The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace
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It was the 1960s––a time of economic boom and social strife. Young women poured into the workplace, but the “Help Wanted” ads were segregated by gender and the “Mad Men” office culture was rife with sexual stereotyping and discrimination.
Lynn Povich was one of the lucky ones, landing a job at Newsweek, renowned for its cutting-edge coverage of civil rights and the “Swinging Sixties.” Nora Ephron, Jane Bryant Quinn, Ellen Goodman, and Susan Brownmiller all started there as well. It was a top-notch job––for a girl––at an exciting place.
But it was a dead end. Women researchers sometimes became reporters, rarely writers, and never editors. Any aspiring female journalist was told, “If you want to be a writer, go somewhere else.”
On March 16, 1970, the day Newsweek published a cover story on the fledgling feminist movement entitled “Women in Revolt,” forty-six Newsweek women charged the magazine with discrimination in hiring and promotion. It was the first female class action lawsuit––the first by women journalists––and it inspired other women in the media to quickly follow suit.
Lynn Povich was one of the ringleaders. In The Good Girls Revolt, she evocatively tells the story of this dramatic turning point through the lives of several participants. With warmth, humor, and perspective, she shows how personal experiences and cultural shifts led a group of well-mannered, largely apolitical women, raised in the 1940s and 1950s, to challenge their bosses––and what happened after they did. For many, filing the suit was a radicalizing act that empowered them to “find themselves” and fight back. Others lost their way amid opportunities, pressures, discouragements, and hostilities they weren’t prepared to navigate.
The Good Girls Revolt also explores why changes in the law didn’t solve everything. Through the lives of young female journalists at Newsweek today, Lynn Povich shows what has––and hasn’t––changed in the workplace.
SHE ARRIVING AND ABLE BEGIN WORK. It turned out that Blocker’s secretary had suddenly quit. Thank God for Stenoscript. In June 1965, I packed two suitcases and left for Paris. For over a year, I worked in the Newsweek bureau as a secretary, photo researcher, occasional reporter, and telex operator. After the correspondents had written their stories, I would stay at night to type them—on a French keyboard—into the telex machine, which transmitted them to New York. Typing the files was a good
firm. During the Depression, Oz’s father had to arrange for scholarships to Harvard for Oz and his older brother, Jock, who later became chairman of the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency. (When Oz’s father finally got a job as an investment advisor, he paid Harvard back in full.) After college, which he finished on an accelerated program, Oz served with the navy in the Pacific in World War II. When he returned, he landed a job as a cub reporter on the New York Journal of Commerce and two years
family-centered approach.” At the same time, the mainstream media were spreading the feminist message in the public arena. By the end of 1971, stories on the new women’s movement had appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek, the New York Times Magazine, Look, Life, the Atlantic, and the Saturday Review. There was also a spate of “first” stories in the media—the “first woman” firefighter, police officer, stock broker, auto mechanic, telephone installer, you name it. The exploding coverage of the
Street, right around the corner from my apartment. Steve had the usual Saturday night dinner that editors often ordered to celebrate the magazine’s closing: a martini, a big fat steak, french fries, and a glass of red wine. We chatted about the cover story and Reagan and all the Newsweek gossip. At dessert, I asked if he would like to share some profiteroles. Steve confessed that he had never had profiteroles, so we ordered some. I dug my spoon into the creamy pastry puff dripping with chocolate
1930s, when the magazine decided to add original reporting. But from the very beginning, the editorial staff included “girls” known as “checkers,” who verified names, dates, and facts. Thus was created a unique group-journalism model, which, unlike newspapers, separated all the editorial functions: the reporters sent in long, colorful files from the field; the writers compiled the information and wrote the story in the omniscient, Lucean Voice of God; and the researchers checked the facts. Only