Catherine "Kay" Peaslee (1922-2012) was a Charlottesville journalist and political activist. She founded The Charlottesville Observer, the area's first weekly newspaper in the modern era, in 1978 alongside her husband.
Peaslee attended Miami University, graduating in 1944. She was already active in politics there, meeting her husband in the school's political club. She earned a master's from George Washington University in 1963 and taught at several colleges, including George Mason University, Dalhousie University, and National Taiwan University.
She came to Charlottesville at the age of 50 to attend the UVA School of Law after leaving the Foreign Service over discontent with President Richard Nixon. After years of community involvement, Peaslee moved to Indianapolis in 2010 to be with family. She died there in 2012.
Peaslee was quite active in the Charlottesville community. She was among the founders of the Venable Neighborhood Association and the Federation of Neighborhood Associations. She also worked toward the eventual nixing of the notorious UVA party "Easters."
She was the first woman in the area to own and operate a newspaper. After founding The Charlottesville Observer in 1978, Peaslee and her husband, Sandy Peaslee, owned and wrote for the paper. The weekly paper ran from 1978 to 2004 with the simple goal of informing the public. Fellow local paper The Hook wrote in its remembrance of the author that the paper's "muckraking set a standard for 1980s and 1990s Charlottesville." She sold the paper in 1988 to focus on nonprofit work, but continued to write for it out of love for her community. The Observer was acquired again in 2000, and folded four years later in a testament to Peaslee’s business sense, writing quality, and community connections. Peaslee held strong personal values, and took pride in advocating and elevating the stories of overlooked people in the community.
After selling the paper, Peaslee continued her activity in the community, serving on boards for nonprofit organizations like the United Way and Planned Parenthood. She remained a political activist and "yellow dog" Democrat throughout her life. Her husband ran an unsuccessful 1990 race for U.S. Congress in Virginia's 7th District, losing to D. French Slaughter (R). She also was a force behind the 1996 effort to revert Charlottesville to a town.
Frances Brand portrait
Peaslee is one of several people commemorated by the late 20th-century artist Frances Brand as part of her Firsts series.
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- Web. Observer Censors Classified Ad, george.loper.org, August 2000, retrieved 16 June, 2022.
- Web. Observer Folds, Jaquith, Waldo, Cville News, 9 August, 2004, retrieved 16 June, 2022.
- Web. Letters to the Editor: Kay Peaslee Comments on Her Own Experience with Cross Burning, george.loper.org, November 2001, retrieved 16 June, 2022.
- Web. This Day in Charlottesville History, City of Charlottesville, retrieved April 18, 2012.
- Web. Observer founder Kay Peaslee has died, Hawes Spencer, The Hook, Better Publications LLC, January 14, 2012, retrieved January 23, 2012. Print. January 19, 2012 , 1103, page 19.