Sadie Kneller Miller (1867-1920)
MSA SC 3520-13571
Sarah, “Sadie,” Kneller Miller's enthusiam and dedication to journalism produced some of the best articles and photographs in the turn of the 20th century. Her confidence and adventurous spirit allowed her to thrive in the work force dispite the challenge of being a female in a male dominated industry.
Miller was born in Westminster, Maryland in 1868 to a prominent Westminster family.1 Miller’s grandfather, Henry W. Dell, was a renowned lumber merchant and one of the first trustees of the old Methodist Church, in Westminster.2 Miller dreamed of a career on stage as a child, but her parents thought otherwise and she enrolled in Western Maryland College, now named McDaniel College, instead.3 At Western Maryland, Miller cultivated her passion for journalism and baseball, transferring well to her career. Charles R. Miller, Miller’s future husband, was a talented baseball player at Western Maryland and Mrs. Miller never missed his games, even skipping class to see a contest.4 After graduating in 1885, Miller joined the staff at Westminster’s Democratic Advocate, beginning her journalism career.5
In the 1890s, after working for the Democratic Advocate, Miller earned a very unique position writing for the Baltimore Telegram. She became the only female baseball reporter in the country at the time, covering the Baltimore Orioles.6 With stigma still attached to women in sports, Miller bylined her articles using only her initials, S.K.M., to conceal her gender.7, 8 This caused an interesting situation when Miller met Andy Freeman, president of the New York Giants baseball club, after some initial business correspondence. Freeman was certainly surprised when he was introduced to “S.K.M.,” “Why, you’re a lady!” he gasped. “I hope so,” responded Miller.9 At the age of 26, Miller had plenty of the necessary wit and tough skin to survive as a female sports journalist.10
After writing for the Baltimore Telegram, Miller would expand her journalism career working for Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, a weekly pictorial newspaper filled with, “All the news that’s fit to photograph.”11 Miller began photographing as a hobby, but her usual drive and determination led her to master the art. Photography became a part of her journalism career when she submitted a picture of three Spanish officers held captive in Annapolis, Maryland during the Spanish-American war in 1989.12 Leslie’s Illustrated published the picture and offered her a position writing and photographing for the news source. They told her she could go to “any corner of the earth” to photograph news and she did just that.
Miller’s adventurous spirit led her to take risks and brazen action to obtain the best pictures possible for Leslie’s. Miller traveled to Panama to photograph the construction of the Panama Canal in 1906. In order to get the best view, Miller promptly hiked up her long skirt and climbed a steel grinder that was 100 feet in the air!13 She climbed Pike’s Peak and descended 1500 feet to photograph a Colorado mind the next day. Miller also risked danger while traveling to Jamaica to report on Earthquakes there and she traveled alone, by dogsled, in Yukon.14 She even drove six miles through the actual tubing of the newly constructed Baltimore sewer system, although she got a flat tire while backing out of tube, Miller still photographed the structure and returned from the tubing unharmed.15 Danger and distance were no match for Miller’s passion for reporting and her willingness to travel and take risk gave her a reputation as one of the best photographers in the world.
Miller’s reputation led Leslie’s to select Miller as the only female war correspondent at the time. In fact, when Leslie’s was receiving reports on how unbelievably brutal the Balkin War was, they sent Miller to photograph the front lines for evidence. Miller confirmed the horrendous conditions and large numbers of causalities. Sacrificing to get the whole story, Miller wrote, “You cannot imagine the conditions under which I am living in order to get photos of the war scenes,” to Leslie’s.16 Miller went on to cover other wars and conflicts, photographing Russia, Turkey, and the German fort on Hegoland before the beginning of World War I. She also reported from the battlefields in Morocco and interviewed Pancho Villa from his guerilla headquarters in Mexico.17 She was even allowed access to areas in America pertinent to war. She photographed a torpedo station in Newport, Rhode Island and was the only reported allowed to snap photos inside of Indian Head, Maryland, where guns and armor are tested and smokeless powder is manufactured.18 One of Miller’s last published photographs was her coverage of the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in 1912.19
Miller also covered many important news and political stories through photography and writing. She covered the Taft inauguration, received special permission to photograph and interview five Democratic conventions from the floor, and took a famous portrait of Teddy Roosevelt.20 At one national presidential convention, as the only means to allow her access, Miller was made a “special policeman” of St. Louis, though she only took pictures and did not enforce the law or arrest anyone. She risked disease and helped reduce social stigma and education by visiting George IV’s leper colony in Cuba. Miller also photographed the horrible fires of San Francisco and Baltimore. She was allowed in the Dead Letter Office in Washington D.C., and received express permission from the Treasury Department to photograph a set of prints at the Philadelphia Mint.21 Miller was trusted time and time again with special access to exclusive events because of her uncanny ability to take pictures and relentless means to get the best shot.
Miller’s quality work and determined spirit put her in contact with royalty numerous times. Miller was at sea and when she learned that Prince Louis of Battenberg was on a nearby ship, she got on a launch, boarded the Prince’s vessel, and sent a message asking him to come up to be photographed. The sheer audacity of Miller’s actions caused the Prince to grant her request.22 After some her photographs were featured in an exhibit on Germany in St. Louis, Missouri, the exhibit director was so impressed by her pictures; he sent copies overseas to Emperor Williams. The Emperor sent a message to Miller expressing his enjoyment in her photography. But Miller never let her work with, or praise from, famous people affect her priorities. She was known for putting interest above fame or rank; enlisted sailors and Marines recieved as much photo time as Admirals and dignitaries in her coverage. Miller even expressed her love for the American sailor, saying that whenever one was in sight, she felt safe.23
As a woman in a male dominated field, Miller, with her determination and confidence, stood up for women and served as an example of a woman succeeding in journalism. She reported on the women’s rights movement and took the last official photograph of Susan B. Anthony, just days before her death in 1906.24 While her photographs were her most memorable contribution to the media, Miller never abandoned her initial career as a writer. She reported in both word and picture from the field and published articles on subjects like, Antietam’s tourism, the Methodist church, Baltimore high society, drill at the Naval Academy, the postage system, and others.25 Her contributions as a prominent journalist earned her membership into the League of American Presswomen.
Miller’s career ended short when she died of a stroke in 1918, at the age of 52.26 Unfortunately, Miller’s brilliant work went unnoticed following her death and Miller received no major recognition for decades after her passing. Luckily, Dr. Keith Richwine, a professor at Miller’s alma mater, Western Maryland College, rediscovered her work and consequently revived it.27 She is now acknowledged as the most adventurous writer and photographer of her time and her position in a male dominated workplace only increased her fame. Western Maryland, now called McDaniel College, houses a memorial to Miller with her portrait and some of her best photographs in Memorial Hall. She was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in March of 1988.28
Sadie Miller broke down numerous barriers for women in journalism, as
a reporter for the Baltimore Orioles, war correspondent, and famous photographer.
Her adventurous spirit and confidence allowed her to take some of the best
pictures of her time while proving that women are more than capable of
handling the challenges of journalism. While her work was somehow forgotten
after her death, she is now recognized as one of the best photographers
of her time.
1. “Sadie K. Miller,” Maryland Commission
for Women, Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, March 1988. http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/miller.html
2. Sadie Kneller Miller : a sampler of her print and photo-journalism from Leslie's illustrated weekly, including a 1907 interview with the journalist, and a brief chronology of her life, published in conjunction with the traveling exhibit, "Mrs. Miller's Maryland." Keith Richwine ed. (Leslie's weekly, September, 1983). Return to text.
3. Carolyn Stegman, Women of Achievement in Maryland History, (Forestville, MD: Women of Achievement in Maryland History Incorporated, 2002.) pg. 322. Return to text.
4. Sadie Kneller Miller, Keith Richwine ed. (Leslie's weekly, September, 1983). Return to text.
5.Stegman, Women of Achievement in Maryland History, (Forestville, MD: Women of Achievement in Maryland History Incorporated, 2002.) pg. 322. Return to text.
6.“Memorial to Sadie Kneller Miller,” Maryland Women’s Heritage Trail—Historic Site Descriptions, 23. http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/3DB5F819-6E1C-4917-8F43-5251C2D49C52/2472/MD_Heritage_21_30.pdf Return to text.
7. “Historical Timeline,” The Association for Women in Sports Media. http://www.awsmonline.org/resources_history.html Return to text.
8. Edward Kian, Ph.D., “GENDER IN SPORTS WRITING BY THE PRINT MEDIA: AN EXPLORATORY EXAMINATION OF WRITERS’ EXPERIENCES”AND ATTITUDES,” The SMART Journal, Fall 2007, 16-17. http://www.thesmartjournal.com/genderinsw.pdf Return to text.
9. Sadie Kneller Miller, Keith Richwine ed. (Leslie's weekly, September, 1983). Return to text.
10. Stegman, Women of Achievement. Return to text.
11. Sadie Kneller Miller, Richwine ed. Return to text.
12. Stegman, Women of Achievement. Return to text.
13. Ibid. Return to text.
14. Ibid. Return to text.
15. Paul Sullivan, “Getting the Lowdown on Life Underground,” The Free Lance Star, January 11, 1992. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=LnsQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0IsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2580%2C3148707 Return to text.
16. Sadie Kneller Miller, Keith Richwine ed. (Leslie's weekly, September, 1983). Return to text.
17. “Sadie K. Miller,” Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, March 1988. Return to text.
18. Sadie Kneller Miller, Keith Richwine ed. (Leslie's weekly, September, 1983). Return to text.
19. “Sadie K. Miller,” Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, March 1988. Return to text.
20. Ibid. Return to text.
21. Sadie Kneller Miller, Keith Richwine ed. (Leslie's weekly, September, 1983). Return to text.
22. Ibid. Return to text.
23. Ibid. Return to text.
24. “Sadie K. Miller,” Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, March 1988. Return to text.
25. Sadie Kneller Miller, Keith Richwine ed. (Leslie's weekly, September, 1983). Return to text.
26. Ibid. Return to text.
27. “Sadie K. Miller,” Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, March 1988. Return to text.
28. Ibid. Return to text.
Biography written by 2009 summer intern Stephanie Berger.
to Sadie Kneller Miller's Introductory Page