Tuesday’s Google doodle honored pioneering feminist journalist Nellie Bly, who was born “Elizabeth Jane Cochran” on May 5th, 151 years ago. Cochran got her start in 1885 after an angry letter she wrote to the Pittsburgh Dispatch, protesting a column that called working women a “monstrosity,” caught the attention of the editor. He offered her a job as a full-time reporter, and she adopted the pen name “Nellie Bly.”
Highlights of her career included going undercover as a mentally ill woman to gain access to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on New York’s Roosevelt Island; the resulting expose, “Ten Days in a Mad House,” which detailed the brutal conditions the women endured, prompted a legal investigation and an increase in funding for the asylum. Bly is also remembered for her solo journey around the world, inspired by Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in 80 Days. (Bly completed her record-setting trip in just 72 days.)
Women no longer have to write under pen names, but they remain underrepresented in newsrooms around the world. In the U.S., women run only three of the country’s 25 biggest newspapers and magazines; men fill 73 percent of top management jobs at media companies around the world. But there have always been brave women paving their own way in the news industry. Here are four other women journalists to know.
- Marie Colvin, 1956-2012
- War reporting is one of the most male-dominated areas of journalism, but women have made major contributions here, too. Marie Colvin began her career as a foreign correspondent covering the Middle East for The Sunday Times, and went on to cover some of the most important stories all over the world, including the Sri Lankan civil war–where she lost her eyesight to a Sri Lankan Army grenade–and the civil war in Syria, where she was killed in 2012.
- Ethel L. Payne, 1911-1991
- Known as the “First Lady of the Black Press,” Payne became the first African-American employed as a commentator on a national TV network when she was hired by CBS in 1972. She reported on domestic issues–focusing on civil rights–as well as international stories, like the Nigerian civil war and the role of African-American troops in Vietnam.
- Charlotte Curtis, 1928-1987
- In 1974, Charlotte Curtis, an Op-Ed editor for the New York Times became the first woman on the masthead of the paper of record; she was, journalist Emily Yoffe wrote, “one of the last women to always be the only woman in the room in the world of big-time journalism.” Curtis studied U.S. history at Vassar College before returning to her native Ohio, where she worked as a reporter and editor at the Columbus Citizen. She joined the Times as a fashion reporter, and worked on the Family/Style section before becoming an editor on the opinion page. Though Curtis is largely forgotten today, she was, according to Yoffe, “one of those rare print journalists who are as famous as the famous people she profiled.”
- Marion Carpenter, 1920-2002
- In the 1940s, Carpenter became the first woman to work as a press photographer for the White House and travel with a president; she was one of only a few photographers to accompany Harry Truman on his travels. She was known around Washington as “the Camera Girl” or “the Photographer Girl.” She stood up to male colleagues who accused her of flirting to get ahead, saying, “I don’t have to smile or tease anyone to get them to pose.”