Women in Journalism

Back in 1986, the Women’s National Press Club initiated a project called The Women in Journalism Oral History in order to demonstrate that women are equal in society and able to do a kind of job that can be considered as masculine. It is obvious now, but in the first half of XX century, the questions that feminist movement raised were urgent since even such job as a journalist was considered not appropriate for women. Thus, the interviewees did a great job of encouraging gender equality in the society by their example.

The interviewers were mostly educated people in the field of history or journalism, so all the interviews were interesting as the interviewers knew what they were talking about. For example, one of the interviewers, Diane K. Gentry, had a Bachelor degree in Fine Arts majoring in photography at Ohio University in 1965. Also, she received a Master of Science in Journalism from this University in 1967. Another interviewer, Anne S. Kasper, had an M.A. in Women's Studies, which is connected with the topic of the project – women rights. One more interviewer, Donita Moorhus, who is a researcher, oral historian, and writer, demonstrated her proficiency as well. As a specialist in oral history, she managed to conduct the interviews and analyze the position of women in that period.

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However, the interviewees’ personalities are the most interesting, of course, as their stories reveal the difficult time for women in journalism. The interviewees can be divided into three groups according to the professional generations: women who started their journalist careers before 1942, those who worked as journalists in the period from the beginning of the World War II to 1964, and, logically, women who became a journalist after 1964, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. To represent the opinions of different social categories, interviewees were of different races, residences, and types of job in journalism.

For example, one of them, Katherine Beebe Harris, has the experience of 50 years of work in journalism and journalism-related jobs. She was a reporter for Associated Press in New York City and San Francisco. While she was working there from 1932, she reported the cases of the Lindbergh kidnapping, wrote about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, witnessed the creation of the United Nations and other significant events. Another personality, Beth Campbell Short, was a columnist in the late twenties and thirties and a reporter for AP afterwards. The interesting fact about her position in the Assosiated Press is that she was the only woman in the staff among 88 men. Beth Campbell Short's works are kept in the National Women and Media Collection, a part of the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection of the University of Missouri at Columbus.

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As it was said before, the main idea of conducting these interviews was to demonstrate how difficult it was to be a woman journalist in the middle of XX century. On the other hand, their way shows us the importance of feminist movement nowadays. However, even in XXI century, there are still problems with discrimination of woman in society, especially in the workplace. For example, as statistic shows, women still have lower salary than men do. The other reason to conduct these interviews was to make women appreciate their rights in the modern, liberal society and encourage them to fight for their position in the communities where there are still problems with gender equality. 

The common problem in every interviewee’s story was some difficulties in promoting the women journalist’s career as no one from those women described an easy way to became a successful journalist. To prove their point, interviewees should work more than hard. Practically all of them felt the pressure from their bosses, but with self-confidence and support from their families, they reached success. The other common thing for a lot of interviewees, who started their career before World War II, was the fact that paradoxically, this war changed the approach to regarding a woman as a housewife since during the war women could try traditional male professions. The lack of working men made society forget about the prejudices and give women the opportunity to prove themselves as equal, including the sphere of journalism.

The difference between the interviews is caused by different groups of interviewees. First of all, throughout almost 30 years that the interviews cover, there were witnessed ongoing changes in the women’s position in the society. Therefore, those who started working after 1964 had much fewer problems in the workplace than those who were pioneers in the women journalism. The race discrimination also had an impact on the interviews diversity as the women who are “not white” had more difficulties in the career as they suffered from different kinds of discrimination. There are also some local differences in the woman equality issues, so interviewees from developed cities could accomplish their goals easier than others.

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The interviewers tried to ask interesting questions from general ones to asking some specific details. The questions were not elementary as all of the interviewers were aware of the topic of conversation. Thus, they asked for details, made their own assumptions, and had a little discussion of the theme. It seems that these interviews were in the informal style, while the topic of the talks was very serious.

It was very useful to read these interviews, as I did not realize how difficult it was for women to fight for such a simple right – to have a desirable job. Now, it seems ridiculous that someone cannot have an opportunity to do what he or she really wants, but only a half century ago, it was such a global problem. These stories made me appreciate the opportunities I have and encouraged not to miss any chances in life as not so long ago women did not actually have them.

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