While examining the welfare system, Ms. Wille learned from caseworkers that indigent women had no access to free contraception as part of their medical care. Because the Roman Catholic Church opposed birth control and was so entrenched in the body politic, the subject was largely taboo, even in the newspapers.
But Ms. Wille wrote a five-part series about the issue, leading with a 26-year-old mother of seven on welfare who had asked her doctor for information about birth control. The doctor, who was barred from discussing the subject, told her, “Well, you’re healthy enough for seven more.”
After the series ran, in 1962, the state and city changed their policies and provided birth control for low-income women. The series won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, the highest honor in journalism.
Ms. Wille continued reporting for The Daily News until 1976, when she became editor of the paper’s editorial page. She found she liked expressing her strong opinions.
Her voice was distinct, “and she thrived having it broadcast through the megaphone of the editorial page,” Rick Kogan, a storied reporter and columnist at The Tribune, said. While most editorials were unsigned, he added, “people knew who was writing them, no question.”
When The Daily News went out of business in 1978, she moved to The Chicago Sun-Times and ran the editorial page there. And when The Sun-Times was bought by Rupert Murdoch in 1984, she went to The Tribune, where, in 1989, she won her second Pulitzer, this one for editorial writing.
“She really suited Chicago,” Ms. Lipinski said. “You couldn’t imagine her in any other place. She knew it so well and cared about it so deeply. She and the city grew up alongside each other in ways that made both of them stronger.”
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