Former Society Editor Celebrated for Trailblazing Inclusivity

Laura Rollins Hockaday to be inducted into Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women, preserving the history of their accomplishments and inspiring women everywhere. Laura Rollins Hockaday (1938-2017) is one of the outstanding women being honored in the 2019 class of inductees.

Hockaday, a longtime society editor for The Kansas City Star, transformed race relations by redefining “society” and  expanding the newspaper’s previously racially restrictive society page to be inclusive of all people in the community.

Hockaday worked for The Kansas City Star in many capacities from 1962 to her retirement in 2000. She is remembered for many things, including her popular column “Come into My Kitchen,” but her most enduring contributions were the changes she made to The Kansas City Star’s society pages.

“Having been raised in an environment of white privilege and country clubs, Hockaday was keenly aware of the exclusivity and segregation that existed at the paper,” said Anny C. “Acey” Lampe, Ph.D., sustainer colleague with the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri.

After 20 years working on the paper, Hockaday, then a travel editor, was asked to take the society editor job. She agreed only on the condition that she be able to portray society as it truly existed in the city, which included African American and Hispanic communities who were previously overlooked.

“She opened the society section of The Kansas City Star for all to see that Kansas City is a beautiful ethnic mosaic.” – Gwendolyn Grant, president, Urban League of Greater Kansas City

Hockaday, often practically dressed in rubber flats and skirts, attended Kansas City’s galas and black-tie events, developing new relationships and writing stories about less-publicized individuals. Minority communities noticed the shift as the society pages became more integrated, featuring not just the parties, but the organizational and philanthropic work of African American and Hispanic women in Kansas City.

“Hockaday believed society reporting should really be a common denominator for the community and that it should be a medium for bringing people together instead of setting people apart,” said Gwendolyn Grant, president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. “She opened the society section of The Kansas City Star for all to see that Kansas City is a beautiful ethnic mosaic.”

Bunni Copaken, a past president of the Junior League of Kansas City and fellow inductee, said Hockaday’s work invited all of Kansas City to meet a diverse group of women heralded by their own ethnic communities.

“Hockaday single-handedly helped to redefine the notion of society in Kansas City,” Acey said. “She did not see color, class or gender. She simply saw people. She especially elevated women of color whose philanthropic and celebratory events had historically been non-existent to the readers of The Kansas City Star.”

In recognizing and addressing the injustice in lack of coverage, she quickly and efficiently using her small part of the paper as the impetus for change.

Art Brisbane, former editor and publisher of The Kansas City Star, said of Hockaday, “I have asked myself what lesson can be drawn from her life. The answer, I believe, is that one person, possessing a clear eye and a fair mind, can make a great change by simply acting on her beliefs. Others will follow.”

About the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women and preserving the history of their accomplishments. These women are social reformers, volunteers, philanthropists, civic leaders, activists and educators. They are neighborhood leaders and grassroots organizers, from yesterday and today, both famous and unsung. They are movers and shakers whose tireless commitment to community has made Kansas City a better place to live.

The Hall of Fame honors their legacies by sharing their stories to encourage and inspire women everywhere. A permanent display honoring these women is open to the public on the third floor of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Hall of Fame is named in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, a legendary activist and philanthropist who blazed a trail for family issues and women’s rights. The Hall of Fame is made possible through the Starr Education Committee, Martha Jane Starr’s family and the Starr Field of Interest Fund through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.

Published: Mar 12, 2019

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