Director’s Guild of America in 1963, and is an inductee in the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.
Richard Coe’s early newspaper articles for the Stars and Stripes, a U.S. Army newspaper publication and his letters to his wife are well represented in these papers, in addition to the collection of later newspaper articles that he wrote for The Washington Post.
The Coes lived in Georgetown at 2713 Dumbarton Avenue, Washington D.C. Mrs. Coe gardened there in “their little shaded spot” and was a “Saturday painter” studying under Nancy (Mrs. Estes) Kefauver, and exchanged paintings with other amateur artists including Beatrice Lillie, Tony Curtis, Carol Channing, and Shirley Booth. Some of her artwork is included in these papers.
Christine Sadler Coe died of cardiac arrest on June 25, 1983 at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. at the age of 81. Richard Livingston Coe died November 12, 1995.
20.06 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
This collection consists of a wealth of material relating to Christine Sadler Coe’s life long career in journalism and to that of her husband, Richard Coe, who was the longtime theater critic for The Washington Post. The papers are comprised of seven series which document her life as well as the mid-century events and crises of America and the world. A leader in the field of journalism, her papers follow her career trajectory and experiences as a female journalist in a male dominated field.
Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives
- Finding Aid for the Christine Sadler Coe Papers
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
419 21st Avenue South
Nashville TN 37203 United States