The ‘Girl Reporter’ in Fact and Fiction: Miriam Michelson’s New Women and Progressive-Era Periodical Culture

Karen E. H. Skinazi, Lori Harrison-Kahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract

This profile contributes to ongoing attempts to expand the canon of suffrage literature by introducing an overlooked figure, journalist and fiction writer Miriam Michelson (1870-1942). Considering Michelson’s coverage of women’s conventions, such as the 1895 Woman’s Congress of the Pacific Coast, for the San Francisco Call alongside short stories that she published in the Saturday Evening Post and other mass circulation magazines, we explore how she mobilized Progressive-era print culture to advocate rights for women and to expand their participation in the public sphere. While Michelson’s oeuvre offers a colorful panoply of New Women characters, from suffragettes and female criminals to Hawaiian princesses and Amazonian goddesses, we contend that the figure of the newspaperwoman—whether rendered in the journalistic persona Michelson assumed for her first-person reportage or in the fictional “girl-reporter” Rhoda Massey, heroine of her 1905 Yellow Journalist series—served as the writer’s “best and strongest argument for woman suffrage.” Examining Michelson’s use of different forms of print (the daily newspaper and the mass circulation magazine) as well as different genres (journalism and serial fiction), we show that periodical culture remains a rich and still un-mined site for feminist scholarship. This profile provides context for the two reprints that follow by offering a literary-biographical overview of Michelson’s life and career, focusing on the way that female reporters used their own identities as professional women to debunk negative stereotypes about, and create more constructive prototypes for, New Womanhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-338
Number of pages18
JournalLegacy: A Journal of American Women Writers
Volume34
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • New Woman
  • Suffrage
  • Journalism
  • Miriam Michelson

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