Editor-in-Chief, Vogue Magazine, 1946-62.
By Debbie Head, March 2021
(The inspiration for this article came while looking through the EVHS website for Women’s History Month ideas. There was a one-sentence description containing the name Jessica Daves indicating her position as editor of Vogue. I wanted to know more. In April 1997 EVHS, Professor DeDe Yow from Kennesaw State University presented a program on Miss Daves to the EVHS Membership. The focus here is to provide a deeper, more intimate look at the Cartersville roots of Miss Jessica Daves.)
Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine from 1946-1962. (The World of Vogue, 1963)
Jessica Hopkins Daves (1894-1974) ventured from Cartersville, GA to New York City and thrived through some of the most difficult times in US history. Her intellect, her skill, her strength, and determinedness must have made her career possible.
Jessica Daves grew up in Cartersville, taught school, and ultimately chased her dream. She spent her well-respected career and life in New York City where she socialized with the rich and famous of the times. She still has family in Cartersville who remember visiting her in New York.
Having spent her childhood in Cartersville, Georgia, living on Market Street (now Cherokee Ave) and Erwin Street among her educated family with 6 siblings, Jessica was an exceptional student and perhaps a popular socialite in town.
She was most definitely an accelerated student, graduating from the West School in Cartersville (sometimes known as Westside School in the old Sam Jones Female Academy) at age 16.
With graduation exercises at the Sam Jones Tabernacle on May 25, 1910, Jessica graduated, along with her older sister Emily, in a class of only 11 students. The graduating class consisted of 9 young women and 2 young men. Quoting from a local paper, “Miss Jessie Daves, the First Honor of her class, delivered the valedictory bidding her class and school mates a fond and impressive farewell adieu. Miss Daves is one of the youngest members of her class and deserved much credit for taking the highest honor of her class.” (Cartersville News, “Graduating Exercises Were Interesting,” June 2, 1910.)
After high school graduation, she enrolled at Agnes Scott College in Dekalb County, GA on a one-year Federation scholarship for the academic year 1910-11. In a short personal interest article from a news clipping the author stated that she was “one of Cartersville’s brightest young ladies and we predict for her future honors.” (Cartersville News, Sept. 15, 1910).
Her Career Start
After her Agnes Scott studies, Miss Daves returned to Cartersville in 1911 where she taught briefly at the West School, but primarily she taught the lower grades at the East school during her teaching career (1911-1920). Resources indicate she taught first, second and third grades during her teaching profession.
In the summer of 1913, Jessica attended the Summer Normal School in Euharlee. Euharlee provided the classrooms as well as dormitories for the students at forty cents per day. To help teachers get to the school, Euharlee school administrators arranged for pick up from the train depot in Stilesboro. Even back then, the Cartersville and Bartow education systems were focused on making better teachers. The Normal School lasted for 4 weeks and instructors were brought in to help teachers learn to teach better and become current with the newest curriculum. Miss Daves may have taken courses that included domestic classes taught by representatives from the State College of Agriculture. Ms. Daves was commended in the Cartersville News for attending. (By definition: Normal Schools are classes provided to improve teacher and prospective teacher skills.) (Cartersville News, “Summer Normal School at Euharlee,” May 8, 1913; May 28, 1913)
It appears that continuing education was an expectation in Jessica’s profession. Once again, she and another teacher traveled to Knoxville, TN to attend a summer training institute in 1915. Perhaps her aptitude for learning served her well in her career as a copywriter and editor.
She also served as an assistant at the Emerson school and even taught in Hawkinsville, GA for just a couple of months in 1918 until their schools were suspended. (perhaps due to the Spanish Flu?) (Bartow Tribune, October 17, 1918) Newspaper articles suggest that she must have returned to Hawkinsville to finish the school year. (Bartow Tribune, June 26, 1919)
From the newspaper articles that list the faculty for each school year, it appears she continued to teach until 1920, giving her a total of 9 years as a teacher in Cartersville. In 1921, as an active member of the Ladies Auxiliary, Jessie Daves is recognized as one of the members “coming to the rescue of the High School and securing the necessary books for its library to keep the school on the accredited list.” (Bartow Tribune,“Supt. Evans Very Grateful for Response,” January 13, 1921)
But teaching was not her professional goal. In July 1920, Jessica made a 3-month visit to Detroit where she stayed with her uncle J.P. Daves. According to one news report, she accepted a position in Detroit, Michigan as a copywriter for a short time, but then in February 1921 she visited her Aunt Jessie in NYC and while there she found her niche. (Pou, 1970)
In February 1921 (just after World War I and at age 27), she moved to New York where she enrolled in an advertising/copywriting course. After completing her course, she began work at the Best & Company where she remained for 3 years. She continued to develop her skill and joined the Kurzman Shop as an advertising writer and director of fashion. In her next career move she was a fashion promoter at Saks Fifth Avenue. She was beginning to receive recognition as something of a fashion expert in the very competitive and close group of fashion reporters and designers.(Tuite, 2019.)
Introduction to Vogue
In 1928, Edna Woolman Chase, a widely celebrated Vogue editor-in- chief, convened a group of well-known women inviting Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Arden, Edith Head, Helena Rubinstein and others including Jessica for a tea. And in 1930 that group of powerful women would eventually evolve into the Fashion Group International that served to keep current on trends and generate ideas for upcoming fashion shows, publications, writing and art. (https://www.jessicadaves.com/the-woman-jessica-daves)
Even as her career was moving quickly, Miss Daves married Robert Allerton Parker in 1930 and they lived on Park Avenue in New York. Mr. Parker was also an accomplished writer and authored 3 books, along with being secretary of the Pulitzer Prize board. (https://www.jessicadaves.com/the-woman-jessica-daves)
Jessica’s move to Vogue came when Ms. Chase requested her to join the magazine as a shoe merchandise editor in 1933. Within 3 years, she was promoted to managing editor where she served for 10 years before once again being tapped as editor in 1943. (https://www.jessicadaves.com/the-woman-jessica-daves)
Her accomplishments as Editor-in-Chief
Even though Mrs. Chase officially remained editor-in-chief of Vogue US, France and Italy, Jessica was the managing editor of Vogue U.S. on a daily basis. In 1952 (at age 58) Jessica was appointed as Editor-in-chief, making her only the second female editor in the history of the magazine. (Tuite) Jessica continued her conservative and business-minded leadership of the popular magazine. One example of her conservatism is she continued the Vogue campaigns started under editor Chase condemning open-toe shoes for women in the 1950s, even if the Queen of England was wearing them. (Pou, 1970.)
Jessica focused not only on publishing the latest fashion trends, but also in bringing intellectual information to her readers. She continued displays of fashion that were deemed high designer fashion and priced as such, but she provided the “low” end so her readers could find similar looks at much more affordable prices. (Pou, 1970.)
She sought to open the western USA market with the California sportswear style and expanded the fashion arena for a more casual look. In a way, her attention and promotion (as well as that of others, of course) of the ready-to-wear market facilitated the use of sewing machines across the country creating new jobs and accessible clothes. Fabric was ordered in huge quantities creating another economic impact. For example, Jessica stated “one company would buy ‘as a starter’, 20,000 yards of one fabric – eleven and one-third miles, or about a quarter of a mile shorter than Manhattan Island.” (Pou, 1970.)
Her creation of a store guide educated readers on the available sources for the clothes presented in the magazine. Eventually she answered the readers’ desire for home and interior fashion along with the “ready-to-wear” accessibility.
Jessica exemplified a keen sense for recognizing photographers, writers and artists. Her Vogue tenure ventured into a myriad of topics including celebrity photos (including Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe). She was professionally recognized by being awarded The French Legion of Honor in 1959, the Italian Order of Merit, Who’s Who in America and was the only woman in Esquire’s Decisive Dozen in 1960. (Pou, 1970.)
Her career gave her access to highly influential designers such as Coco Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and Christian Dior with whom she was friends and colleagues. (Pou, 1970.)
“Chanel says she loves Jessica Daves. “I put off my vacation to have lunch with her, because that was the only day she was free.” Mark Shaw, Fashion Photography, on Liz O’Brien site. https://lizobrien.com/product/coco-chanel-lunches-with-jessica-daves-at-the-ritz-1957/
Not so retiring
After almost 30 years at Vouge, she did not walk away from her love of fashion and writing. In her retirement years, she worked at Conde Nest, authored “Ready-Made Miracle: The Story of American Fashion for the ‘Millions” as well as co-authoring 2 additional books: “The Vogue Book of Menus and Recipes”, and “The World in Vogue.”
Additionally, she started and co-authored with Candance A. VanAlen a newspaper column called “The Sophisticated Slant,” in the Chicago Tribune. She continued her work and speaking at the Fashion Group International. She served as president of the fashion-focused organization from 1964-65. (https://www.jessicadaves.com/the-woman-jessica-daves)
Influential Through the Times
So, from Cartersville to New York City, Jessica Daves influenced national, even international, fashion lovers, readers and associates with her leadership, decision making, style and taste in fashion and publications. The background for her illustrious career included World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression, World War l l, the Korean War, the free-styling 60s and the Vietnam War It may be noted that the 1950s are especially exemplary and enviable for style and these were the years that Jessica was at the helm of the very popular and respected Vogue magazine. Many of her accomplishments and creations are still in use in the fashion iconic magazine.
Cartersville is Proud
The Cartersville local papers reflected in many articles just how proud the citizens were of Jessica. In The Bartow Tribune on February 1921, a brief paragraph relays the fact the she was bound for New York to stay with her aunt Jessie Hopkins, a librarian, as she prepared to learn advertising copy. Then in April of 1921, another article in The Bartow Tribune expresses how pleased all of Jessica’s friends are to learn that she was a member of the Best & Co advertising department. In December 1921, Miss Jessie Daves’ promotion was touted in The Bartow Tribune. One of her advertising copies was printed in The New York Times according to the Bartow Tribune “occupying six full columns, this space costing not less than one thousand dollars for the one insertion. The type is hand-lettered, while the drawings are exceptionally attractive, all of it being the work of this Cartersville girl, who has made good with a rush.” (The Bartow Tribune, December 1, 1921) And in 1923, while employed with Best & Company, Jessica sailed to Paris and other European cities to learn more about her fashion passion The Bartow Tribune reported.
There are articles too numerous to include that relayed the social and professional activities and energy of Miss Daves.
Her Family and Cartersville Connections
If family environment is influential in the outcomes of children, then Jessica came from an outstanding family, and she did not disappoint them in her achievements. Her maternal grandfather, Isaac Stiles Hopkins (1841-1814), was not only a Methodist minister and physics professor, but served as president of Emory University from which he graduated and then, as first president of Georgia Tech (1888-1896). The entrance gate at Emory University still honors Rev. Hopkins with one of the pillars named in his honor.
Her father Walter Weaks Daves (1864-1945) was an educator originally from Louisiana who was recruited from his teaching position in Texas to be the professor at East Cartersville Institute in 1886. A short time later, he was enticed to become Superintendent of the Cartersville Schools from 1891 to 1906. He also patented in 1903 a type of door or gate latch that was superior to spring latches.(https://patents.google.com/patent/US745042A/en)
An interesting occurrence in local newspapers of the day was the reporting of who was moving where within the city. There are several mentions of the Daves family moving from one location to another due to their home being sold by its owner or someone else was moving so they moved to another location. (Courant American, “Moving Time, November 12, 1896; Cartersville News, March 11, 1915)
Her grandmother Mary Hinton Hopkins (1881) and mother Annie Hopkins Daves (1868) both graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga. (A side note: it seems Annie Hopkins met her future husband- Jessica’s father- while Dr. Hopkins was president of Emory at Oxford and where Mr. Daves graduated with First Honor.)
One of Jessica’s brothers, Francis Daves, graduated from Georgia Tech as an architect and designed the Atlanta Westminster schools as well as the current (1953) Cartersville High School. The design by Francis Daves is now covered by the additions made to the high school, but his work is still there. (Dede Yow presentation, EVHS Members Meeting, 1997.)
Jessica and her siblings donated $100 each to Sam Jones Church to purchase a stained-glass window in memory of Walter and Annie Hopkins Daves. The window is the Woman at the Well. The windows were purchased around 1945.
Her sister Emily Daves Pittman has family who continue to thrive in Cartersville and are members of Sam Jones Church.
A Bartow Favorite Daughter
While the Jessica Daves name may not yet be familiar, she is a product of Bartow County of whom Bartow can and should be proud. She carried her religious upbringing, her intellect, her education and her skills of leadership, business and writing that she learned as a young lady in Cartersville with her to New York and beyond.
One of her great, great nieces, Ryann Ferguson, in her blogpost sums up her aunt quite well with “In fact, I feel certain Annee never hid behind anything in her life. She was the one who always said, “Don’t worry about what the dress code for an event is. If you wear a hat, a hat is the dress code. If you are casual, the dress code is casual. What you’re wearing is what everyone else should be wearing.”
Another family story from Ms. Burgess is that Miss Daves wore hats day and night because her hair was unruly. Hats were normally only worn during the day.
Jessica passed away in 1974 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Cartersville along with her husband who died in 1970. Her funeral was at Methodist Christ Church, Park Avenue and 60th Street in New York. (Gravesites may be found in Oak Hill Cemetery, Section 12, Row 5, 188)
For further reading, there is a newly published book (2019) by Rebecca C. Tuite that provides detailed information about the Jessica Daves Years at Vogue: 1950s in Vogue: The Jessica Daves Years, 1952-62.
In any situation, it takes a team to make something happen. As with this paper, many helped research, edit, correct, find photos, make copies among other activities. Thank you to each one of you.
- A very special thank you to Mr. Sam Graham for his research in locating and providing the newspaper articles used.
- A gracious thank you and hug to Margaret Mathison, an accomplice, researcher and collaborator on sleuthing out many family connections, historic pieces and walking the city in search of homesites for this article.
- Joe Head, not only VP of EVHS, is a premier researcher/writer and encourager who helped ferret out details on Jessica Daves that had not been found before.
- Thank you to Patty Worley, genealogical researcher, who dug out census records, death records and grave sites along with some family history.
Bartow Tribune, “School Teachers Assigned to Duty,” August 27, 1914
Bartow Tribune, “Children Respond to call to “Books.”, September 7, 1916.
Bartow Tribune, Personals, August 22, 1918.
Bartow Tribune, Locals and Personals, October 17, 1918.
Bartow Tribune, “Teachers Chosen for Next Year,” June 6, 1919.
Bartow Tribune, Personals, June 26, 1919.
Bartow Tribune, “City Schools Open Monday Morning at 8:30,” September 4, 1919.
Bartow Tribune, “Supt. Evans is Very Grateful for Response,” January 13, 1921.
Bartow Tribune, Untitled, February 17, 1921.
Bartow Tribune, “Miss Daves Making Good in New York,” April 14, 1921.
Bartow Tribune, “Miss Jessie Daves Wins Promotion,” December 1, 1921.
Bartow Tribune, “Miss Daves Goes to Paris,” May 10, 1923.
Cartersville News, “West School Building” photo. October 28, 1909
Cartersville News, “Closing Exercises of the Public Schools’, May 26, 1910.
Cartersville News, “Graduating Exercises were Interesting,” June 2, 1910.
Cartersville News, “Woman and Society,” June 29, 1911.
Cartersville News, Personals, January 4, 1912.
Cartersville News, “Teachers for Public Schools for Ensuing Years are Elected,” June 12, 1913.
Cartersville News, “Summer Normal School at Euharlee”, May 8, 1913.
Cartersville News, untitled, May 29, 1913.
Cartersville News, “Teachers for the City’s Public Schools,” July 10, 1913.
Cartersville News, Personals, March 11, 1915.
Cartersville News, untitled, June 24, 1915.
Courant American, “Moving Time,” November 12, 1896
Daves, Jessica, Ready-Made Miracle: The Story of American Fashion for the ‘Millions, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1967.
Daves, Jessica, et al, The Word In Vogue, The Viking Press, 1963.
Daves, Jessica et al, The Vogue Book of Menus and Recipes for Entertaining at Home. Conde Nest Publications, 1964.
Daves, Walter Weaks. “Latch” Patent 745,042, November 24, 1903.
“Dressed: The History of Fashion”. Podcast. Interview with Rebecca C. Tuite, July 21,2020
Etowah Valley Historical Society, Newsletter, Volume 25, 1997, pg. 6 “Dede Yow Presentation”
Felner, Jeffrey, “1950s in Vogue: The Jessica Daves Years, 1952-62” https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/1950s-vogue (a book review)
Hedge, Laurel, “Before Anna “, Thelaurelhedge.blogspot.com, Anonymous reply June 1, 2010.
Herald Tribune Obituary, “Parker,” September 26, 1974.
Pou, Genevieve, “Her World of Fashion,” Atlanta Constitution, September 13, 1970.
Tuite, Rebecca C., The Jessica Daves Years, 1952-62 (London: Thames & Hudson, 2019) http://JessicaDaves.com/the-woman-jessica-daves
U.S. Census, 1900, 1910, 1920.
Whitman, Alden, “Jessica Daves of Vogue is Dead; Favored Ready to Wear Trend” The New York Times. September 24, 1974
Please enjoy these family stories as shared by nieces of Miss Jessica Hopkins Daves Parker.
Phone Interview/Conversation with Mrs. Lelia Pittman Crowe Johnson. March 7, 2021
She knew her Aunt Jessica as Annee at Jessica’s request.
When Lelia was a young married woman, she visited Jessica in New York. Jessica introduced her to the Vogue staff, gave her tours around New York City and of course Lelia stayed in the Park Avenue apartment. Lelia recalls that Jessica sent a beautiful red velvet dress for Christmas one year, but it was about “4 sizes too small.” Mrs. Johnson thinks Jessica’s secretary picked it out with no idea of what size would fit!
Mrs. Johnson remembers her as a strong woman.
Phone Conversation with Emily Ferguson Burgess (great niece of Jessica). March 7, 2021
- Emily recalls many visits to New York to visit with her Annee. Jessica took Emily to the Cosmopolitan Club for dinner with Ann Ford (Ford Modeling Agency). Although Emily knew her manners, she had not experienced a fork and a spoon at the top of her place setting until that time.
- There is a family story that Miss Daves was born Jessie Hopkins Daves, but later changed her name to Jessica after her niece Mary Jessica Pittman was born in 1926.
- During the World Fair 1960-61, Jessica let Emily’s family stay in the 1040 Park Avenue Apartment while she went to the Country (The Hamptons.)
- Emily recalls a gallon size of Channel #5 on Jessica’s dresser, a gift from Coco Chanel.
From a brief meeting (March 10, 2021) with Ms Emily Burgess where she graciously shared the books, letters and stories of her aunt Annee.
- In a cute story shared by great niece Emily Burgess, Jessica sent a car to meet her at the airport with a driver who took her to the apartment building. The driver asked Emily if she were there to visit the Roosevelts.
- A beautiful picture frame on Jessica’s wall had a piece missing and Emily’s father Jim Ferguson offered to fix it for Jessica. With a little glue, he was able to restore the frame. It turns out it was a gift from Helena Rubinstein to Jessica.
See photo below of the inside cover of Jessica’s book, The World In Vogue, that she autographed and sent to her niece Mary Jessica Pittman Ferguson (mother of Emily Burgess) in 1963.
Partial Copy of patent awarded W.W. Daves in 1903.