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Martha Rountree papers

 Collection 0188-MMC
Martha Jayne Rountree (1912-1999) was a producer-creator of radio and television programs, most notably the public-affairs program, Meet the Press. Rountree came to New York in 1938 from Florida, where she had been writing a sports column for the Tampa Tribune and freelance work for the local CBS outlet. She worked for an advertising agency and later co-founded a production business, Radio House, Inc. that produced commercials and transcribed programs. She created Listen! The Women! on which five women guests answered provocative questions from listeners. Janet Flanner (later famous as the New Yorker correspondent, GenĂȘt) first served as host, replaced by journalist Dorothy Thompson.

Rountree also worked as production head at WLIB radio in New York and headed the Department of Special Events for the Mutual network. She created Leave It to the Girls, a comedy question-and-answer series, and Meet the Press, where she acted as moderator as well as producer. Both radio programs later moved to television. Rountree also created and produced several other radio and television programs, including Keep Posted, Washington Exclusive, Press Conference, and Capitol Closeup. After leaving Meet the Press in 1953, Rountree went on the lecture circuit. In the 1960s and 1970s, she began a crusade against "moral pollution," encouraging women to fight against drugs and pornography to reinstitute school prayer.

The Martha Rountree papers date from 1940 to 2008, with the bulk of the material dating from 1945 to 1973. The collection consists of clippings about Rountree's broadcasting career, personal life, and political causes, several folders of photographs, and correspondence. The collection documents two periods in particular: Rountree's heyday on Meet the Press and Leave It to the Girls and her involvement in the early 1970s with socially conservative causes.


  • 1940-2008
  • Majority of material found within 1945-1973

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


7.00 Linear Feet


Martha Rountree was born on October 23, 1911 in Gainesville, Florida. She was raised in Columbia, South Carolina. While attending the University of South Carolina, she worked at the Columbia Record; however, she chose not to finish her degree and returned to Florida to work for the Tampa Tribune. In 1938 she moved to New York where she worked writing freelance articles and advertising copy for magazines. In 1940, she and her sister Ann opened Radio House, a production firm.

Rountree also founded the first panelist radio show, Leave It To the Girls, which aired one day after Meet the Press, which she also originated and coproduced. Leave It To the Girls eatured a panel of four women who answered questions from listeners. It ran on the Mutual Network for four years, premiered on local television in 1947, and moved to prime-time on NBC in 1949 where it ran until March 1954. The show returned to NBC from 1962-1963.

Rountree also created, coproduced and acted as the first and only female moderator of Meet the Press, which first aired on the radio October 5, 1945. Lawrence Spivak coproduced and acted as a permanent panelist while the show ran for five years on Mutual radio. In 1947, NBC picked up the program, and Rountree remained moderator until 1953, when she sold her share to Spivak - the two had decided that a coin toss would determine who would buy out whom. In 1947 and 1951 the show won the Peabody Award, and in 1951 the show won a Radio and Television Arts and Sciences Award. Rountree was given awards from the Women for Achievement and the National Fraternity for Women in Journalism.

In 1952 she married Oliver Presbrey. In 1953, after selling her share in Meet the Press, she went on the lecture circuit. In 1955, she launched a magazine, Know the Facts, and started a radio station, WKTF, in Northern Virginia. In 1956 she returned to television acting as moderator of Press Conference which later became known as Martha Rountree's Press Conference.

Rountree also created and produced several other radio and television programs including: Keep Posted, Washington Exclusive, andCapitol Closeup. She also frequently appeared on The Nation's Future.

In 1965, she founded the Leadership Foundation, a non-profit political research organization, based in Washington. The women's foundation evolved into a "Crusade Against Moral Pollution." One of the foundations projects was an effort to get religion and prayer back into public schools. She acted as president of the foundation until 1988, the same year that her husband, Oliver Presbrey died.

In 1997, Rountree was honored at the 50th anniversary celebration of Meet the Press as the shows first and to date only female moderator. She was a member of the National Press Club and the Women's National Press Club. She received awards from the Women for Achievement, the National Fraternity of Women in Journalism, and the American Legion.

Martha Rountree died August 23, 1999.


This collection is arranged in four series:
Series 1
Series 2
Series 3
Correspondence, Scripts, Subject Files, Publications and other
Series 4

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Martha Rountree papers were donated to the University of Maryland Libraries by Rountree's daughter Marti Wiethorn on April 16, 2009.

Processing Information

The papers arrived in very poor condition: moldy, rusty, with the edges breaking away. The majority of the collection had to be photocopied and the originals discarded as a health hazard. The collection was rearranged by format and many duplicate clippings were removed.
Guide to the Martha Rountree papers
Processed by Ashley S. Behringer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-02-21: Finding aid updated and revised by Joanne Archer
  • 2021-07-16: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742