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Thursday, June 25, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Lucile Mcdonald, 93, Journalist, Writer And Northwest Historian

Lucile McDonald, author, historian and journalist who worked on newspapers from Alaska to South America, has died at age 93.

Mrs. McDonald, a pioneer for women in journalism locally during three decades of newspaper work at The Seattle Times and Journal American of Bellevue and as a newswoman internationally, died Tuesday night (June 23) at the Cascade Vista Convalescent Center in Redmond.

Born Lucile Saunders in Portland on Sept. 1, 1898, she was the daughter of Frank and Rose Saunders. Her father worked as a baker in a cracker factory, while her mother taught grade school.

Her parents encouraged her to enter a traditional profession for women, like secretarial work, but Mrs. McDonald let them know at an early age that she intended to do the opposite.

When she graduated at 17, she went to work for the Eugene Daily Guard while she studied at the University of Oregon. Soon after that, her newspaper career blossomed as she landed jobs at The Bulletin in Bend, Ore.; The Oregonian, as a reporter, news editor and city editor; and The Statesman-Journal in Salem, Ore., as a wire editor.

In the early 1920s, she traveled to South America to become a free-lance writer, later landing a job writing for an English-language newspaper in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Upon returning to the United States, she lived in New York, where she went to work for United Press, now United Press International.

It was while there that she married - on Christmas Day 1922 - her Oregon boyfriend, Harold McDonald, who was in the tractor business. While following her husband worldwide on business, she worked for the Cordova Times in Alaska and was a correspondent for The New York Times in Turkey.

The couple eventually returned to Oregon and in 1940 moved to Seattle, where during World War II Mrs. McDonald was hired at The Seattle Times. She worked as a copy editor, book reviewer and feature writer until 1966. Her articles often explored the lives of the state's early settlers, explorers and early communities.

Between 1977 and 1987 she wrote some 450 columns for the Journal-American, exploring the history of the Eastside.

Mrs. McDonald had a number of distinctions as a journalist.

Among these are: first woman news reporter in all of South America; first woman copy editor in the Pacific Northwest; first woman telegraph editor, courthouse reporter and general news reporter in Oregon; first woman overseas correspondent for a U.S. trade newspaper; first woman on a New York City rewrite desk; second woman journalist in Alaska; and second woman to be a correspondent abroad for The Associated Press.

A resident of Bellevue and Kirkland since 1945, Mrs. McDonald was best known for her chronicles of Northwest history, starting in 1917 and continuing through 1991.

She wrote more than 20 books and co-wrote another 13 on Washington history and children's fiction. Her books have won a number of local and national awards. Her last book, "Making History: The People Who Shaped the San Juan Islands," was published in 1990.

The most revealing and fascinating book may end up being her autobiography, which she wrote about 10 years ago, said her son, Richard McDonald, who submitted the manuscript for publication about four months ago.

Survivors include her sister, Iris McRae of Bellevue; son, Richard, of Bellevue; daughter, Carol McVay of Tacoma; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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