Women in journalism and media professions

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As journalism became a profession, women were restricted by custom and law from access to journalism occupations, and faced significant discrimination within the profession. Nevertheless, women operated as editors, reporters, sports analyst and journalists even before the 1890s.[1]

Women in journalism and media professions by country[edit]


In Denmark, women became editors early on by inheriting papers form their spouses, the earliest examples being Sophie Morsing, who inherited Wochenliche Zeitung from her husband in 1658 and managed the paper as editor, and Catherine Hake, who inherited the paper Europäische Wochentliche Zeitung as widow the following year - as far as it is known, though, these women did not write in their papers.[2]

The first woman in Denmark who published articles in Danish papers were the writer Charlotte Baden, who occasionally participated in the weekly MorgenPost Simon Poulsen from 1786 to 1793.[3] In 1845, Marie Arnesen became the first woman to participate in the public political debate in a Danish newspaper, and from the 1850s, it became common for women to participate in public debate or contribute with an occasional article: among them being Caroline Testman, who wrote travel articles, and Athalia Schwartz, who was a well known public media figure through her participation in the debate in the papers between 1849 and 1871.[3] In the 1870s, the women's movement started and published papers of their own, with women editors and journalists.

It was not until the 1880s, however, that women begun to be professionally active in the Danish press, and Sofie Horten (1848-1927) likely became the first woman who supported herself as a professional journalist when she was employed at Sorø Amtstidende in 1888.[3] An important pioneer was Loulou Lassen, employed at the Politiken in 1910, the first female career journalist and a pioneer female journalist within science, also arguably the first nationally well known woman in the profession. In 1912, eight women were members of the reporter's union Københavns Journalistforbund (Copenhagen Association of Journalists), five in the club Journalistforeningen i København (Journalist Association of Copenhagen) and a total of 35 women employed as journalists in Denmark.[3]


The Swedish journalist and editor Catharina Ahlgren was most likely the first female journalist and editor in the then Swedish province of Finland when she published her own essay paper, the Swedish language Om att rätt behaga in 1782, which was also among the very first papers in Finland.[4]

Traditionally, the first women journalist has been referred to as Fredrika Runeberg, who wrote poems and articles in Helsingfors Morgonblad under the name of her spouse Johan Ludvig Runeberg in the 1830s.[3] The first woman in Finland to work as a journalist in Finland under her own name was Adelaïde Ehrnrooth, who wrote in Helsingfors Dagblad and Hufvudstadsbladet for 35 years from 1869 onward.[3]


Anne-Marguerite Petit du Noyer (1663-1719) has been referred to as one of the most famous early 18th century female journalists in Europe. Her reports of the negotiations leading to the Peace of Utrecht were read all over Europe and admired for the distinction with which she reported on scandal and gossip.


The first female journalist in Norway was Birgithe Kühle, who published the local paper Provincial-Lecture in Bergen between 1794 and 1795.[5]

During the 19th-century, women participated with articles in the press, especially within the culture sections and a translators, notably Magdalene Thoresen, who has by some been referred to as an early female journalist: from 1856, Marie Colban (1814-1884) lived in Paris, from were she wrote articles for Morgenbladet and Illustreret Nyhedsblad, for which she can be regarded as the first female foreign correspondent in the Norwegian press.[3]

Other pioneers were Wilhelmine Gulowsen, editor of the culture paper Figaro in 1882-83, and Elisabeth Schøyen, editor of the family magazine Familie-Musæum in 1878 and journalist of Bergensposten and Aftenposten.[6]

The Norwegian newspaper press in the capital of Oslo had their first two female reporters with Marie Mathisen in Dagsposten in 1897, and Anna Hvoslef in Aftenposten in 1898: the former became the first female member of the Oslo Journalistklubb (Oslo Journalist Association) in 1902.[7]


Wendela Hebbe, drawing by Maria Röhl 1842.

In Sweden, Maria Matras, known as "N. Wankijfs Enka", published the paper Ordinarie Stockholmiske Posttijdender in 1690-1695, but it is unknown if she wrote in the paper as well.[8]

Margareta Momma became the first identified female journalist and chief editor as the editor of the political essaypaper Samtal emellan Argi Skugga och en obekant Fruentimbers Skugga in 1738.[9] During the 18th-century, many periodicals for, about, and likely also by women were published, but as women normally published under pseudonym, the can seldom be identified: one of the few identified ones being Catharina Ahlgren, who edited the typical women's periodical De nymodiga fruntimren (Modern Women) in 1773.[10] Women chief editors became fairly common during the 18th-century when the press in Sweden developed, especially since the widow of a male printer or editor normally took over the business of her late spouse: a successful and well known female newspaper editor was Anna Hammar-Rosén, who managed the popular newspaper Hwad Nytt?? Hwad Nytt?? between 1773 and 1795.[8]

It was not until the 19th-century that the papers of the Swedish press started to introduce a permanent staff of co-workers and journalists, a development which attached the first women as permanent employees to the newspaper offices, which are noted to be Wendela Hebbe at Aftonbladet in 1841-51 and Marie Sophie Schwartz at Svenska Tidningen Dagligt Allehanda in 1851-57.[8] In 1858, Louise Flodin came to be regarded as an important pioneer when she founded her own newspaper, became the first woman to be given a newspaper license, and composed a staff entirely of women employees,[8] and Eva Brag became an important pioneer during her career at Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning in 1865-1889.[11]

From the 1880s, women became more common in the offices of the press, and when women was admitted to the Swedish Publicists' Association in 1885, 14 women were inducted as members.[8] The pioneer generation of women journalists were generally from the upper class who wished to earn their own income.[8] At this point, the focus of a conventional education for a woman was language, which was not the case with a conventional male education, especially since the male reporters were generally not from the upper classes.[8] Women were employed as translators and given the responsibility for the coverage of culture and foreign news and interviews of foreigners. During this period, women journalists were reportedly respected - partially due to their social background - and due to their language skills given assignments with equal status to their male co-workers.[8] In 1918, Maria Cederschiöld, first woman editor of a foreign news section, recalled that women reporters were not as controversial or discriminated in the 1880s as they would later become, "...when the results of Strindberg's hatred of women made itself known. Nor was the struggle of life and competition so sharp, as it has later become. The women pioneers were generally treated with sympathy and interest, even by the men, perhaps because they normally did not regard them as dangerous competitors."[8]

Of the seven biggest newspapers in Stockholm, six had female co-workers prior to 1900, and when Swedish Union of Journalists was founded in 1901, women were included from the start.[8] An important event occurred in 1910, when the popular novel Pennskaftet by Elin Wägner made the journalist profession a popular career choice for women, and women career journalists were often referred to as "pennskaft".[8] By this time, women reporters, though a minority, had became common and no longer regarded as a novelty and the competition had became harder: in 1913, Stockholms Dagblad made a record by having seven female co-workers, and the same year, the Swedish Publicists' Association founded the De kvinnliga journalisternas stipendiefond to finance foreign trips for women reporters.[8] Women covered WWI and the Russian revolution and several women journalists became famed role models such as Ester Blenda Nordström and Elin Brandell.

During the Interwar period, a change occurred which exposed women reporters to an informal discrimination long referred to as a "woman's trap": the introduction of the customary women's section of the newspapers.[8] During WWI, war time rationing made it necessary to cover household interests, which after the war became a woman's section, as household tasks were regarded as female tasks.[8] The coverage of the women's section customarily became the task of the women reporters, and as they were a minority, the same reporters were often forced to handle the women's section side from their other assignments, which placed them in a great disadvantage to their male colleagues when the competition became harsher during the interwar depression.[8] In parallel, they were women with successful careers, notably Barbro Alving, whose coverage of the Spanish civil war, WWII and the Cold war made her famous, and Dagmar Crohn, who were the editor of the economy section at Svenska Dagbladet in 1933-1959, which made her unique at the time. In 1939, Elsa Nyblom became vice chairperson of the Publicistklubben.

The informal discrimination changed when women reporters started to expand the subjects treated at the women's sections. A noted example of this development was Synnöve Bellander, editor of the women's section Hus och hem at Svenska Dagbladet in 1932-59. Originally expected to write only of fashion and make up, she started to expand the area to the subjects of education and professional life for women, and from there to consumer issues and food quality and other issues concerning the private home life. This development in the women's sections gradually transformed them to sections for "family" and private life for both sexes, and blurred the line to the rest of the paper.[8]

The 1960s signified a great change. A debate about gender discrimination in the press, followed by the general debate about gender roles during the second-wave feminism, quickly raised the numbers of female reporters in the press from 1965 onward. In 1970, Pernilla Tunberger became the first woman to be awarded Stora Journalistpriset.[8]

United States[edit]

The Baroness Frederika Charlotte Riedesel's 18th century Letters and Journals Relating to the War of the American Revolution and the Capture of the German Troops at Saratoga is regarded as the first account of war by a woman. Her writing analyzes the relevant events, personalities of key actors and consequences of the military struggles she observed. Moreover, she was personally involved in the heart of the Battles of Saratoga. She suffered the hardships of siege when she sheltered in the cellar of the Marshall House during the failed retreat of the British army.

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, women began agitating for the right to work as professional journalists in North America and Europe; by many accounts, the first notable woman in political journalism was Jane Grey Swisshelm. A former correspondent for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, she persuaded President Millard Fillmore to open the gallery in congress so that she could report on congressional news.[12] Prior to Swisshelm, Horace Greeley had employed another noteworthy woman in journalism, Margaret Fuller, who covered international news. Nellie Bly became known for her investigative reporting at the New York World. She was one of the first female journalists of her era to report by going undercover.

While many female reporters in the 1800s and early 1900s were restricted to society reporting and were expected to cover the latest in food or fashion, there were a few women who reported on subjects that were considered the domain of male reporters. One example was Ina Eloise Young (later Ina Young Kelley). In 1907, Miss Young was said to be the only female sports editor (or "sporting" editor, as it was called back then). She worked in Colorado for the Trinidad Chronicle-News, and her areas of expertise were baseball, football, and horse racing.[13] She covered the 1908 World's Series, the only woman of her time to do so.[14] The 2014 Status of Women in the U.S. Media reported that of more than 150 sports-related print publications and sports-related websites, 90 percent of editors were white males.[15]

Another example of a woman in a non-traditional media profession was Jennie Irene Mix: when radio broadcasting became a national obsession in the early 1920s, she was one of the few female radio editors at a magazine: a former classical pianist and a syndicated music critic who wrote about opera and classical music in the early 1920s, Miss Mix became the radio editor at Radio Broadcast magazine, a position she held from early 1924 until her sudden death in April 1925.[16] In talk radio, there were no women among the top 10 of Talkers magazine's "Heavy Hundred" and only two women were among the 183 sport talk radio hosts list.[15] Women increased their presence in professional journalism, and popular representations of the "intrepid girl reporter" became popular in 20th-century films and literature, perhaps most notably in "His Girl Friday".[17][18]

In 2014, the Women's Media Center put out their third annual Status of Women in the U.S. Media. The study is based on a number of reports about the status of women in all forms of media in the US. The study revealed that women represented 28.8 percent of speaking characters in the top grossing films of 2012. In 2013, women had 16 percent of the top executive movie jobs and of the 16 biggest paychecks for actors per film, not one of them was female actress'. The top earning actress is Angelina Jolie, who made $33 million in 2013. The two lowest ranked men on that list made that same dollar amount. Also, 36 percent of newsroom staff are women, a percentage that has remained stagnate since 1999.[15][19][20]

United Kingdom[edit]

The first female full time employed journalist in Fleet Street was Eliza Lynn Linton, who was employed by The Morning Chronicle from 1848: three years later, she became the paper's correspondent in Paris, and upon her return to London in the 1860s, she was given a permanent position.[3]

Notable women in the history of journalism[edit]

See also Women journalists by name and by category

References for this section can be found on the article pages if not cited below.



Awards and organizations[edit]

See also[edit]

Further research[edit]

  • Library of Congress, "Two Centuries of American Women Journalists"[43] (exhibition)
  • Library of Congress, "Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers, and Broadcasters During World War II"[44] (exhibition, 1998)
  • Washington Press Club Foundation, "Women in Journalism" (oral history archives; transcripts of approximately 60 oral history interviews documenting women journalists)[45]
  • C-Span, "Women in Journalism",[46] September, 2004 (series of oral history interviews)
  • Journalism and Women Symposium[47]
  • New York State Library, Women in Journalism: Newspaper Milestones[48] (Researched and Compiled by Bill Lucey, March 14, 2005)


  1. ^ Rick Brown, "The Emergence of Females as Professional Journalists", HistoryBuff.com.
  2. ^ John Chr. Jørgensen: Da kvinderne blev journalister. Københavns Universitet. Det Humanistiske Fakultet. Københavns Universitet. 2012
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h John Chr. Jørgensen:Da kvinderne blev journalister. Københavns Universitet. Det Humanistiske Fakultet. Københavns Universitet. 2012
  4. ^ Henrika Zilliacus-Tikkanen: När könet började skriva – Kvinnor i finländsk press 1771–1900 (English: When gender started to write - women in Finnish media 1771-1900)
  5. ^ Bra böckers världshistoria / [chefredaktör: Kenneth Åström ; redaktion: Gil Dahlström ...]. Bd 10, Två revolutioner : 1750-1815 / av Kåre Tønnesson ; [översättning: Ingrid Emond ...] Malmö Bra Böcker 2001
  6. ^ Elisabeth Schøyen. (2009, 14. februar). I Store norske leksikon. Hentet 16. november 2015 fra https://snl.no/Elisabeth_Sch%C3%B8yen.
  7. ^ Kvaale, Reidun: Kvinner i norsk presse gjennom 150 år. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1986
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Berger, Margareta, Pennskaft: kvinnliga journalister i svensk dagspress 1690-1975 [Penholders: Female journalists in Swedish press 1690-1975], Norstedt, Stockholm, 1977
  9. ^ Ann Öhrberg, Vittra fruntimmer. Författarroll och retorik hos frihetstidens kvinnliga författare (Uppsala 2001) 165-187, 339-345.
  10. ^ Berger, Margareta, Äntligen ord från qwinnohopen!: At last, words also from the women : om kvinnopress under 1700-talet, Akademilitt., Stockholm, 1984
  11. ^ Heggestad, Eva: Kritik och kön. 1880-talets kvinnliga kritiker och exemplet Eva Brag. Samlaren. Tidskrift för svensk litteraturvetenskaplig forskning. Årgång 115 1994. Svenska Litteratursällskapet.
  12. ^ "Jane Grey Swisshelm: A Staunch Foe of Slavery, A Noble Woman's Life's Work." San Francisco Bulletin, August 2, 1884, p. 1S.
  13. ^ "Colorado Has the Only Woman Sporting Editor." Washington DC Sunday Star, December 29, 1907, p.4.
  14. ^ "World's Series Notes." Harrisburg (PA) Patriot, October 15, 1908, p. 8.
  15. ^ a b c Bedard, Paul (19 February 2014). "Study: Hollywood execs have own 'war on women,' choking off major roles, salary from women". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Caroline Mitchell, editor. Women and Radio: Airing Differences. Routledge, 2000, p. 23.
  17. ^ Paul E. Schindler, Jr., "Women in Journalism Movies" (2003), available at schindler.org
  18. ^ "Sob Sisters: The Image of the Female Journalist in Popular Culture", Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture, USC Annenberg School for Communication. Includes bibliography with 7500+ entries, a one-hour documentary, multiple papers, and other material.
  19. ^ "The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014" (PDF). Women's Media Center. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  20. ^ Zara, Christopher (19 February 2014). "Women In News Media: Gender Diversity Stagnant In Newsrooms, Horrendous In Sports Journalism, Says New Report". International Business Times. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  21. ^ whnpa.org "The Associated Press (AP): Remembering Marion Carpenter: Pioneer White House Photographer Dies" Check |url= scheme (help). Whnpa.org. Retrieved November 25, 2002. 
  22. ^ IMDB
  23. ^ Font size Print E-mail Share (2006-07-06). "Katie Couric - CBS Evening News". CBS News. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  24. ^ Evelyn Cunningham, Journalist and Aide, Dies at 94, New York Times, April 29, 2010.
  25. ^ Callow, Philip. From Noon to Starry Night: A Life of Walt Whitman. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1992: 110. ISBN 0-929587-95-2
  26. ^ Cheever, Susan. American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau; Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work. Detroit: Thorndike Press, 2006: 176. ISBN 0-7862-9521-X
  27. ^ Richard Goldstein, "Mary Garber, Sportswriter, Dies at 92", New York Times, Sept. 23, 2008.
  28. ^ "2008 Right Livelihood Awards honour champions of independent journalism, peace-building and social justice" (press release from the Right Livelihood Award Foundation)
  29. ^ Roger Streitmatter, editor, Empty Without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok
  30. ^ Tom Heintjes. ""The Lynn Johnston Interview," ''Hogan's Alley'' #1, 1994". Cartoonician.com. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  31. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/03/world/flora-lewis-79-dies-keen-observer-of-world-affairs.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1
  32. ^ Dennis Hevesi, "Nancy Hicks Maynard Dies at 61; a Groundbreaking Black Journalist", New York Times, 2008 Sept. 23.
  33. ^ ""Mrs. W.B. Meloney, Noted Editor, Dies," ''The New York Times,'' June 24, 1943". New York Times. 1943-06-24. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  34. ^ New York Times, May 7, 1965.
  35. ^ Gloria Steinem, "Nylons in the Newsroom", New York Times, Nov. 7, 1965.
  36. ^ CBSNews.com Staff, "Marya McLaughlin Dead At 68" (obituary), CBS, Sept. 16, 1998.
  37. ^ "'Good Morning America' Anchor Robin Roberts - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  38. ^ "Diane Sawyer - Biography.com Biography". Biography.com. 1945-12-22. Retrieved 2010-03.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  39. ^ "Diane Sawyer's Biography - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  40. ^ Robert C. Kochersberger (Editor), Ida M. Tarbell, Everette E. Dennis, More Than a Muckraker: Ida Tarbell's Lifetime in Journalism.
  41. ^ "Women in Public Life Awards 2009". Womeninpubliclifeawards.co.uk. 2009-03-04. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  42. ^ US Postal Service, Sep. 14 2002: Four Accomplished Journalists Honored On U.S. Postage Stamps[dead link]
  43. ^ "WAR, WOMEN, AND OPPORTUNITY - Women Come to the Front (Library of Congress Exhibition)". Lcweb.loc.gov. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  44. ^ "Women Come to the Front". Lcweb.loc.gov. 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  45. ^ [1][dead link]
  46. ^ http://www.c-span.org/apa/women_npc.asp
  47. ^ "jaws.org". jaws.org. 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  48. ^ "Women in Journalism: Newspaper Milestones: New York Newspapers: New York State Library". Nysl.nysed.gov. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 


  • Tad Bartimus, Tracy Wood, Kate Webb, and Laura Palmer, War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters who Covered Vietnam (2002)
  • Maurine H. Beasley and Sheila J. Gibbons, Taking Their Place: A Documentary History of Women and Journalism, 2nd ed. (2003)
  • Kathleen A. Cairns, Front-Page Women Journalists, 1920-1950 (Women in the West) (2007)
  • Barbara T. and Jehanne M. Gheith, An Improper Profession: Women, Gender, and Journalism in Late Imperial Russia
  • Agnes Hooper Gottlieb, Women Journalists and the Municipal Housekeeping Movement, 1868-1914 (Women's Studies (Lewiston, N.Y.), V. 31.) (2001)
  • Catherine Gourley, War, Women, and the News: How Female Journalists Won the Battle to Cover World War II by (2007)
  • Donna L. Halper and Donald Fishman, Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting
  • Gabriel Kiley, "Times Are Better than They Used To Be", St. Louis Journalism Review (on women journalists)
  • Marjory Louise Lang, Women Who Made the News: Female Journalists in Canada, 1880-1945
  • Jose Lanters, "Donal's "babes" (Changing the Times: Irish Women Journalists, 1969–1981) (Book Review)", Irish Literary Supplement
  • Jean Marie Lutes, Front-page Girls: Women Journalists in American Culture and Fiction, 1880-1930 (2007)
  • Marion Marzolf, Up from the Footnote: A History of Women Journalists (Communication arts books) (1977)
  • Charlotte Nekola, "Worlds Unseen: Political Women Journalists and the 1930s", pp. 189–198 in Charlotte Nekola & Paula Rabinowitz, editors, Writing Red: An Anthology of American Women Writers, 1930-1940 (1987: The Feminist Press at The City University of New York, New York)
  • Nancy Caldwell Sorel, The Women Who Wrote the War (women wartime journalists)
  • Rodger Streitmatter, Raising Her Voice: African American Women Journalists Who Changed History
  • Rebecca Traister, "Ladies of the Nightly News"[1]
  • USC Annenberg School for Communication, Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture (IJPC) Database.[2]
  • Nancy Whitelaw, They Wrote Their Own Headlines: American Women Journalists (World Writers) (1994)
  1. ^ Traister, Rebecca (2008-10-30). "October 30, 2008". Salon.com. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  2. ^ "ijpc.org". ijpc.org. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 

External links[edit]