Betty Love, Photojournalist

Betty Love graduated from Drury University in the early 1930’s and almost immediately began her teaching career.  She taught art to elementary and junior high school students for almost a decade before finding work at the Springfield Daily News and Leader-Press in 1941.  She was meant to be a temporary replacement for their cartoonist, but the job was a great fit for Love.  

A Betty Love cartoon depicting families gathering paper to help with the war efforts from January of 1945.

Love’s cartoons were a rarity, as women giving public opinion on politics was almost unheard of at the time.  Her talent in artwork was clear, and she brought a fresh perspective to her work – a woman’s perspective.  As nations were thrown into World War II and the husbands and fathers joined the war efforts, she showed the realities of the wives and children left behind. In 1945, the resident photojournalist for the paper, John Reading McGuire, was drafted.  The editor at the time, George Olds, handed McGuire’s camera to Betty Love and appointed her the photographer.  Love taught herself how to use the camera, develop film in the dark room, and translate her artistic expertise to photography.  By the time World War II was over, Love had become an integral part of the Springfield News Leader and remained in the position.  

The work was challenging at times, and those who worked with Love can attest to her ability to get the job done.  When tasked with taking aerial shots of locations in Springfield, Love agreed to do so despite her fear of heights.  On her first attempt to photograph from an open plane window, she kept her eyes shut for most of the trip and took photos randomly, hoping for a good shot.  She eventually overcame this fear, and was able to lean out of a plane’s windows or doors to get a great photo.  Occasionally, she even flew the plane. 

Betty Love took this aerial shot of downtown Springfield, featuring the square.

A pioneer in the field and a force to be reckoned with, Love had no problem speaking her mind.  In 1947, when photographing prisoners Duke Petty (a bank robber) and James Robinson (a farmer from Webster county) being led into the Greene County jail, the federal marshal Fred Canfil ordered that none of the journalists present take photos of the men.  Love said “I have a first amendment right to take this photo”, to which Canfil said “The Constitution be damned.”  Canfil was under fire for this comment, especially as he was a close friend of President Harry Truman, who was in office at that time. 

A photograph by Betty Love of a Springfield Police Officer holding a dead King Cobra during the Great Cobra Scare.

A true photojournalist, Love was at the center of all the happenings in Springfield and the surrounding area.  She captured shots of major events in the city, such as the Great Cobra Scare and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book signing.  When looking at images of important happenings in Springfield from 1945 to 1975, it’s a safe bet that Betty Love was first on the scene with her camera. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder signing copies of her children’s books at Brown Brother’s Book Store in 1952.

Love received awards for her photographs both in journalism and in the arts. She was a charter member of the National Press Photographers Association and one of the first five people to be inducted into the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame.  She retired from the Springfield News-Leader in 1975 and passed away in 1984 but her legacy and documentation of Springfield’s history live on.

 

Written by Meg Pearson, 2022

Stump, Konrad. “From Drawing Board to Darkroom: Betty Love’s Journey.” Leader. News-Leader, February 16, 2017. https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2017/02/11/drawing-board-darkroom-betty-loves-journey/97654300/.

Chapman, Melanie. “Celebrating Women’s History Month and a Look Back at Betty Love.” KOLR – OzarksFirst.com. KOLR – OzarksFirst.com, March 11, 2019. https://www.ozarksfirst.com/local-news/celebrating-womens-history-month-and-a-look-back-at-betty-love/.

Images from the History Museum on the Square’s archives and collections.