Eliza Jane Poitevent Holbrook Nicholson, 1843-1896

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Woman Category: Business & Entrepreneurship, Literature & Poetry, and MediaWoman Tags: Journalist and NOLA Women

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    Eliza Jane Poitevent Holbrook Nicholson, 1843-1896

    The first woman in Louisiana to earn a living writing for a newspaper, and the first woman publisher of a major daily newspaper in the US.

    Born to an affluent family near Pearlington, Mississippi, Eliza Jane Poitevent developed her passion for reading from magazines. She started writing and publishing poetry about nature and love under the pen name Pearl Rivers, a tribute to the river which flows not far from where she grew up.
    Poitevent moved to New Orleans and before the age of 30 became the literary editor of the Picayune newspaper. Soon after, she married the newspaper’s owner Alva Holbrook, who was 29 years her senior. Four years after their marriage, Holbrook died, and Eliza Jane inherited the paper, with its debts. She took on the challenge, made editorial changes, adding book reviews, gossip column, and a serial novel. She also promoted female journalists and ensured they get equal pay.
    In addition to serving as the owner and publisher, she continued writing essays and poetry. She then married the newspaper’s business manager, George Nicholson, 23 years her senior. Together they turned Picayune into the most popular newspaper in the region.
    She died at the age of 52 from flu, 11 days after her husband. She was survived by two sons and over 200 poems. In 2018, the Eliza Jane Hotel opened in New Orleans, paying homage to the 20 year career of the country’s first female publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper.

    “My dress and apron bore the sign
    Of frolic wild and free,
    The brambles caught my yellow hair,
    And braided it for me”

    “My dress and apron bore the sign
    Of frolic wild and free,
    The brambles caught my yellow hair,
    And braided it for me”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was described as “the wildest girl in school”.
    • She was 4 feet tall.
    • She lied about her age, dropping six years in her biographies.
    • Her granddaughter was quoted saying that Eliza Jane could levitate and bend spoons.
    • She wrote poems defending biblical women, Hagar and Leah.
    • She was the founding member of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which is known today as the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans.
    • Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, who became famous as advice columnist “Dorothy Dix”, started her career under the wings and support of Eliza Jane.
  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Eliza Jane Poitevent Holbrook Nicholson, 1843-1896

    Woman Tags: Journalist, NOLA Women

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  • Photo courtesy of Don Wicks. Photo credit - Wikipedia.