When the talented and resourceful Dorothy Mauk saw an opening, she took full advantage in her pioneering career as a sportswriter and champion of her gender. Mauk covered such tennis headliners as Rod Laver and Ilie Nastase and chronicled the careers of Olympic gold medalists Scott Hamilton, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill with the same careful attention she gave to prep, college and recreation sports.
The New Jersey native helped change history when she joined the staff of The Denver Post in 1966 at the request of publisher Palmer Hoyt. She was thought to be the first full-time woman sportswriter at a major U.S. metropolitan daily newspaper.
Mauk began her career in the Long Branch (N.J.) Daily Record newsroom as a 15-year old obituary writer. Two decades later, she was writing community stories, including recreation sports, for a Denver Post zone edition. She said Hoyt recognized the emergence of “minor” sports and wanted to enhance coverage.
“He asked me to join the sports department in 1964, but I turned him down three times,” Mauk said about working in the male-dominated field. “After a part-time trial in late 1965, I joined the staff full-time in 1966. I was apprehensive, but the men were delighted because I did the things they didn’t want to do,” Mauk said. “I had played interscholastic high school soccer and I knew about tennis because my parents played. My stepfather even played horseshoes…and we lived only a mile from the ocean.”
In the era before Title IX and open locker rooms, Mauk let her typewriter do the talking. “I think they viewed me as a token at first,” Mauk said in a recent Denver Post interview. “They soon learned I wasn’t. I didn’t start until I was 38, and some of the athletes looked at me as a mother figure.”
Mauk doesn’t pull punches, even today. She speaks her mind as a longtime member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame selection committee as well as selection committee chair for Sportswomen of Colorado (SWOC), which she co-founded in 1974 with 1981 CSHOF inductee Joan Birkland, now the SWOC executive director.
For decades, Mauk wrote scripts for Sportswomen’s annual awards banquet, which marked its 40th anniversary in March. Said Ginger Stookesberry, Sportswomen’s current scripter, “Her soft-spoken exterior belies her determination.”
The Denver Post was an afternoon newspaper in Mauk’s day and she remembers often writing late into the night at home and leaving her copy on the windshield of an editor who lived nearby. She’d go into the office the next morning to proofread her stories and then start reporting again.
“I had three columns — SportsMill, Kaleidoscope and Tennis — when most of the men had just one,” Mauk noted. She’s proud of the many firsts in her career that ultimately covered more than 40 sports and included features on such subjects as the infamous Denver Broncos South Stands.
Mauk retired from The Post in 1982 when the ownership changed, but she’s never stopped writing and editing. “I’ve gotten the most satisfaction out of the people I’ve met,” she said. “I still have friends in many sports.”
In the era before Title IX and open locker rooms, Mauk let her typewriter do the talking.