Award-winning journalist Lynn Povich—the author of the book “The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace”—visited Iowa State University on Thursday, Dec. 1, as the fall 2016 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics.
Povich, the first female senior editor at Newsweek magazine and the former editor-in-chief of Working Woman magazine, presented “The Good Girls Revolt: Women, Work and Politics.”
“For this fall’s Mary Louise Smith Chair, we were interested in a speaker who could link the feminist movement of the 1970s with the status of women in today’s workplace and political environment,” said Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, which sponsors the lecture series. “We believe the topic of her lecture is timely and will be well-received by the university community.”
Povich has spent more than 40 years in the news business. After graduating from Vassar College, she began her career as a secretary in the Paris bureau of Newsweek magazine, rising to become a reporter and writer in New York City. In 1970, she was one of 46 women who filed sex discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the magazine, the first women in the media to do so.
Represented by Eleanor Holmes Norton, then an American Civil Liberties Union attorney and now a delegate to the U.S. Congress representing the District of Columbia, the women settled their case on August 26, 1970—the same day as the first Women’s Strike for Equality, when 50,000 women marched down New York City’s Fifth Avenue in honor of the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote.
When Newsweek’s management did not fulfill its promises to hire and promote women, the women sued again in 1972. By this time, Katharine Graham, the owner of The Washington Post Co., which owned Newsweek, had become familiar with feminism, thanks to her friendship with women’s rights leader Gloria Steinem. Graham ordered her corporate lawyer to settle the case and set goals and timetables for the promotion of women at the magazine. “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,” said Povich, who was named Newsweek’s first woman senior editor in 1975.
In 2012, Povich published a book, “The Good Girls Revolt,” about the landmark lawsuit, its bittersweet effects on the women involved, and what has—and hasn’t—changed for women in the workplace. According to Steinem, the book is “as compelling as any novel, and also an accurate, intimate history of new women journalists invading the male journalistic world of the 1970s. Lynn Povich turns this epic revolt into a lesson on why and how we’ve just begun.”
Her book has inspired a 10-part original series, available now on Amazon Prime. Called the “Good Girls Revolt,” the series is a fictionalized dramatization produced by TriStar and Amazon. “I’m thrilled that our story is getting a wider and younger audience with a stellar team of female producers, writers and actors,” Povich said. A trailer from the series is available here.
Povich became editor-in-chief of Working Woman magazine in 1991 and, in 1996, joined MSNBC.com as its East Coast managing editor, overseeing the internet content of NBC News and MSNBC cable programs and personalities. In 2005, she edited a book of columns by her father, famed Washington Post sports writer Shirley Povich, titled “All Those Mornings … at the Post.”
A recipient of the Matrix Award for Magazines, Povich serves on the advisory boards of the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center Foundation. She is married to Stephen Shepard, who was editor-in-chief of Business Week magazine for 20 years and founding dean emeritus of CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism.