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Sherri Richards, Published February 07 2012

Longtime Forum women’s section editor Doris Eastman dies at 96

Doris Eastman, editor of The Forum’s women’s section for 20 years, died Sunday in Huntington Beach, Calif., of old age and Alzheimer’s-related illnesses. She was 96.

Eastman, a longtime Moorhead resident, started her journalism career as a secretary and then writer for the Moorhead Daily News. She retired from The Forum at the end of 1978, having seen the section she wrote for and edited evolve and its name change to “Family” and later “Lifestyles,” reflecting a changing society.

“At one time the section had little more than parties, notices of organization meetings, engagements and weddings written in minute detail,” Eastman wrote in her farewell column of December 1978. “Through the years, we hope, it has reflected the changing world of women and family and, in some cases, helped to stimulate changes for the better.”

Doris Winne was born Jan. 31, 1916, in Alexander, N.D. As a child, the family moved to Williston, N.D., where her father took a job at the Farmers’ Press. Her sister, Helen, would soon marry the editor of the Farmers’ Press, Wayne Peterson.

Eastman had planned to be a secretary, but when she graduated in 1934 from Fargo Central High School, she had no sign of a job.

By this time, her brother-in-law had become editor and part-owner of the Moorhead Daily News. He told her it would be a good idea for her to take the job of the newspaper’s society editor.

“I didn’t think much of the idea because I was shy and that job meant meeting and talking with all sorts of people,” Eastman said in an interview recorded in 1985. But she took the job, which paid $10 a week. “That bit of nepotism wouldn’t work these days, I think, because a person would need college credits to be eligible, even as a relative.”

Her duties included calling people to see if they had items for two columns under the heading “Social and Personal.” It included meetings, lists of visitors at hotels, patients in hospitals and people who came to town to get car licenses, Eastman said.

Her first stint at the Daily News lasted from 1934 to 1939, when she became a housewife and later the mother of three sons. In 1938 she had married Ed Eastman, who had first come to work at the Daily News in 1936 as a summer college correspondent, and later was named the news-paper’s city editor.

The couple bought a small paper in Sheldon, Iowa, in 1948, a move Doris called a mistake.

“Ed was good at writing and editing, but he didn’t do too well with the advertising. I was terrible at selling classified ads, which was my job; and we paid a woman a good salary as a Society Editor, a job I could have done handily,” she said.

Eastman returned to the Moorhead Daily News Society section in 1950, and in 1951 was approached by The Forum’s Women’s Editor, Ruth Fairbanks, to be her assistant. Ed Eastman had become copy editor for The Forum that year.

Doris Eastman succeeded Fairbanks as women’s editor of The Forum in 1958 and remained with the paper until she retired in 1978 at age 63. While shepherding the department, which included four employees, she wrote a weekly column for the Sunday section.

She was actively involved in the North Dakota Press Women and the local Media Club, and received several awards from press organizations. She was honored as the 1986 Woman of Achievement by the North Dakota Press Women.

One accomplishment Eastman recalls in the 1985 interview is, in 1973, printing an appeal from an Irish woman named Sarah Hughes, asking Americans to open their homes to children of war-torn Northern Ireland so they could see how peaceful people lived. Eastman was the only American reporter to reprint the item, which sparked an exchange program, the Children’s Program of Northern Ireland. Over the past 39 years, more than 6,500 children have participated in the program.

She also recalled interviewing wives of key political figures when they visited the area, including former first lady Pat Nixon, Lenore Romney (wife of Gov. George Romney, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968) and Mary Rockefeller (first wife of New York Gov. and would-be presidential nominee Nelson Rockefeller).

Ed Eastman died in 1984. They had three sons, David, Barry and Breck.

The family suggests donations in Eastman’s memory be sent to the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556