Journalism broads

Jill Abramson reviews a new collection of journalism by women.

Published January 9, 2006 3:22PM (EST)

The New York Times Book Review on Sunday included a review by Times managing editor Jill Abramson of "Journalistas: 100 Years of the Best Writing and Reporting by Women Journalists." In it, Abramson admits to being wary of the volume. "I hated the title and still do," she writes. "It sounds silly and is redolent of all sorts of dopey words for female journalists, including one of my least favorites, editrix." Abramson, not a fan of anthologies, was also leery about grouping women's writings together: "Would this 'greatest of' collection, limited to women, match up when read against the work of such lions as Joseph Mitchell or A.J. Liebling? ... I have never been fully persuaded that women do really speak and write in an entirely different voice from men, so the idea of segregating them in a book did not thrill me."

And yet, the collection, which includes work by Nellie Bly, Emma Goldman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Mary MaCarthy, Rebecca West, Pauline Kael and Zelda Fitzgerald, seems to have blown Abramson away. Among the pieces she singles out are Martha Gellhorn's "utterly chilling account of Dachau in the earliest days of the liberation in 1945," a 1930s Vogue piece by Maddy Vegtel about becoming a mother for the first time at 40, and a 1996 profile of the Clinton marriage by Erica Jong for the Nation that "should be required reading for anyone evaluating whether Hillary is presidential timber."

Citing Carol Gilligan's assertion about a female ability to recognize intricacy, Abramson writes that "most of the writers in 'Journalistas' do have a special eye for intricacies, but they are also full of brave judgments and passion for political life in all its dimensions."

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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