Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters”

Kim Todd. Harper, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-284361-6
Todd (Sparrow), a professor of creative writing at the University of Minnesota, offers a spirited survey of the muckraking female journalists of the Gilded Age. In the 1880s and ’90s, Todd explains, rival publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer fostered a new, more sensationalistic style of journalism. Women reporters, previously stuck offering tips to homemakers, drew big audiences with daring, first person narratives. Elizabeth Cochrane (1864–1922), who wrote under the pen name Nellie Bly, faked insanity to get committed to a notorious women’s asylum in New York City. Her exposé, later published in book form as Ten Days in a Mad-House, led to reforms at the asylum and launched a wave of similar “stunt reporting.” Eva McDonald (1866–1956) went undercover to document low pay and unsafe conditions at Minnesota garment factories, and became a leading activist in the labor movement. Ida B. Wells (1862–1931) catalogued the horrors of lynching and advocated for women’s suffrage; Victoria Earle Matthews (1861–1907) founded a settlement home to help Black girls from the South find their footing in New York City. Todd casts a sprawling net, rescuing some of her profile subjects from obscurity and adding depth to the popular portrayals of others. This well-researched history makes clear the crucial role female reporters played in pioneering investigate journalism and boosting progressive reform movements. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/28/2021
Release date: 04/13/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-0-06-284363-0
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