Sensational : The Hidden History of America's "Girl Stunt Reporters"
by Todd, Kim






Presents a social history of women journalists of the Gilded Age who went undercover to champion women's rights and expose corruption and abuse in America.





In the mid-nineteenth century, few employment paths were open to women beyond domestic worker, teacher, and sweatshop laborer, and all were anathema to those with independent minds and adventurous spirits. Fortunately, newspapers of the day saw the subscription-bait value of hiring young, intrepid women for so-called stunt assignments, going undercover to expose all-too prevalent cases of human rights abuses, poverty, and political corruption. For women willing, more typically eager, to accept the challenge, the world was as exhilarating as it was dangerous. As the Victorian age inexorably gave way to the very different modern era, women journalists began to emerge from their undercover pretenses to openly write overt works of investigative journalism. In order for today's indefatigable, audacious women (or men, for that matter)-such journalists as Jane Mayer and Barbara Ehrenreich-there first had to be such gutsy girl reporters as Nellie Bly and Ida Tarbell. With textured analysis and an instinct for salient details, Todd emulates her pioneering heroines to offer multidimensional examples of the revolutionary contributions women of this era made to journalism. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.





In the mid-nineteenth century, few employment paths were open to women beyond domestic worker, teacher, and sweatshop laborer, and all were anathema to those with independent minds and adventurous spirits. Fortunately, newspapers of the day saw the subscription-bait value of hiring young, intrepid women for so-called stunt assignments, going undercover to expose all-too prevalent cases of human rights abuses, poverty, and political corruption. For women willing, more typically eager, to accept the challenge, the world was as exhilarating as it was dangerous. As the Victorian age inexorably gave way to the very different modern era, women journalists began to emerge from their undercover pretenses to openly write overt works of investigative journalism. In order for today's indefatigable, audacious women (or men, for that matter)-such journalists as Jane Mayer and Barbara Ehrenreich-there first had to be such gutsy girl reporters as Nellie Bly and Ida Tarbell. With textured analysis and an instinct for salient details, Todd emulates her pioneering heroines to offer multidimensional examples of the revolutionary contributions women of this era made to journalism. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.





A history of a group of pioneering investigative journalists. During the 1880s, notes environmental and science writer Todd, "girl stunt reporters" began going undercover to report on corruption and malfeasance in the U.S. Among these female reporters was Nellie Bly, who, in 1887, published the "Inside the Madhouse" series for the World, in which she faked insanity to expose conditions in a mental hospital in New York City. Bly‚??s writing "shook free of the ruffles and hoop skirts of Victorian prose," and her "strong first-person point of view immersed readers in the narrator‚??s experience." Across the country, other women took notice and entered the fray, exposing sweatshops, corrupt politicians, and other abuses of power. However, in 1888, when a young woman known only as "Girl Reporter" faked a pregnancy in order to write a series on abortion physicians for the Chicago Times, some felt she had pushed stunt reporting too far. In addition, "female writers began to wonder if assigning editors had their best interests at heart." Before long, the author contends, stunt reporters fell out of favor, and the term "yellow journalism" became a popular way to describe stories deemed outrageous or sensational. Stunt reporting eventually faded away, but its impact would remain, reflected in the new journalism work of Joan Didion, George Plimpton, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, and others. "By writing these reporters back into history," Todd writes, "I aim to highlight the double standard that labels women as ‚??stunt reporters‚?? while men are ‚??investigative journalists,‚?? even as they do the same work." The author succeeds in resurrecting the indispensable contributions of Bly and others, weaving together an enjoyable chronicle of a specific element of the history of journalism. Like she did for Maria Sibylla Merian in Chrysalis (2007), Todd celebrates the contributions of her subjects while placing them within the appropriate historical context. An engaging and enlightening portrait of trailblazers who "challenged‚?¶views of what a woman should be." Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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