October ’22 Feminist Four

Women in STEM

Women Journalists

Female journalists have written persuasive and entertaining pieces of journalistic work throughout American history, challenging the status quo and creating space for future female writers.

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (1842-1924)

Ruffin

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was born to a wealthy Bostonian family, and used her unique position to advocate for gender and race equity. She joined the American Woman Suffrage Association and was the first Black member of the New England’s Women’s Club. She became the editor of a Woman’s Era in 1894, the first newspaper published for and by Black women. The newspaper discussed race, class, and gender along with topics like literature and current events, and Ruffin was inducted into the New England Press Association for her journalistic work. In 1895, Ruffin organized the National Federation of Afro-American Women, and in 1910 became a founding member of the Boston NAACP.

“Our women’s movement is woman’s movement in that it is led and directed by women for the good of women and men, for the benefit of all humanity, which is more than any one branch or section of it.”

Ida Tarbell (1857-1944)

Tarbell

Ida Tarbell was an investigative journalist who helped coin the term muckraker, a pre-World War I name for progressive reformers whose often sensationalist writing focused on exposing corruption and abuse by the powerful. Tarbell was the sole woman in her 1880 graduating class at Alleghany College, where she wanted to become a scientist. When gender discrimination made that career choice impossible, she moved to Ohio to teach science. After returning to Pennsylvania, she began writing for magazines, and was eventually hired as an editor of the popular MucClure’s Magazine in 1894. Her serialized biographies were so popular, they were credited with doubling the magazine’s circulation. But it was her exposé on the Rockefeller Standard Oil Company’s monopoly that brought her lasting fame, and helped influence popular opinion in favor of antitrust legal reforms.

Despite her own venture into the public sphere, Tarbell was an avowed anti-suffragist, who believed feminists of her day were belittling traditional female roles. The contradiction embodied in Tarbell’s public persona with her views on women’s roles are echoed in modern times by anti-feminists like Ann Coulter and Phyllis Schlafly. While Tarbell refused the title of “role model” for other women, her very existence set precedent for other women to step out of the traditionally-accepted women’s place in the home.

“The theory that the man who raises corn does a more important piece of work than the woman who makes it into bread is absurd. The inference is that the men alone render useful service. But neither man nor woman eats these things until the woman has prepared it.”

You can read more about the anti-suffrage movement in the Songs of the Suffragists.

Gloria Steinem (1934- )

Steinem

Gloria Steinem is best known for her feminist activism, but was also a journalist prior to founding the feminist magazine, Ms., in 1972. Perhaps her best-known article was her 1963 expose of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Clubs, titled, “A Bunny’s Tale.” The article detailed the exploitation and sexual harassment of the women hired to work as waitresses in Hefner’s clubs while dressed as bunnies. Despite the groundbreaking nature of the piece, it effectively stalled Steinem’s career for years after its publication. Steinem said that a major consequence of the article was the “loss of serious journalistic assignments because I had now become a Bunny — and it didn’t matter why.” Eventually, she landed a job at New York magazine in 1968, and went on to become one of the most popular and prolific feminist writers of the 20th century.

“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”

Jessica Bennett (1982- )

Bennett

Jessica Bennett is the first gender editorfor the New York Times, a position constructed to create more space for women and gender issues within the publication. Bennett’s pieces include coverage of the #MeToo movement, the past and present realities of Miss America, as well as the increase of sexual assault training on college campuses. One of Bennett’s pieces, “I’m Not Mad. That’s Just My RBF”, went viral online, demonstrating a new facet of journalistic influence through the reach of the internet. RBF refers to “resting bitch face,” which is slang for a woman whose natural expression is considered “bitchy” because it lacks a docile smile. Her 2016 book, Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual For a Sexist Workplace, follows accounts of workplace sexism as well as how to navigate them.

“Remember: white men constitute just 31 percent of the American population. There is no situation in which they should be constituting the majority of the room.”

About the Feminist Four

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The Feminist Four is a monthly newsletter that describes four ways feminists leveraged their cultural and political influence to fight for women’s equality in the US. It is part of the LWV-BHNPS’ ongoing Songs of the Suffragists Project, which includes a bookdocumentary film, and discussion guide. Click on the photos in this email if you would like to learn more about the described topics. Support our project by buying our book. And please reply by email if you would like help presenting a virtual Songs of the Suffragists program in your community!

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