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Myra MacPherson

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Myra MacPherson
Born1934 (age 89–90)
Alma mater
  • Journalist
  • writer
  • lecturer
Board member ofHospice Foundation of America[5]

Michael Siegel - 1964;

Leah Siegel - 1966 (died 2010)
• 1970's Rutgers Fellow

• 1984 Pulitzer prize nomination for Long Time[10]

• 1985 Finalist Los Angeles Times Book Awards.

• 1986–1987 Fulbright grant[11]

• 1992 Ford Foundation fellow, Belagio, Italy.

• 2007 Sperber Award for Biography

• 2008 Honorable mention Penn Center USA Literary Award

Myra MacPherson (born 1934) is an American author, biographer, and journalist known for writing about politics, the Vietnam War, feminism, and death and dying. Although her work has appeared in many publications, she had a long affiliation with The Washington Post newspaper. She was hired in 1968 by Post executive editor Ben Bradlee to write for the paper's Style section, and remained with the Post for over two decades until 1991. While with the title, she profiled those involved in Watergate, covered five presidential campaigns, women's rights issues and wrote a series on Vietnam veterans that led to her 1984 book Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation. It was the first trade book to examine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, according to Vietnam expert Arnold R. Isaacs, one of the first to "break the long national silence" about the war and remains one of the most moving and important works on the Vietnam bookshelf." The author Joseph Heller wrote: "MacPherson's book belongs with the best of the works on Vietnam."[16]

Her first book, The Power Lovers: An Intimate Look at Politicians and Their Marriages was an instant best seller when published by Doubleday in 1975. She Came to Live Out Loud: An Inspiring Family Journey through Illness, Loss and Grief was published in 1999 and won health care hospice awards. MacPherson's book, The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage and Scandal in the Gilded Age (Hachette, 2014; paperback 2015) exposes Victorian hypocrisy on sex and women through the true story of two feminist sisters who broke all the rules in 1870 and fought for rights still denied women. "MacPherson's enchanting dual biography…the epilogue "hammers home that even [today] men use women's bodies as political bargaining chips." - The Washington Post; "MacPherson brings these outrageous and inspiring women to brilliant life." - History Book Club selection; "A lively account of the unlikely lives of the 'two most symbiotic and scandalous sisters in American History." The New Yorker.

Her 2006 biography of I. F. Stone, All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone, won the 2007 Ann M. Sperber Award for media biography, and was a finalist for a 2008 PEN Center USA literary award; it was also named a best book and best biography of the year by the Boston Globe, Rocky Mountain News and BookList.com.[16][17]

MacPherson has written for The New York Times, numerous national magazines, and for blogs such as Salon, The Huffington Post and the Nieman Watchdog blog on journalism. She has been on the advisory board of the Harvard Nieman I.F. Stone Award. She continues her interest in helping young journalists through the I.F. Stone Award project and the Molly Award, given annually in remembrance of Molly Ivins.

While doing book research MacPherson has been a fellow at Rutgers University, a Ford Foundation fellow in Bellagio, Italy and a recipient of a Fulbright Grant to study in Japan.

In 2016, All Governments Lie: Truth Deception and the Spirit of I. F. Stone, a 2016 documentary featuring today's best investigative reporters was based in part on her Stone book. The documentary premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival; Oliver Stone was the executive producer and journalist Fred Peabody directed the film.


The granddaughter of a coal miner, MacPherson was raised in a town with under 1,000 inhabitants,. A few years after graduating from college, she interviewed President John F. Kennedy. She credits her editors, Sid Epstein at The Washington Star and later Ben Bradlee at The Washington Post, for ignoring a long-established bias against women covering politics, sports and major news during the sixties. (Still the Star refused to send her to the South to cover the Civil rights movement because it was "too dangerous for a 'girl.'"). And employment discrimination against women affected her early career. After writing for State News, the student daily of Michigan State University, she sought a job at the Detroit Free Press. The executive editor said he was sorry "but we have no openings in the women's section." MacPherson replied: "I wasn't applying for the women's section." Looking aghast, he said "we have NO women in the city room." MacPherson took a job running copy to the printers from the editorial writers, working her way up to by-lined articles that led to a job at the Detroit Times, where she was assigned to the 1960 Indy 500. She was the only woman in the country covering it. She could not interview the racers in gasoline alley and was banned from the sports box. A male colleague quipped: "How much does your editor hate you?"

As for females, she interviewed such disparate women as Helen Keller, Nicaraguan president Violeta Chamorro, and the mother of the serial killer Ted Bundy. She wrote about murderers and slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, covered the State funeral of President Kennedy, Presidential campaigns and specialized in in-depth profiles of politicians, including a martini-drinking Fidel Castro. However, even in 1969 she was banned from the sports box while the Miracle Mets won their smashing victory. When she wrote about the banning, and another women reporter sued, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times sports columnist, Red Smith, wrote that it was about time such silly rules ended, thus paving the way for the many women active in sports media, including MacPherson's daughter, Leah Siegel, who became a three-time Emmy award-winning ESPN producer. She had practically grown up in the sports box with her sports writer father, Morrie Siegel. Decades before, he had introduced his wife to a host of sports characters and hangers on, including New York restaurateur Toots Shor who told MacPherson at an all-male-except-her dinner, "We're not interested in what you think, you're only here because of Morrie… As far as I am concerned all broads are a piece of raisin cake."[3] The weird phrase meant nothing to her but it was enough to tell Toots off and to exit the restaurant.

MacPherson has two children, Leah, and Mike, who has had a career in politics. Leah Siegel died from breast cancer in July 2010.[18] She continues to campaign for women's rights. She met her second husband, liberal Florida State Senator, Jack Gordon, when she covered the ultimately rejected Equal Rights Amendment for The Washington Post in 1977. Gordon was the only male sponsor.


Selected periodicals[edit]

  • MacPherson, Myra (May 8, 2009). "Review: Spies: the Rise and Fall of the KGB in America and "Three Tales of I.F Stone and the KGB: Kalugin, Venona and the Notebooks"". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  • MacPherson, Myra (April 2000). "Bush Lite". Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 12, 2014. review of Shrub by Molly Ivins and Louis Dubose
  • MacPherson, Myra (January 4, 1969). "Helen Hayes". St. Petersburg Times. Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2014.




  1. ^ "Myra MacPherson – author, biographer and journalist". LinkedIn. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Ninety-eighth Annual Commencement" (PDF). Michigan State University. June 10, 1956. p. 33. Retrieved May 14, 2014. COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION ARTS ... Myra Lea MacPherson Journalism; Ann Arbor
  3. ^ a b "Q & A Myra MacPherson "The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in the Gilded Age"". C-SPAN. May 4, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "College Bound". Argus Eyes. Vol. 9, no. 8. Argus (camera company). September 1953. p. 3. Retrieved May 14, 2014. Myra MacPherson, who has been employed in the Purchasing Department for the summer, will return to Michigan State College to resume her studies as a journalism major.
  5. ^ Board of Directors (About Us), Hospice Foundation of America, archived from the original on May 13, 2014, retrieved May 13, 2014
  6. ^ Burgess, Bill. "Meet The Sports Writers – Page 22". Retrieved May 12, 2014. Morris Siegel...Wife: Myra MacPherson, married 1964, divorced, 1985
  7. ^ Dodd, Chris (July 1, 1994). "HONORING THE MEMORY OF MORRIS SIEGEL". Congressional Record. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  8. ^ Aird, Daniella (December 19, 2005). "Former state Sen. Jack Gordon, champion of liberal causes, dies". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  9. ^ Von Drehle, David (December 18, 2005). "Jack D. Gordon; Liberal Force in Fla. Senate". Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  10. ^ Wall, John (April 16, 2014). "Best-Selling Author Myra MacPherson to Speak at Juniata" (Press release). Huntingdon, Pennsylvania: Juniata College. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  11. ^ "Fulbright Grants". Editor & Publisher. Vol. 119. 1986. Retrieved May 12, 2014. Four journalists have been awarded 1986–87 Fulbright Grants to Japan to study various aspects of contemporary Japanese society or U.S. – Japanese relations. ...Myra L. MacPherson, Washington Post...
  12. ^ "Prosopography" (PDF). WHO IS WHO 39th Annual Conference on World Affairs. Boulder, Colorado: University of Colorado. April 6–12, 1986. p. 6. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  13. ^ "Myra MacPherson". Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. 2005. Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000160257. Retrieved May 12, 2014. Biography in Context.
  14. ^ Contributor biographical information for She came to live out loud : an inspiring family journey through illness, loss, and grief / Myra MacPherson, Library of Congress, retrieved May 12, 2014
  15. ^ "Argus Family Graduates" (PDF). Argus Eyes. Vol. 8, no. 5. Argus (camera company). June 1952. p. 7. Retrieved May 14, 2014. Myra Lea MacPherson, Belleville High School, Daughter of Douglas MacPherson
  16. ^ a b "Myra MacPherson". Amazon.com. 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  17. ^ Verel, Patrick (October 2007). "Biography of Journalist I.F. Stone Wins Sperber Award" (Press release). New York City: Fordham University. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  18. ^ "Leah Siegel". Dallas Morning News. July 27, 2010. Retrieved May 16, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

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