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Newspaper Women and the Making of Modern Public Space

Alice Fahs

Publication Year: 2011

Newspaper women were part of a wave of women seeking new, independent, urban lives, but they struggled to obtain the newspaper work of their dreams. Although some female journalists embraced more adventurous reporting, including stunt work and undercover assignments, many were relegated to the women's page. However, these intrepid female journalists made the women's page their own. Fahs reveals how their writings--including celebrity interviews, witty sketches of urban life, celebrations of being bachelor girls, advice columns, and a campaign in support of suffrage--had far-reaching implications for the creation of new, modern public spaces for American women at the turn of the century. As observers and actors in a new drama of independent urban life, newspaper women used the simultaneously liberating and exploitative nature of their work, Fahs argues, to demonstrate the power of a public voice, both individually and collectively.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. 1-16

In 1891 Margherita Arlina Hamm began writing “Among the Newspaper Women” for the New York Journalist—the first newspaper column ever devoted to newspaper women as a group. Chronicling the work of women newspaper writers around the country, but especially in New York, Hamm conjured up a world of public sociability. “There were some four or five...

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Chapter one: Among the Newspaper Women

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pp. 17-55

As early as the mid-1880s, women began moving into metropolitan newspaper work in increasing—and increasingly visible—numbers. “There is a large number of women in New York who support themselves by writing for the newspapers, daily and weekly,” wrote Martha Louise Rayne in her...

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Chapter two: The Woman’s Page

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pp. 56-91

The woman’s column of the Brooklyn Times, called “Readings for the Home” and offering “Gossip and Gleanings for the Family Circle,” opened with its usual feature on October 23, 1886: an “Everyday Bill of Fare” that presented a menu and recipes by famous novelist Marion Harland (Mary...

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Chapter three: Human Interest

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pp. 92-132

In 1896 a witty, now-forgotten writer named Jessie Wood provided a spoof titled “The Newspaper Woman” for Life magazine. “In the vast advertising sheet which Americans—with their never-failing drollness—call a ‘newspaper,’” Wood began, “it is sometimes considered necessary that a few...

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Chapter four: Bachelor Girls

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pp. 133-161

In the late 1890s Marie Manning of the New York Journal, Olivia Dunbar of the New York World, and Neith Boyce of the New York Commercial Advertiser all lived at the Judson Hotel on Washington Square in Greenwich Village. At the time, the Judson attracted a variety of writers and would-be...

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Chapter five: Adventure

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pp. 162-192

The headline running across an entire two- page spread of the New York Sunday World on March 8, 1896, read “Daring Deeds by the Sunday World’s Intrepid Woman Reporters”; immediately underneath was the story “Nellie Bly Proposes to Fight for Cuba.” In a splashy illustration accompanying the...

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Chapter six: Work

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pp. 193-231

In January 1898 an extraordinary group of New York newspaper women descended on New Bedford, Massachusetts, where a major strike was under way among textile workers whose pay had just been cut by 10 percent.1 This “New England strike” was not just important labor news—it offered human...

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Chapter seven: Travel

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pp. 232-271

Traveling to Mexico with her mother in early 1886, some three years before her famous trip around the world, Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Jane Cochrane) dreamed not only of adventure but also of a possible “beat” as the first woman newspaper correspondent to write from Mexico City. To her chagrin...

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Epilogue: Toward Suffrage

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pp. 272-277

In 1906 Nixola Greeley-Smith had exuberantly affirmed her work for a “yellow” newspaper—and in fact she remained with the New York World for her entire career, except for a brief (and unhappy) period writing for a syndicate. But by 1915 Greeley-Smith, a committed feminist as well as suffrage...


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pp. 279-323

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 325-340

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pp. 341-342

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the many sources from which I have received support for this book. Fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the University of California (in the form of a President’s Fellowship for Research in the Humanities) allowed me to pursue my research full time in the early stages of this...


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pp. 343-360

E-ISBN-13: 9781469602561
E-ISBN-10: 1469602563
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834961
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834963

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011