Newswomen started gaining prominence in the United States in the 1800s.
Nellie Bly, for example, started out as a reporter in 1880 at the Pittsburgh Dispatch with a series of investigative reports on the plight of women factory workers.
When she was assigned to the women’s pages, as so many newswomen were, she went to Mexico to work as a foreign correspondent.
Her dispatches were later published in the book, Six Months in Mexico.
When Bly was sent back to the women’s pages, she quit Pittsburgh and headed to New York City. Many newswomen made their marks here, working for some of the greatest newspapers in the world.
Persistence landed Bly at the New York World, where she took her most famous undercover assignment, investigating the infamous Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island.
Those reports were published in the book, Ten Days in a Mad-House.
Bly died in 1922, but the newswomen who established the club that year were no less extraordinary.
One of them, Emma Bugbee, worked at the New York Herald (later Herald Tribune) for 56 years. Her first big assignment was the sinking of the Titanic.
She covered the suffrage movement, and, like Bly, sometimes went undercover for her investigative reports.
Bugbee became most famous for her coverage of Eleanor Roosevelt. Like other newswomen, it was years before Bugbee was allowed to work in the city room.
Her desk was on a different floor. Sometimes, their desks were in the hall. And they were not welcomed to join press clubs.
The New York Newspaper Woman’s Club was born out of a desire to achieve professional equality for newswomen, meritocracy in newsrooms, and to build a network through which newswomen could help each other.
The organization quickly became known for its high professional standards its generosity expressed through its welfare committee and relief fund, and its dedication to the news business and the women reporters and photographers who were so vital to it.
The club changed its name in 1971 to The Newswomen’s Club of New York.