A vivid social history that brings to light the “girl stunt reporters” of the Gilded Age who went undercover to expose corruption and abuse in America, and redefined what it meant to be a woman and a journalist — pioneers whose influence continues to be felt today.
In the waning years of the nineteenth century, women journalists across the United States risked reputation and their own safety to expose the hazardous conditions under which many Americans lived and worked. In various disguises, they stole into sewing factories to report on child labor, fainted in the streets to test public hospital treatment, posed as lobbyists to reveal corrupt politicians. Inventive writers whose in depth narratives made headlines for weeks at a stretch, these girl stunt reporters changed laws, helped launch a labor movement, championed women’s rights, and redefined journalism for the modern age.
The 1880s and 1890s witnessed a revolution in journalism as publisher titans like Hearst and Pulitzer used weapons of innovation and scandal to battle it out for market share. As they sought new ways to draw readers in, they found their answer in young women flooding into cities to seek their fortunes. When Nellie Bly went undercover into Blackwell’s Insane Asylum for Women and emerged with a scathing indictment of what she found there, the resulting sensation created opportunity for a whole new wave of writers. In a time of few jobs and few rights for women, here was a path to lives of excitement and meaning.
After only a decade of headlines and fame, though, these trailblazers faced a vicious public backlash. Accused of practicing yellow journalism, their popularity waned until stunt reporter became a badge of shame. But their influence on the field of journalism would arc across a century, from the Progressive Era muckraking of the 1900s to the personal New Journalism of the 1960s and ’70s, to the immersion journalism and creative nonfiction of today. Bold and unconventional, these writers changed how people would tell stories forever.
At the turn of the twentieth century, American women began to reject Victorian propriety in favor of passion and livelihood outside the home. This alarmed authorities, who feared certain over sexed women could destroy civilization if allowed to reproduce and pass on their defects. Set against this backdrop, The Unfit Heiress chronicles the fight for inheritance, both genetic and monetary, between Ann Cooper Hewitt and her mother Maryon.
In 1934, aided by a California eugenics law, the socialite Maryon Cooper Hewitt had her promiscuous daughter declared feebleminded and sterilized without her knowledge. She did this to deprive Ann of millions of dollars from her father's estate, which contained a child bearing stipulation. When a sensational court case ensued, the American public was captivated. So were eugenicists, who saw an opportunity to restrict reproductive rights in America for decades to come.
Glamour, danger, liberation: in a Mad Men–era of commercial flight, Pan Am World Airways attracted the kind of young woman who wanted out, and wanted up Required to have a college degree, speak two languages, and possess the political savvy of a Foreign Service officer, a jet age stewardess serving on iconic Pan Am between 1966 and 1975 also had to be between 5′3 and 5′9, between 105 and 140 pounds, and under 26 years of age at the time of hire. Julia Cooke’s intimate storytelling weaves together the real life stories of a memorable cast of characters, from Lynne Totten, a science major who decided life in a lab was not for her, to Hazel Bowie, one of the relatively few black stewardesses of the era, as they embraced the liberation of their new jet set life.
Cooke brings to life the story of Pan Am stewardesses’ role in the Vietnam War, as the airline added runs from Saigon to Hong Kong for planeloads of weary young soldiers straight from the battlefields, who were off for five days of RR, and then flown back to war. Finally, with Operation Babylift—the dramatic evacuation of 2,000 children during the fall of Saigon—the book’s special cast of stewardesses unites to play an extraordinary role on the world stage.
A gripping set of stories about the forces that shape girls and the adults they become. A wise and brilliant guide to transforming the self and our society.
In her powerful new book, critically acclaimed author Melissa Febos examines the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them.
When her body began to change at eleven years old, Febos understood immediately that her meaning to other people had changed with it. By her teens, she defined herself based on these perceptions and by the romantic relationships she threw herself into headlong. Over time, Febos increasingly questioned the stories she’d been told about herself and the habits and defenses she’d developed over years of trying to meet others’ expectations. The values she and so many other women had learned in girlhood did not prioritize their personal safety, happiness, or freedom, and she set out to reframe those values and beliefs.
Blending investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship, Febos charts how she and others like her have reimagined relationships and made room for the anger, grief, power, and pleasure women have long been taught to deny.
Written with Febos’ characteristic precision, lyricism, and insight, Girlhood is a philosophical treatise, an anthem for women, and a searing study of the transitions into and away from girlhood, toward a chosen self.
A fresh cultural analysis of female monsters from Greek mythology, and an invitation for all women to reclaim these stories as inspiration for a wild, monstrous version of feminism
The folklore that has shaped our dominant culture teems with frightening female creatures. In our language, in our stories (many written by men), we underline the idea that women who step out of bounds who are angry or greedy or ambitious, who are overtly sexual or not sexy enough aren't just outside the norm. They're unnatural. Monstrous. But maybe, the traits we've been told make us dangerous and undesirable are actually our greatest strengths.
Through fresh analysis of 11 female monsters, including Medusa, the Harpies, the Furies, and the Sphinx, Jess Zimmerman takes us on an illuminating feminist journey through mythology. She guides women (and others) to reexamine their relationships with traits like hunger, anger, ugliness, and ambition, teaching readers to embrace a new image of the female hero: one that looks a lot like a monster, with the agency and power to match.
Often, women try to avoid the feeling of monstrousness, of being grotesquely alien, by tamping down those qualities that we're told fall outside the bounds of natural femininity. But monsters also get to do what other female characters damsels, love interests, and even most heroines do not. Monsters get to be complete, unrestrained, and larger than life. Today, women are becoming increasingly aware of the ways rules and socially constructed expectations have diminished us. After seeing where compliance gets us harassed, shut out, and ruled by predators women have never been ready to become repellent, fearsome, and ravenous.
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Nothing Daunted, The Agitators chronicles the revolutionary activities of Harriet Tubman, Frances Seward, and Martha Wright: three unlikely collaborators in the quest for abolition and women’s rights. In Auburn, New York, in the mid nineteenth century, Martha Wright and Frances Seward, inspired by Harriet Tubman’s rescues in the dangerous territory of Eastern Maryland, opened their basement kitchens as stations on the Underground Railroad.Tubman was enslaved, Wright was a middle class Quaker mother of seven, and Seward was the aristocratic wife and moral conscience of her husband, William H. Seward, who served as Lincoln’s Secretary of State. All three refused to abide by laws that denied them the rights granted to white men, and they supported each other as they worked to overturn slavery and achieve full citizenship for blacks and women.The Agitators opens when Tubman is enslaved and Wright and Seward are young women bridling against their traditional roles. It ends decades later, after Wright’s and Seward’s sons—and Tubman herself—have taken part in three of the defining engagements of the Civil War. Through the sardonic and anguished accounts of the protagonists, reconstructed from their letters, diaries, and public appearances, we see the most explosive debates of the time, and portraits of the men and women whose paths they crossed: Lincoln, Seward, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and others. Tubman, embraced by Seward and Wright and by the radical network of reformers in western New York State, settled in Auburn and spent the second half of her life there.With extraordinarily compelling storytelling reminiscent of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time and David McCullough’s John Adams, The Agitators brings a vivid new perspective to the epic American stories of abolition, the Underground Railroad, women’s rights activism, and the Civil War.