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Book Review: "The Good Girls Revolt" Is No Sugar Coated Tale Of Girl Power

Judy L. Wang |
September 25, 2012 | 12:06 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


Lynn Povich was the first ever female Senior Editor at "Newsweek" (PublicAffairs Books)
Lynn Povich was the first ever female Senior Editor at "Newsweek" (PublicAffairs Books)
In the 1960s, the newsroom was a boys club that even the most obviously talented woman couldn’t penetrate. Neither her Ivy League degree from Radcliffe nor her stellar writing skills could save her from being passed up by a lesser qualifying man. This was the acceptable practice that journalist and first female Senior Editor of "Newsweek" Lynn Povich and her colleagues lived with. They never imagined anything better because in the pre-feminist work place, they had it good. Until they realized they didn’t.

In Povich’s new book, “The Good Girl’s Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace,” she chronicles the story of how the women of "Newsweek" came together to sue the publication for gender discrimination. They did not realize it at the time, but their solidarity and bravery would ripple throughout the generations and change the male dominated newsroom forever. 

Most of Povich’s stories can be a bit shell shocking for the modern day woman who in the worst of situations could never fathom what female journalists went through: men openly harassing women sexually in the newsroom, qualified women being passed up for male interns and women being sectioned off to the back of the books simply because men could not tolerate a female opinion.  

With her powerful narrative voice, Povich recounts constantly being rebuffed from high positions and denied any opportunity to make a name for herself. For a generation of conservative “good girls,” the women of "Newsweek" never imagined it was because of their gender. Eventually, they would band together to fight for what was rightfully theirs. 

The author’s story is by no means a sugar-coated tale of girl power. It is an honest account of the struggle before, during and after the lawsuit that did not have fairytale results either. Povich’s father was a well respected sports writer at the time, whose connection got Povich a job at "Newsweek." Needless to say, the conflict of interest tested her loyalties. 

Furthermore, after a less than successful settlement was reached, many of the women still could not get their writing into the pages of the paper and others could not handle the pressures of the job. The male editors were more than difficult, often subjecting the women’s work to harsh rewrites and edits making it impossible to get their work published. Women were still being denied promotions as "Newsweek" sought to outsource women writers.

The women also faced internal battles: as they fought their oppressor giant, they were also fighting amongst themselves and within themselves. These women were pioneers, but even Povich admits in the book that a lawsuit could not instantly change an internal script that the women and their mothers had lived by all their lives. 

Ultimately, after the threat of a second lawsuit, the women of "Newsweek" won what they deserved.

What separates Povich’s book from others of the same genre is her eloquent storytelling and intimate attention to detail. She thoughtfully weaves her colleagues’ childhood anecdotes and family histories into the page so that these women are not just intangible characters of history, but everyday working people. Her details help the reader to appreciate the sheer audacity it took for these women to go against one of the most prestigious papers in history. 

Povich’s book is also delightfully sprinkled with stories and personal conversations with news and women’s movement juggernauts such as Gloria Steinem and Osborn Elliot. At one point after Povich published her first cover story, Elliot sent the journalist a note which said,

“Congratulations on losing your virginity in such style.” 

Overall, the novel is a provoking chronicle of the courage behind a change that we thoughtlessly live out without appreciation or regard. Often times we glance over the history makers, but Povich’s story beckons us to stop, remember and carry it on. 


Reach Staff Reporter Judy L. Wang here or follow her on Twitter



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