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Victorian Women In Journalism

In my Civil War time travel romance, Erin’s Rebel, my heroine is a modern day journalist who finds herself transported to the time of the Civil War. Although at first, she’s forced into the position of a laundress in an army camp, she later obtains a job as a reporter on a small town newpaper.

To learn if a woman in this time period could hold such a position, I researched the role American women played in journalism in the years leading up to the Civil War. What I found was that American women worked in publishing as early as the colonial era where they held positions as printers and publishers. Over time, they moved into newsrooms as reporters.

But unlike today, women reporters “were often relegated to covering the women’s perspective, or writing ‘sob stories’, so called because their sentimental style was designed to get readers crying.” http://www.iwmf.org/features/7578

For years, women journalists wrote exclusively for ‘women’s pages’ and none covered hard news.

A few of the American women journalists who wrote during the Victorian era were Margaret Fuller, Rebecca Ann Latimer Felton and Sarah Josepha Hale.

Margaret Fuller was “the first femal foreign correspondent.” http://www.distinguisedwomen.com/biographies/fuller-m.html She also was a book review editor and edited a quarterly literary publication, ‘The Dial’, from 1840 to 1842. In 1846 she became a foreign correspondent for the ‘Tribune’.

Rebecca Ann Latimer Felton wrote speeches and press releases for her husband who served in the U.S. Congress. She was also editor of the newspaper they owned.
http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/felton.html

Sarah Josepha Hale wrote a novel, Northwood, that was successful. As a result she was recruited as editor “of a new magazine devoted to women.” http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/godey/hale.html In 1836, she was approached by Godey to edit his ‘Lady’s Book’, but she at first declined to stay with her own magazine. Later, he bought her magazine and combined both publications into one, keeping Sarah as editor.

Although Victorian women were shut out from covering all but stories of interest to other women, they were a force in the journalistic world of the times.

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