Lynn Povich’s The Good Girls Revolt tells the story of a class action lawsuit that was brought against Newsweek in 1970, by a number of the women then employed at the magazine. In their groundbreaking suit, the forty-six women charged Newsweek with discrimination in promotion and hiring; this was the first female class action lawsuit, and the first brought by female journalists.
One of the leaders of the suit, Povich deftly ties several narrative threads together in this fast-paced account. She simultaneously details the relevant history of the magazine; introduces the reader to a large cast of characters, including editors, researchers, attorneys and reporters; and paints a vivid picture of the work environment at the magazine in the late 1960s and early 1970s. While the story can become complicated at times, particularly when it comes to discussing the lawsuit’s aftermath, Povich’s writing style is straightforward and engaging.
It would be nice to think that Povich’s experience is one that resides safely in the past. But while great strides have been made for workplace equality – and gender equality in general – Povich makes it clear that women are still encountering workplace discrimination today, albeit in more subtle forms. She bookends her tale with the story of three young female Newsweek employees who, almost forty years after the lawsuit, navigate an environment that, in some ways, may not have changed as much as one would expect – and hope.
Povich ends her book with updates on what a number of the original forty-six women did in the years after the lawsuit. Some of the updates are inspiring, and others are more poignant. But one quote in particular has really stuck with me. In discussing why the suit is still relevant, Harriet Rabb, a lawyer that worked on the Newsweek case, says,
“It’s not over, and it’s never going to be over—the realization that people always have to have somebody who’s the other, that justice is so hard to come by, that fairness is so hard to come by. You hope that it will get better, and it does get better. But backsliding is so much easier than forward progress and there always has to be somebody who’s willing to step forward.”
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.