Female journalists who changed the world

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha
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If we could invite anyone to dinner it would be this list of women. From the young reporter who pretended to be insane on her first journalism assignment in order to expose the bad treatment of women in a mental asylum, to the woman who wrote about the heartbreaking loss of her newborn child and in turn broke the taboo on miscarriages, the journalism industry is filled with the most fascinating women. Not only were and are they pioneers in their field, they made their very own a dent in the world and for that we salute them.

Have we missed any inspiring female journalists or do you have a journalist you admire? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter @StylistMagazine.

Words: Sejal Kapadia, Images: Rex Features and Getty Images

  • Nellie Bly

    In 1887 New York, a woman was admitted to Blackwell's Island, the city's asylum for the insane. Newspapers from The New York Times to The Sun (US) wrote about this mysterious girl who was "undoubtedly insane", except one newspaper - The New York World. That's because the girl in question was Nellie Bly, their utterly sane reporter on her first assignment. She exposed the terrible conditions in the asylum, pioneering a new kind of investigative journalism. Bly went on to break records as the first person to circumnavigate around the world in 72 days, in emulation of the fictional character Phileas Fogg.

  • Ariel Levy

    Twenty five percent of women will miscarry. Yet none of us ever talk about it. In November 2013, staff reporter at the The New Yorker magazine Ariel Levy broke that taboo by sharing an extensive story on how she miscarried while on a reporting stint in Mongolia. The feature broke boundaries for being featured in a serious literary publication (outside of pregnancy or parenting magazines) and Levy's moving words went viral.

  • Edna Buchanan

    No one reports on crime quite like Edna Buchanan did in Miami in the 1970s and 1980s. A Miami Herald reader knew they were in for a good story when they saw her byline because Buchanan's is a novelist at heart. "Bad things happen to the husbands of the Widow Elkin" began a 1985 story; 'Their eyes met. The moment was spoiled when her husband shot Aguada three times" started another, and most famously in March 1985, Buchanan's story on an ex-con who was shot by a security guard before he could order at a fast food joint began with the words: "Gary Robinson died hungry". Even at the start of her career, Buchanan was referred to as a 'one-woman newsroom'. She went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for general news reporting in 1986.

  • Ethel Payne

    When Chicago Defender reporter Ethel Payne arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1953, there were few black reporters — and even fewer black women — covering the White House. She was known as the 'First Lady of the Black Press' and became the first female African American commentator employed by a national network when CBS hired her in 1972. She covered key events in the civil rights movement and earned a reputation as an aggressive journalist when she asked President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he planned to ban segregation in interstate travel. The president’s response - that he refused to support special interests - made civil rights a major issue of national debate.

  • Marie Colvin

    The fearless, passionate and award-winning American journalist Marie Colvin worked as a foreign correspondent at The Sunday Times from 1985 until she died in February 2012, doing what she loved. Colvin crossed into Syria on the back of a motocross motorcycle, ignoring the Syrian government's attempts to prevent foreign journalists from entering the country. She dedicated her life to finding the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda where armies, tribes or terrorists clashed.

  • Veronica Guerin

    Veronica Guerin became a household name as the fearless crime reporter at Ireland’s best-selling newspaper, the Sunday Independent. Despite putting her life at risk - she was threatened, shot at and attacked a number of times - she was committed to defending the public’s right to know, unearthing ground-breaking stories on the murderers and drug lords of Dublin’s criminal underworld. She died on 26 June 1996 when one of two men on a motorcycle fired six rounds from a pistol at close range as she waited in her car at a traffic light just outside Dublin. Her death led to Ireland’s largest criminal investigation, resulting in over 150 arrests and a crackdown on organized-crime gangs.

  • Evelyn Cunningham

    Cunningham was a correspondent and thereafter editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper which played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. She tackled social injustices the mainstream media never bothered touching — especially lynching — and also profiled Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X.

  • Margaret Fuller

    Margaret Fuller is known as many things: the first woman to write serious literary criticism in American journalism, the first woman allowed to use the library at Harvard University and America's first true feminist. In her short 40-year life she accomplished many firsts and became the editor of the Transcendentalist journal and The Dial thereafter, making her one of the most important figures in the Transcendentalist movement (the religious and philosophical movement that believed in the power of the individual).

  • Lydia Cacho

    One of the most fearless journalists in Mexico, Lydia Cacho sparked scandal in her country after she wrote a book claiming prominent businessmen had conspired to protect a paedophilia ring. Her reporting on violence against women and sexual abuse of children continues to draw attention to injustice around the world but she lives in the shadow of danger and has survived several attempts on her life. Cacho became the first women in Mexico to testify at the Supreme Court after being beaten and raped for her reporting. Despite the number of journalists in Mexico to be killed since 2006 being over 70, Cacho continues to report on corruption on Mexico and across the globe.

  • Barbara Walters

    In 1976, Barbara Walters became the first woman to anchor one of the daily American network television news shows. Her interview style is legendary, throwing her subjects off guard with intensely researched, pointed inquisitions mixed with abstract questions. Her interview with Monica Lewinksy in 1999 was watched by a record 74 million viewers,the highest rating in history for a news program. She has also interviewed politicians from Vladimir Putin to pop stars such as Michael Jackson.

  • Ann Leslie

    Few reporters have filed stories from more than 70 countries, but British journalist Ann Leslie is considered a unique force in journalism. The 73-year-old has witnessed and reported on some of the most significant events of the late 20th Century: she was there when the Berlin Wall came down, she lost her shoes in the crush waiting for Nelson Mandela's release and she was pursued by Mugabe's secret service in Zimbabwe. Leslie had a knack for being everywhere and is considered one of the greatest foreign correspondents of all time.

  • Margaret Bourke-White

    Margaret Bourke-White was America’s first accredited woman photographer during WWII, one of Life magazine’s original four staff photographers, and the first authorized to fly on a combat mission. For decades she covered conflicts, civil wars, humanitarian crises and natural disasters. She documented segregation in the American South, was the last person to interview Gandhi before he was assassinated, was one of the first photographers to document the liberation of Nazi death camps and survived a torpedo attack while traveling by ship to North Africa in 1943.

  • Helen Thomas

    Thomas was a White House reporter who had a front row seat of history as she grilled nine American presidents across her career. She was praised for her relentless drive, with one White House press secretary describing her questioning as "torture". Her refusal to conceal her strong opinions, even when posing questions to a president, made her one of the best known journalists in Washington and a benchmark in her field.

  • Amber Lyon

    "Well-behaved women seldom make history..." is a phrase Lyon lives by. In 2010, she investigated the sex trafficking of domestic minors on the online classified site, Craigslist, and less than a month after the report aired on CNN, Craigslist shut down their Adult Services section in the USA and thereafter worldwide. Last year, the investigative journalist blew the lid on CNN's corrupt relationship with the Bahrain regime.

  • Mary Garber

    In 1946, sports journalism was a man’s domain where female sports writers were barred from press boxes and locker-room interviews and coaches often treated her with condescension. Mary Garber changed all of that by paving the way for female sports writers. She first covered high school sports and then reporting on college athletics before later writing on a wide range of sports for The Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem and The Winston-Salem Journal. In June 2005, she became the first woman to receive the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Award, presented annually since 1981 for major contributions to sports journalism.

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha

Sejal Kapadia Pocha covers stories about everything from women’s issues to cult foods. She describes herself as a balance between Hermione and Luna Lovegood.