Newswomen started gaining prominence in the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th, most prominently with Nellie Bly, a reporter at the Pittsburgh Dispatch who wrote a series of investigative reports on women factory workers.
When an editor assigned Bly to the “women’s pages”, as so many newswomen before her, she went to Mexico to work as a foreign correspondent. Later in her career, she published these dispatches in the book, Six Months in Mexico.
After Mexico, Bly aimed to stake her claim. She headed to New York City, where many of her female predecessors made their marks, 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 later beacme book, Ten Days in a Mad-House.
Although Bly died prematurely in 1922, newswomen such as Emma Bugbee, a New York Herald reporter who covered the sinking of the Titanic, the women’s suffrage movement and Eleanor Roosevelt, yet was unable to sit in the newsroom, helped champion newswomen’s rights. Following in their steps, a group of newswomen established the New York Newspaper Woman’s Club in 1922 to carry the legacy of equality. They were no less extraordinary.
Since then, the Club, renamed the Newswomen’s Club of New York in 1971, has supported women in journalism, by provide networking and training opportunities, and promote the highest journalistic standards.
The organization quickly became known other things, too, including 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 Newswomen’s Club has also successfully helped female journalists achieve professional equality for newswomen, meritocracy in newsrooms and a network through which newswomen could help each other rise to the top.
Our mission remains the same.
Today, the Newswomen’s Club of New York is the only professional organization exclusively for women journalists in the New York metropolitan area. Our membership includes women who work in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, photography and new media. Every year, the Newswomen’s Club puts on The Front Page Awards for journalistic excellence, which remain among the most prestigious in American journalism. The Newswomen’s Club scholarship fund recognizes scholastic excellence in journalism by supporting female students attending the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Most of all, the Newswomen’s Club promotes the journalistic values and methodology that are as relevant to a free press today as they were 94 years ago, despite changes in technology and the distribution of news. As our industry undergoes some of the most extreme upheaval it has experienced in the past century, we believe it is imperative to uphold the values that are the hallmarks of good journalism, to maintain the public trust and to recognize newswomen who help set the standards for our profession.