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Marie Sauer, 92; Post Editor Led Changes in Women’s Section

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From the Washington Post

Marie Sauer, 92, a pioneering journalist who edited what was then the women’s news section of the Washington Post for 23 years and was known for her diligence in digging political scoops out of the city’s social side, died Sept. 30 after a heart attack at a nursing home in West Palm Beach, Fla.

A newswoman widely known and respected among the movers and shakers in Washington, Sauer had lived in Florida since stepping down in 1969 as editor of the Post section formally known as For and About Women.

In the memoir published by former Post publisher Katharine Graham, Sauer is described as “always a stalwart” and one of the key reporters and editors of her day.

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According to various descriptions of newsroom operations of her era, women’s section reporters were largely confined to covering social events and the wives and families of the powerful.

But Sauer was known for training her staff to find glittering nuggets of hard news amid the froth and fun of the party scene.

Judith Martin, who worked under Sauer in the women’s section and went on to work in the Style section, which succeeded it, told of the valuable lessons of her early days:

“I quickly learned that it was easier to talk my way into someplace I didn’t belong, grab the president of the United States and ask him some awful question no one else would dare to” than to face the alternative, Martin said.

The alternative was “to go back and have to admit to Miss Sauer--we never called her anything else--that I hadn’t done it,” said Martin, author of the Miss Manners column.

Sauer would often instruct her staff on what to ask, said Elsie Carper, who as an editor of Style, was one of her successors. For example, Carper said, Sauer might say, “See what the secretary of defense thinks about this . . .”

That way, Carper said, Sauer’s women’s section offered readers much news that was not available elsewhere. It won recognition as required reading for anyone hoping to understand how Washington worked.

Sauer had an orientation toward hard news, and she was said to be impatient with newsroom policies that seemed to restrict the section’s scope. Under Sauer’s leadership, the section also featured reporting on cultural and artistic matters, without stinting on the traditional stapes of women’s sections.

Sauer was born in Elizabeth, N.J., and received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. She joined the Post in 1936. Sauer became editor of what was the predecessor of today’s Outlook section, a weekly discussion of ideas and events.

When World War II broke out, Sauer left the newspaper to join the Navy WAVES and served as a lieutenant in a public relations role.

At war’s end, she returned to the newspaper and received command of the women’s department.

Survivors include a sister and two brothers.


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