The best books about women, politics and journalism in the post-World War II years

Who am I?

I am driven to tell the stories of important but often forgotten women journalists from the 1940s through the 1970s. They were pioneers who also created deep connections in their communities. Over the past few years, I have published several books about women in mass media. My 2014 book documented the history of newspaper food editors– an often powerful and political position held almost exclusively by women. My third book, Women Politicking Politely looked at the experiences of pioneering women’s editors and women in politics which allows for a better perspective of women in journalism today and adds to women’s history scholarship.


I wrote...

Women Politicking Politely: Advancing Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s

By Kimberly Voss,

Book cover of Women Politicking Politely: Advancing Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s

What is my book about?

This book includes the relatively unknown stories of six important women who laid the foundation for improving women's equality in the U.S. While they largely worked behind the scenes, they made a significant impact. In the group are two female political operatives who worked behind the scenes along with four female journalists who also occasionally worked within government to advance women's rights during the 1950s through the 1970s. Much of it centers on Washington, D.C., as well as the more unlikely cities of Madison, Wisconsin and Miami, Florida. It includes the story of a women’s page journalist who published an official government report in her newspaper section when the White House refused to release it.

This book documents the stories of women who organized to help gain employment for other women and also worked to raise the stature of homemakers. 

The books I picked & why

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The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace

By Lynn Povich,

Book cover of The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace

Why this book?

The book takes place beginning in the 1960s – a time of economic strength and cultural change. An increasing number of young, educated women entered the workforce, yet the newspaper help wanted ads were segregated by gender and the discrimination was common. In the midst of this time, Lynn Povich was hired at Newsweek, renowned for its strong coverage of civil rights and the changing social mores. But in reality, the job was a career dead end. Women researchers only occasionally became reporters, very rarely writers, and never editors. The limitations for women journalists were obvious.

Then in March 1970, Newsweek published a cover story about the Women’s Liberation Movement called “Women in Revolt”. It was at the time that more than 40 Newsweek women charged the magazine with employment discrimination. Povich was one of the plaintiffs. In the book, Povich details the lives of several lawsuit participants. She explains the impact of the women’s personal experiences to their professional lives at a changing time. This book is helpful in understanding how lawsuits helped create a change for women in the workforce, and journalism specifically.


Rebels in White Gloves: Coming of Age with Hillary's Class--Wellesley '69

By Miriam Horn,

Book cover of Rebels in White Gloves: Coming of Age with Hillary's Class--Wellesley '69

Why this book?

This book explores a generation of women who often overtly questioned gender norms. Theirs was a generation that imagined it would reinvent the world. These women of 1969 looked at labor, family, and politics through a new lens. The author explores the gender politics of the time and its impact on the personal. After all, this was a class at the crossroads. They were faced with the traditional message for middle-class women as wives and mothers while also being told they could have careers. It is important to note that this was Hillary Rodman (Clinton)’s graduating class.

On Commencement Day at Wellesley, Rodham told her classmates, “We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us understands and attempting to create within that an uncertainty. The only tool we have ultimately to use is our lives.” In response, Horn explores the lives of the women as they explored that uncertainly. Readers will come away with a better understanding of gender and social change in the early Women’s Liberation Movement years.


Drunk Before Noon: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of the Washington Press Corps

By Kendall K. Hoyt, Frances Spatz Leighton,

Book cover of Drunk Before Noon: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of the Washington Press Corps

Why this book?

From the country’s capital, the city’s journalists translated political power and social news – as well as a thriving social scene. They covered stories that were shared across the country. A mix of men and women, big names and freelancers, these journalists reveals behind-the-scenes reporting and relationships. The stories reveal how and why news is made. These watchdogs of government were often intertwined with politicians professionally and sometimes personally. This book offers a helpful understanding of Washington, D.C. journalism – and is highly entertaining.


Washington

By Meg Greenfield,

Book cover of Washington

Why this book?

The book Washington chronicles the significant career of Meg Greenfield, an editorial page editor of The Washington Post. Greenfield, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, wrote the book during the last two years of her life. Greenfield’s boss and close friend Katharine Graham contributed the foreword which provides context. Greenfield came to Washington in 1961 and was hired by the Post a few years later. Her editorials at the Post and her columns in Newsweek were witty and smart. Her stories provide a political picture of Washington, D.C. at the end of the American century. She was often at the place where change happened and tells the stories well. Greenfield’s book is a fascinating read about politics, journalism, and history.


Out on Assignment: Newspaper Women and the Making of Modern Public Space

By Alice Fahs,

Book cover of Out on Assignment: Newspaper Women and the Making of Modern Public Space

Why this book?

The book Out on Assignment examines the careers of overlooked women who wrote for major metropolitan newspapers at the beginning of the twentieth century. Using archival materials, Alice Fahs describes a community of female journalists from numerous American cities. These newspaper women were part of a wave of women seeking a journalism career although their options were often limited. Although a few female journalists found hard-news reporting jobs in stunt work and undercover assignments, most found work in the women’s pages.

In these sections, they interviewed celebrities, advice columns, and suffrage news. Very little research has been done on women’s page journalism; this book provides an excellent foundation.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in journalism, journalists, and the Vietnam War?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about journalism, journalists, and the Vietnam War.

Journalism Explore 26 books about journalism
Journalists Explore 100 books about journalists
The Vietnam War Explore 147 books about the Vietnam War

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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