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Pioneering journalist and Lantern alumna dies at 86

When the first female editor-in-chief of The Lantern was selected in 1944, women we’re not allowed in the Ohio Union or in press boxes at football games.

Jean Sprain Wilson, a female pioneer in investigative journalism, died July 12 at the age of 86.

“Our family thought often she wasn’t good enough, so she wanted to prove everyone wrong,” said Wilson’s daughter, Donna Wilson, 62. “She won so many awards … she was the first woman to do many things.”

Wilson reported in Cambodia and Iran and gained fame for interviewing subjects such as Princess Grace Kelly and murderer Charles Manson, her daughter said.

“At the time, remember, women weren’t supposed to cover things like Iran. They weren’t supposed to be going in Jeeps to Cambodia,” said Hoke Wilson, her son, 64.

Although her career took her around the world, Wilson started breaking barriers while she was a student at Ohio State.

Wilson appointed a female sports editor, “so they had to create a special women’s press box,” said Hoke Wilson, adding that press passes for football games at the time read “Men Only.”

“Jean made it women only,” he said, “she was a huge feminist.”

Donna Wilson added that her mother also led a crusade to build a new student union.
She was hired as the co-chair of the Ohio Union Committee in 1945, according to Lantern records. She also headed a movement by students to campaign for a new student union.

“Until ground is finally broken for a new [union], we are confident that the agitation will continue,” Wilson wrote in The Lantern in January 1945. The new union, which offered admission to women as well as men, was finally built in 1951, according to Lantern archives.

“She was a path-breaker,” Donna Wilson said. “She was a pushy bitch and I wish I had that.”

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