Esther Griffin White

The Little Paper

The Little Paper

The front page of the first issue of Esther's self-published newspaper,The Little Paper.

"[The Little Paper was] an avenue for her views, very personal, frequently mean. She did take on her enemies, who were legion."
-George Blakey, "A Lady with a Legacy"  


The first issue of Ester Griffin White’s The Little Paper ran on January 20th, 1915, and sold for one cent. Though the paper would make a considerable impact, the initial impetus for its publication is clearly stated on the front page of the first issue: The Little Paper was written for Esther's profit. Furthermore, the paper would feature whatever news, opinions, or other information she felt like sharing.[1]

Despite the initial impression these facts might create, it’s clear that Esther felt a strong commitment to the journalistic profession and a powerful love towards the Richmond community. Although The Little Paper featured national and state level news, its primary subject was the state of local affairs. Space was frequently devoted to issues that affected the community, such as the cleanliness of Glen Miller Park.[2] Esther also spoke passionately against people whom she believed hurt the town, most particularly the head of Richmond’s Central Bureau Mr. Melpolder, against whom she launched what can only be described as a crusade that derided his inefficiency from The Little Paper’s first issue[3] to some of its last.[4] Esther's oft-repeated choice of Richmond as her subject matter betrays a clear investment in the city in which she lived.

At the same time, Esther's dedication to her town was set in a larger context of progressive activism. Women’s suffrage was a topic that arose in nearly every article of the paper, such as when Esther would dispute criticisms of the movement[5] or report on which politicians supported suffrage.[6] She even stated that “The Little Paper is first interested in suffrage.”[7] Esther also showed her Quaker roots by opposing nationalism and the Christian backing of World War I, rejecting the idea that the war had any real “good” side and even commenting that “You cannot be a patriot and also a Christian.”[8] This stance reflects Esther's firm belief in a universal humanity, expressed in her statement that, “…human nature’s the same the world over.”[9] This ideal not only fed her feminist and anti-war leanings, but also a progressive stance of racial equality that she frequently made a subject in her work.[10] [11]

Throughout the paper’s run, Esther maintained a sardonic humor and a sense of determination that help her to stand out in the annals of Richmond’s history. Though she attracted criticism, Esther cared little about crude gibes and more about attacks on her personal character.[12] Indeed, more than anything Esther seemed committed to the truth, to honest criticism and reporting rather than gossip and exploitation.[13]

After seventy-three mostly consistent issues of The Little Paper, the paper went on its first hiatus in July of 1916, due to continued problems with Esther's eyesight.[14] Though the hiatus was only supposed to last one month, the next documented issue of The Little Paper was not released until 1921. New issues continued to be infrequent, sometimes with more than a decade in-between them.[15] While the reasons for this are uncertain, it is probably related to Esther's dwindling eyesight plus some steep financial troubles she was suffering.[16] The last issue of The Little Paper was published in October of 1942[17]. While the initial run of The Little Paper was short, the entertaining style, progressive leanings and commitment to truth that White imbued it with have allowed it to leave an indelible mark on Richmond’s history.

-Erika Kerr

[15] "", "Front Page," "", May 1, 1934. "", folder 3. "".

[17] "", "Front Page," "", October 1942. Friends Collection and Earlham College Archives.