Our History

VVWP began in 1946 as the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project (HVWP), an outreach program for wounded veterans returning from World War II. Volunteers went into Department of Veterans Affairs hospital wards to encourage patients to write about their stories, thoughts and feelings. The volunteers also worked by correspondence with veterans once they left the hospital.

Elizabeth Fontaine is credited with founding HVWP. She was assisted by fellow members of the Chicago North Shore chapter of Theta Sigma Phi (now The Association for Women in Communications). Writing as therapy was an untried concept, but Elizabeth and her colleagues quickly gained the confidence of the Veterans Administration, which encouraged HVWP to be active in hospitals throughout the country.

As more and more veterans took part in the project, the organizers looked for writing incentives. They encouraged local competitions that included prizes, such as pens, paperback books, magazine subscriptions, and even an occasional typewriter, while they contemplated what else they could do to make the project more meaningful.

Then, in Kansas City, Margaret Sally Keach and Gladys Feld Helzberg, with assistance from the Greater Kansas City chapter of Theta Sigma Phi, hit upon the all-time incentive for writers: a national magazine that would publish their writing. The first issue of Veterans’ Voices was published in 1952. It was mimeographed, hand-stapled and hand-addressed. It boasted 18 pages: 12 of prose and six of poetry. The manuscripts were sent to Chicago for judging. From there, the winning manuscripts were forwarded to Kansas City for publication. Original magazine staffers, in addition to Sally Keach and Gladys Helzberg, included Betty Butler, Lucille Doores, Kay Dyer, Helen Huyck, Dorothy Martin, Josephine May, Charlotte McKenzie, Mary Jane Pierronet, Doris Quinn, and Mary Marcene Thomson.

For a number of years, the organization operated out of three cities. HVWP, the parent organization, was headquartered in Chicago; members of the New York Committee were largely responsible for fundraising, and the magazine was published in Kansas City. In 1972, the operations were consolidated in Kansas City. Sally Keach was elected president of HVWP. Sally-Sue Hughes was named publisher of Veterans’ Voices, and two years later Margaret Clark became the magazine’s editor.

As medical practices changed, patients spent less time confined to a hospital room. More treatment was handled on an outpatient basis and through independent contractors. While VVWP continued to partner with the VA into the 21st century, the project needed other methods to tell veterans about the benefits of writing and how they could participate. The project’s board knew it needed a modern web presence, including a web-based submission system, an online version of Veterans’ Voices magazine and additional partners to help the group reach some of these goals.

In 2014 our headquarters moved from a suburban site to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. In 2015, the name changed to Veterans Voices Writing Project to accurately reflect the expanded mission.

Our Present

Today, the project continues to actively encourage all military veterans to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas in writing or art and to send their prose, poems and artwork to the VVWP for possible publication in Veterans’ Voices. The ranks of World War II veterans have thinned, but there is no shortage of veterans in need of an outlet for their creative expression, and Veterans Voices Writing Project is here to serve them.

A part-time professional administrator manages the headquarters office, while an all-volunteer board produces Veterans’ Voices every spring, summer and fall. The VVWP board of directors oversees publication of Veterans’ Voices and is responsible for raising funds to finance the organization and publish the magazine.