In the 1970s, women journalists employed at mainstream U.S. print news media outlets undertook an assortment of grassroots, ad hoc campaigns to protest discriminatory employment practices. This dissertation reconstructs the daily labour undertaken, and range of strategies and tactics implemented, by four of these grassroots groups. It maps their activism, and the varied political strategies which they were compelled to test, including forming workplace organisations, picketing male-only press clubs, filing Title VII sex discrimination complaints and lawsuits, and creating newsletters to disseminate information and connect women working in media. Over the course of the decade, newswomen adopted a highly experimental, improvisational, and adaptive approach, with tactics chosen for their strategic value, rather than their attachment to an ideological perspective. This allowed newswomen from a range of backgrounds, and who had been variously radicalised through their reporting on the feminist movement, or their involvement in the labour and union movements, to come together to form issue-based coalitions.
In acknowledgement of the diversity of perspectives amongst newswomen, this dissertation situates this activism at the intersection of media, feminist, labour, legal, and 1970s histories. Although newswomen did not always identify as feminists, this dissertation asserts that they undertook an inherently feminist project to reform the media and were some of the most quietly influential feminist actors in this period regardless of how they self-identified. By both acknowledging the outsized and unique position of the media within American society, and re-positioning newswomen amongst other workplace rights campaigns helmed by professional women, this dissertation demonstrates that the 1970s saw the quiet radicalisation of a generation of newswomen who undertook activist campaigns in their workplaces, and went on to shape the U.S. news media.