I have to say, there were a lot of women who came to Newsweek, saw the lay of the land right away, and left, and became very successful writers. Nora Ephron, who was hired as a mail girl—she left right away. Jane Bryant Quinn, personal finance writer; Ellen Goodman, columnist for The Boston Globe; Susan Brownmiller—they all left within a year, knowing that they would never be writers at Newsweek.
Describe the Mad Men-style office environment. That’s something people who are starting out today cannot believe.
The thing about newsmagazines [in those days] is, you have a class of young women who are coming in, and then you have all these guys: married, single, whatever. It naturally sets up this sort of “office wife” situation, because all these women are checking stories for these guys—the “holy writers,” as one of the women said. It was very tempting, and I must say, whether they were married or single, there was a lot of sex in the office. There just was. And of course, after the sexual revolution of the mid-’60s, even more so. Because there are a lot of people in their twenties, and hormones are raging, and the Pill had come, and the sexual revolution was on, so…
And there was no AIDS yet.
There was no AIDS. And most of it was consensual. It wasn’t sexual harassment, you know. As Nora Ephron said, they wanted to sleep with you, and if you said no, you didn’t have to. Nobody was really pushing you. So, on the one hand, there was a lot of sex, and people were having affairs all the time.
On the other hand, there were things that happened that today, you would say, really crossed the line. There were bosses who were having affairs with their direct reports. One of the senior editors who was having an affair with a researcher who reported to him, asked for her to get promoted, and she got promoted. Now, who’s to say why she got promoted? There was an editor who was stalking one of his researchers and said, “If you don’t marry me, you’re going to have to leave Newsweek.” Ultimately, she left.
So what happened after the suit was filed?
[The company] immediately decided to negotiate an agreement and settle; they certainly weren’t going to go to court! They would promise to hire and promote and give women writing tryouts and send some women to the bureaus. They did send some women to the bureaus, and that was successful—the women who had already been doing a lot of reporting in New York did well. The women who tried out as writers—three or four staff women—all failed, for various reasons.
After about a year, nothing much was happening. A couple women got promoted to reporters; one woman on the staff became a writer. Then they started hiring a few women from the outside to come in. About a year and a half into it, there were four new women writers, and about fifteen new male writers. So at a time when they’re supposedly aggressively looking for women, they’re hiring men at three to one. And believe it or not, two years later, we decided to sue again.
By this time, Eleanor Holmes Norton had become Human Rights Commissioner for the City of New York. So we hired Harriet Rabb, who was a new professor at Columbia teaching an employment-rights clinic. She was fabulous; she was just amazing. Now, two years later, there was enough employment-rights law that she was actually able to use goals and timetables and negotiate. We decided to sue in 1973, in the spring. At that point, Kay Graham was being sued by seven black reporters at The Washington Post called “the Metro Seven.” The women [there also] were restless and had been writing letters saying they were really unhappy with the situation for women at the Post. And now we had sued for a second time, so she was really annoyed. She called Joe Califano, who was the corporate lawyer for the Post. (He later became secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, under Lyndon Johnson.)
Joe came up to negotiate with Harriet and a group of us on the women’s panel. At first, he was very resistant to everything. Then Harriet said, “Look, we need one third of all the writers and reporters to be women, and we need one third of the researchers to be men—to show that this is not a female job; this is a job. Anyone who is coming into an entry-level position should do this job, not just women.”