Behind ‘The Good Girls Revolt’: The ‘Newsweek’ Lawsuit That Paved the Way for Women Writers
Women of 'Newsweek' were little more than fact-checkers before they sued. Lynn Povich talks to Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison.
They were told that “women don’t write here.” That, though they had attended Seven Sisters colleges, graduated with honors, and had the same lofty aspirations as their male colleagues, they were merely there to push carts of mail, clip stories from newspapers, fact-check, and occasionally mix a cocktail for an editor. Nora Ephron had been a mail girl at Newsweek in the 1960s, as had Susan Brownmiller, the feminist writer. But both escaped early—before, you might say, the women got fed up.
Lynn Povich was among that group of women who finally decided to buck the system. In her new book, The Good Girls Revolt, she documents how, in 1970—after months of secret plotting in the ladies’ bathroom—she and 45 other women sued Newsweek for gender discrimination, the first lawsuit of its kind.
Though the Newsweek suit was groundbreaking, decades later it had all but disappeared from the magazine’s institutional knowledge. In 2009, amid frustrations of their own, three young women started to investigate tales of a gender-based lawsuit against their employers some 40 years earlier, for a piece that would ultimately appear on the magazine’s cover. Two of the three authors of that piece, Jesse Ellison, a Newsweek writer, and Jessica Bennett, now the executive editor of Tumblr—the third writer, Sarah Ball, is now an editor at Vanity Fair—talk to Povich about women, work, and feminism then and now.