cover image Undaunted: How Women Changed American Journalism

Undaunted: How Women Changed American Journalism

Brooke Kroeger. Knopf, $35 (592p) ISBN 978-0-525-65914-3

NYU emerita professor of journalism Kroeger (The Suffragents) delivers a sweeping history of female journalists from the mid-1800s to the present. Focusing on women at the top of the profession, Kroeger spotlights transcendentalist writer Margaret Fuller, who landed a job as the New York Tribune’s literary editor and front-page columnist in 1844; crusading investigative journalists Nellie Bly and Ida B. Wells; and WWII reporters Martha Gellhorn and Marguerite Higgins. In the 1960s, female journalists tapped into civil rights legislation and second-wave feminism to boost gender equity in the profession, enabling more women to move into top management positions. Yet overall progress proved “lackluster” in the face of sexual harassment, ageism, and other discriminatory beliefs and practices. A revitalized “feminist discourse” in the 2010s led to renewed efforts to diversify newsrooms, while the #MeToo movement empowered reporters like Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey to break stories about Harvey Weinstein and other serial abusers. Kroeger more than proves that women have “faced down and overcome all manner of impediment to become integral to this enterprise,” but the jumble of names, dates, and events can be dizzying at times. Still, it’s a solidly researched and fluidly written overview of an important chapter in women’s history. Illus. (May)