THE GOOD GIRLS REVOLT
In 1970, Newsweek magazine decided to do a cover story on the brand new Women’s Movement, but there was just one problem: they had no woman to write it. Only men were hired as writers on the magazine; women were hired as researchers and rarely, if ever, promoted to reporter or writer. The day Newsweek hit the stands with its cover called "WOMEN IN REVOLT," 46 of us sued the magazine for sex discrimination. We were the first women in the media to sue and comprised the first female class action suit. Following us, women working at Time Inc., The Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, NBC and the Associated Press, among others, also sued their employers.
But THE GOOD GIRLS REVOLT is more than just an account of the legal limitations on women at the time. It is a transformative tale of women who were raised in the 1950s and found ourselves in the Revolutionary 1960s. We had to reject everything we were raised to believe about a woman’s role in society. We had to redefine our expectations, our ambitions and ourselves.
Represented by Eleanor Holmes Norton, then an ACLU lawyer, we settled the case on August 26, 1970, the first Women’s Strike for Equality day when 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Suffrage Amendment. When management didn’t fulfill its promises to hire and promote women, we sued again in 1972. By this time, Katharine Graham, the owner of The Washington Post Company, which owned Newsweek, had become familiar with feminism, thanks to her friendship with Gloria Steinem. She ordered her corporate lawyer, Joseph Califano, later the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter, to settle the case. We set goals and timetables: By the end of 1975, one-third of all reporters and writers were to be women, one third of all researchers were to be men, and there would be a woman senior editor. I was named Newsweek’s first woman Senior Editor in 1975.
Forty years later, there is no longer a Researcher category at Newsweek or any position that is segregated by sex. But like the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Movement didn’t solve everything. Young women who have excelled in school are still hitting a glass ceiling in the workplace—not a legal one but a cultural one. The parallel story of three young Newsweek writers today reflects the more subtle kinds of discrimination that still exist.