Jo Ann Wold


Jo Ann Wold was a journalist, author and historian — a remarkable trifecta for someone struck by polio at age 12.

In 1950, no vaccine for the devastating disease was available. So while Wold was able to escape the “iron lung” used to help her breath initially, she remained paralyzed below the neck until her death.

After growing up in Fairbanks, Wold attended UAF and studied journalism under well-known professors Chuck Keim and Jimmy Bedford. However, she didn’t receive a degree until 1979, when UAF granted her an honorary doctorate.

Wold worked as the society editor at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in the 1960s. She struck the typewriter keys using a stick held in her mouth.

Using that technique, Wold wrote several books, both fiction and nonfiction. She served as historian for the Tanana-Yukon Historical Society.

"We forgot her helplessness because she didn't seem to be helpless,” fellow writer Jane Pender recalled after Wold’s death in 1985 at age 47.

Wold’s work added to the public’s knowledge of two of the most prominent people associated with UAF’s early days — Judge James Wickersham and Margaret Murie.

As a delegate to Congress, Wickersham in 1915 secured a land grant for a college in Alaska. Wold wrote a booklet about Wickersham and his home life.

In 1924, Margaret Murie became the second person and first woman to graduate from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, which 11 years later was renamed the University of Alaska. Wold’s book, “This Old House,” tells the story of Murie’s close friends and neighbors, Clara and Jess Rust.

After Wold’s death, a UAF journalism scholarship was established in her name.

More online about Jo Ann Wold:

  • A 2016 Anchorage Daily News article by journalist Dermot Cole.

  • A copy of Wold’s booklet, “Wickersham: The Man at Home,” about the Fairbanks life of James Wickersham, who in 1915 secured land in Congress for the AACSM.

  • A 2014 article by Ray Bonnell that recounts part of Clara Rust’s story, which Wold set down in her most well-known book, “This Old House.”

  • An article that describes the role that Clara Rust, Wold’s subject in “This Old House,” played in the life of UAF’s first woman graduate, Mardie Murie.