Cyndy Bittinger: Malvine Cole

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(Host) We return now to our series about some of the women who’ve worked
in journalism in Vermont, as we observe Women’s History Month. Malvine*
Cole was a well known Vermont writer and activist, based in Jamaica and
Stratton. Commentator Cyndy Bittinger tells us that she often teaches
at the Community College of Vermont about many of the same issues Cole

(Bittinger) Vermont
journalist Malvine Cole was willing to take on almost any issue. She was
a champion of the underdog, the dispossessed, and mistreated – and it
made her an impressive force in her hometown of Stratton and throughout
the state. Her 28 cartons of files, archived at the University of
Vermont, show the wide swath she cut through the issues of the day, and
her columns touch on everything from her opinion that "skiing’s economic
contribution does not justify its environmental impact" for the
Bennington Banner newspaper – to "Getting in the Wood" for Vermont Life
magazine. In her hey-day, from 1934 to 1994, her tool was a typewriter
along with her formidable energy and knack for being in the right place
when it counted. She once called herself the "original woman’s lib"
since from the age of 16 she did whatever she pleased "within the limits
of what was practical" and in consideration of those she held dear.

in 1914, she was a New Yorker who attended Cornell University and
graduated in 1934. Marriage brought her to Washington DC, where she
began what she called a "war nursery" to help out working mothers.

when she later divorced, she moved to Vermont where she raised two sons
and wrote for a living. In addition to her writing, she plunged into
local issues and got herself elected to the Vermont legislature from
Stratton. There, she initiated square dances to lighten the atmosphere
and created a Mock Convention to educate people on the reapportionment
issue brewing in the state. She was a businesswoman as well calling the
first meeting of the Stratton Mountain ski development committee in 1958
where it was proposed that the state build an access road to the
mountain. She also could be critical of Stratton ski development,
especially when the new management, in 1994, discharged storm waters
into Styles Brook – which ran into her pond! She was directly affected
since she owned 16 acres adjoining the mountain and rented out cabins to

As a representative from Stratton, she improved
telephone service, upgraded backroads, and arranged more lines for
electricity. Her methods included conversations, meetings, newspaper
coverage and petitions until she got action. Her readers were encouraged
to support her causes.

Once she encountered a sidewalk artist
in Europe, and was so impressed with his work that she provided him with
art materials and a studio so he could prepare an exhibit in London.
His twelve years in prison for a series of petty thefts didn’t deter her
and she encouraged him to travel to the United States. She also helped
establish Friends of Rehabilitation, a group which lobbied for
alternatives to the present prison system and felt she had spent many
columns educating her readers on prison issues.

She could also
simply observe events in Vermont, writing, "So many simple pleasures:
the quick steps and high laughter of a child, a dog’s wet tongue, the
pounce of a cat, my cat, Smudge… spinning a grape across the floor."

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