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Vivian Castleberry was force for good

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Dallas Morning News Editorial

If women have achieved any measure of equality and support in Dallas, they have trailblazing journalist and activist Vivian Castleberry to thank for helping to pave the way.

In a career spanning more than two generations, Castleberry revolutionized the coverage of women's issues, and well into her 90s worked on causes that gave women better lives.

She was a champion for women's rights in a male-dominated city, boldly demanding a seat at the table when few believed women deserved one.

Castleberry, who's been called the godmother of the women's movement in Dallas, died recently. She was 95.

From her early school days to her professional endeavors, Castleberry gave little thought to whether women had previously held posts she sought. She simply forged ahead.

Most of her career was spent at the Dallas Times Herald, where she was its first women's editor and the first woman to serve on its editorial board. She was a columnist and editor for the newspaper for 28 years before she retired in 1984.

Castleberry helped transform her lifestyle pages from what famed journalist Molly Ivins called "fluff and drivel" to a far more substantive section. In front-page quality stories, she tackled civil rights, family violence, divorce, child care and workplace roles -- those relevant to women's lives.

Her work in journalism earned her a well-deserved spot in the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1984. But instead of calling it a career at that point, Castleberry seemed to gather steam.

After leaving newspapers, she wrote books, and founded or co-founded some of Dallas' most enduring charities, including the Women's Center of Dallas, the Dallas Women's Foundation and The Family Place, the first women's shelter in Dallas.

She launched Peacemakers Incorporated that promotes peace through education and communication. In 2010, the University of North Texas became home to the Castleberry Peace Institute devoted to science research that advances our understanding of why conflicts occur.

It's groundbreaking work, relevant now more than ever.

She used the same tenacity she brought to her work in battling uterine cancer in 1978, and two bouts of breast cancer -- one in 2012 and another in 2016. She wrote one of the first comprehensive stories about breast cancer in 1978.

This wife, mother and journalist personally mentored many of today's professional women across North Texas and beyond. She was still building bridges in July, urging all women -- conservative and liberal alike -- to work together on important issues.

This city is a better place as a result of Castleberry's influence. The small-town Texas farm girl who became an award-winning journalist changed newspapers and Dallas with a stubborn resolve to make things happen.

And she led and inspired by living the change she wanted to see happen in the world. She was a force for good.