Annie Wittenmyer - an influential woman leader

Annie Wittenmyer was a powerful female leader with a strong sense of morality. Her determination and teachings continue to inspire future generations and are especially beneficial to those in positions of leadership. Sandy Springs, Ohio, is where she was born and raised. She was fortunate to acquire an education, unlike most girls of her generation, whose parents did not believe in educating the girl child. Annie recognized she had a gift for writing when she was in elementary school. Windham (2016) claims that she penned her first poetry at the age of twelve. She used her writing talents throughout her academic years and even afterwards in her job. Importance of Public Relations to Annie’s Career

Effective communication is one of the most fundamental basics of proper leadership. The leader ought to have the most appropriate communication channels to ensure that his or her juniors are well instructed. Improper communication leads to misunderstandings that could lead to adverse effects. Public relations help to make communication more efficient. Several individuals have attempted to define public relations in the previous years. Though slightly different, all these definitions point out that public relations increase the efficiency of communication. According to Gower (2017), public relations is a strategic process of communication creates a mutual relationship between the sender of a particular message and the recipient of that message.

Perspectives of public relations

Public relations does not just involve sending messages to intended persons or groups. It incorporates other aspects such as:

Seeking, analysis and interpretation of public opinion.

Conducting counseling services.

Research and evaluation of the programs of the course of action to be used.

Planning and implementation of the efforts that will bring about the desired change.

Many of Annie Wittenmyer’s achievements in her career are attributed to her prudence in applying public relations. She realized that the only way she would address the problems in the society was by building a close relationship with its members. Zimmerman (2011) explains that people tend to open up to anybody who seems to have a listening ear and an interest in the struggles they go through.

How Annie’s Career relates to the Practice and Origin of Public Relations

Though Annie had been writing since her childhood, she was never able to establish a public audience until she got married to her Husband, William Wittenmyer. Shortly after their marriage, the Wittenmyer’s family moved to Keokuk, a place that was growing and developing at a rather slower rate. Amenities such as public schools were not often available in this location. Having been raised by parents who firmly believed in the value of education, Annie was deeply moved by the lack of enough educational opportunities in this place. Wilcox (2015) argue that good leaders are quick to identify the problems in the society and take it upon themselves to create solutions that will correct the situation.

Annie did not wait for anybody else to see the urgency of establishing schools in the area. She had already determined within herself that the children in the neighborhood had to be educated. Motivated by this desire, she started a free tuition school for the underprivileged children in the year 1853. The classes would be held at her home until she found a better place to build the school. Surprisingly, the locals seemed to be waiting for such an opportunity. Way too many children enrolled, and learning kick started almost immediately. This act of boldness earned her a lot of esteem from the community members just as Botan and Hazleton (2010) explain that success belongs to those who are daring enough to take the first step even when they cannot see a way.

She continued informing the members of the community about the importance of education, and the locals embraced her message. Daymon and Holloway (2010) report that at one time thirty textbooks from the local bookshop were charged on her account. She passed on the desire of educating the children to the residents of the area and this campaign marked the beginning of reforms in the area as people started supporting her in this noble task. By building relationships with the community members, Annie was able to influence the society to embrace the need to educate children. She also arranged Sunday school classes for children from families that did not attend church.

When a civil war broke, shortly after her husband’s death, she volunteered to help the wounded soldiers that were being brought to Keokuk for medication. As she interacted with them, she was able to learn some of the challenges that the Army faces such as filthy campsites, bad food and worry for the friends and family they left behind. She became an active member of the Keokuk Ladies’ Soldier’s Aid Society that was formed to support the wounded soldiers. Her commitment to it enabled her to become its corresponding secretary.

Why public Relations had Value for Her Career

The value of public relations to Annie’s achievements in her career cannot be underestimated. She wouldn’t have been as successful as she was if she chose to neglect the role of public relations. Smith (2010) argues that public relations opened greater opportunities for Annie to serve the community. The value of public relations in Annie’s life is depicted in the following instances.

Public relations enabled her to identify the needs of the society. One of the benefits of public relations is that it serves as a perfect avenue for revealing the problems that people go through. When Annie moved to Keokuk, she was able to identify the need for increasing educational opportunities in the area.

They also helped her solicit for more support in the programs she started. Both the residents and visitors started giving their support to see the expansion of the school.

They helped her establish groups and forums that enabled her to serve the community better such as schools and Christian organizations.

Public relations helped her in information dissemination. Through her writing skills, she was able to pass information to members of the public. She composed hymns that were sung in churches and edited two Christian magazines: ‘The Christian Child’ and the ‘Christian Woman.'

Public relations helped her to rise to very senior leadership positions. At one time she was the contemporary secretary of the Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society. In the year 1874, she was elected as National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union’s first president. Windham (2016) explains that she was believed that she was best placed to bring the changes that were necessary for solving problems such as alcoholism.

How Annie Came to the Practice of Public Relations

Annie cultivated the practice of Public Relations from her great desire to help the underprivileged. She realized that she had to network and build relationships that would facilitate the actualization of her dreams. Every platform that she was coordinated, she always invested her time and resources in interacting with people. According to Gower (2017), such interactions created a confidence in the people that her plans were viable and helpful. As she interacted with people, she was able to get more information on their challenges and struggles. The people would then support her to the fullest. Again, Annie’s writing skills played a big role in her public relations practice. Anytime she felt that she needed to communicate, she put the information into writing and made it accessible to the members of the society.

Which of the four models of Public Relations did Annie Apply?

There are four models of public relations. They include:

The press agent model. It is a model of public relations where the agents work to influence the opinion of the public by creating news.

The public information model. It lays more emphasis on distributing information other than creating news.

The two-way asymmetrical method. The agents use research that enables them to drive the intended information into the heads of the target recipients.

The two-way symmetrical model. This model embraces the role of a mediator who helps the members of the public and the organization to adapt to each other.

The fact the Annie Wittenmeyer put more emphasis on passing knowledge and information is an indication that she applied the public information model. Zimmerman (2011) explains that what worked well for Annie was her ability to influence the public into agreeing with her ideas by teaching and sensitizing them about the problems they faced every day. Again, all her writings were aimed at passing information to the members of the society. ‘The Christian Woman,' a magazine that she edited, talks about the conduct, roles, and responsibilities of a Christian woman. She wanted to change the perspective of the Christian women by sensitizing them of what the society expects from them. In all the organizations that Annie headed, she was very concerned about the welfare of the members. She was not only motivated by her achievements but also the overall growth of the members and the society at large. She was keen on sharing her ideologies with them while convincing them why and how they would effect change.

Reasons why a Different Approach Would Have Been Better.

Although the public information model serves the purpose of public relations better than the press approach, there are instances when it might not be applicable. According to Botan and Hazleton (2010), the public information model lays more emphasis on passing information than getting the recipients’ feedback which is very important for effective communication. As a public relation’s agents, you not only want to inform the members of the society but also get to hear their views on a certain matter. Other than ignoring the recipients’ response, this approach has other limitations such as:

It may trigger the public’s reluctance to embrace the information. They may feel that the public relations agents are only imposing their ideas on them without caring their attitude towards them. The public wants a forum whereby they can equally express themselves.

The public relations agents may at time sell half-truths to the members of the public especially when they realize that they have become so influential. They can manipulate the public with distorted information that they know that the public no longer questions what they say.

Due to these shortcomings, Annie Wittenmyer would have been more effective in her career if she adopted the two-way symmetrical model. Smith (2010) explains that she should have used it alongside the Public Information model to simplify the process. The following are the benefits that Annie would have reaped from using the Two-way Symmetric model.

It would have reduced the workload that she had to deal with every day. Windham (2016) feels that Annie overworked herself throughout her whole life. Using mediators that would help her in interacting with the public would have relieved her of the bigger burden of having to handle them all by herself.

It would have helped in disseminating the information quickly thus saving time. If she used mediators, they would reach out to more people than she would have accessed alone.

It is efficient in getting the public’s response and feedback. The mediators would report to her what the public feels should be addressed and it would have helped her in prioritizing the most important matters.

Annie Wittenmyer public relations skills played a very significant role her career. They helped her grow from just a mere teacher of the underprivileged children to a national figure. Public relations enabled her to develop outstanding organizational skills that have been emulated by many generations that came after her. She has been used as the reference any time the topic of public relations is discussed.


Botan, C. H., & Hazleton, V. (Eds.). (2010). Public relations theory II. Routledge.

Daymon, C., & Holloway, I. (2010). Qualitative research methods in public relations and marketing communications. Routledge.

Gower, K. K. (2017). The Historiography of North American Public Relations. In North American Perspectives on the Development of Public Relations (pp. 113-126). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Smith, B. G. (2010). Socially distributing public relations: Twitter, Haiti, and interactivity in social media. Public Relations Review, 36(4), 329-335.

Wilcox, D. L., Cameron, G. T., & Reber, B. H. (2015). Public relations: Strategies and tactics. A. Dodge (Ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Windham, D. (2016). The White Ribbon Army: Politics and Race Relations of the Georgia Woman's Christian Temperance Union from 1880 to 1907. JS Legal Hist., 24, 151.

Zimmerman, E. (2011). Laura Laffrado. Uncommon Women: Gender and Representation in Nineteenth-Century US Women's Writing: Columbus: The Ohio State P, 2009.

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