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"I'm not in any way a traditional, tough-talking managing editor. I don't go around banging shoes on desks or yelling at reporters across the city desk." So says Carol Sutton, 42, the first woman ever named to the top editorial job on a big American daily. Colleagues at the Louisville Courier-Journal consider Sutton's coolheaded style one of her greatest assets. And, says Columnist Billy Reed, "she handles copy better and has more imaginative story ideas than any other editor I've worked under here."
After graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1955, Sutton became a secretary at the Courier-Journal. Within a year, she won promotion to city-desk reporting and in 1963, by now a wife and mother, was made editor of the women's section. She turned its coverage from society-page sycophancy to provocative feature writing and investigative reporting. One Thanksgiving Day, for instance, she defied her readers' expectations by presenting to them the first installment of a series on "Hunger in Kentucky."
In her first year as managing editor, Sutton has put an increasing number of close-to-home feature stories on Page One, including a report on alcoholism and personal profiles of a police informer and a policeman who lost an eye during an antibusing demonstration. She has also appointed a man as editor of the section called Today's Living, formerly known as Women's World.
ALISON CHEEK: Defiant Deacon
Boat rocking did not come easily to the Rev. Alison Cheek, 48, the Episcopal priest who is both a leader and a symbol in the women's drive for an active role in the clergy. "The Episcopal seminary was good to me," recalls Cheek. "It allowed me to extend my course over six years instead of three so that I could raise my four young children. It hired me as a biblical-language instructor, which eased the financial strain. But it took me forever to stop feeling grateful and start feeling outraged that I felt so grateful."
The transition became complete one spring day in 1972 when Cheek, then a deacon, attended the ordination of a young man. "Before the procession began, I was very pointedly told that only priests, not deacons, could participate in the ritual laying on of hands. I can still remember the embarrassment, rage and grief that surged through me as I stood alone in the pew while my brothers went up into the sanctuary to lay on hands."
Two years later Cheek heard about the planned ordination of women priests in Philadelphia and decided she would rather risk expulsion from the church than relive "the painful humiliation of categorical exclusion." Though the ordinations of Cheek and the ten other women deacons were declared invalid, the issue will not be finally resolved until the Episcopal Convention next September. Meanwhile, Cheek, who lives in Annandale, Va., with her husband, a World Bank executive, is happy about her "freedom in limbo." In November 1974, she became the first woman to celebrate Communion in an Episcopal church in defiance of the diocesan bishop, and last August was installed as assistant priest at the Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Washington. Says she: "I am convinced that the only crime I have committed in this matter is to have been born female."