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Equal right pioneer to speak at BIG ARTS Talking Points

By Staff | Mar 13, 2019

Lynn Povich

In 1970, Lynn Povich was a reporter and writer for Newsweek. She and 45 other young female employees filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the magazine of “systematic discrimination” in hiring and promotion.

In 1970, Eleanor Holmes Norton represented 60 female employees of Newsweek – including Povich – who had filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Newsweek had a policy of only allowing men to be reporters. The women won, and Newsweek agreed to allow women to be reporters. The day the claim was filed, Newsweek’s cover article was “Women in Revolt,” covering the feminist movement; the article was written by a woman who had been hired on a freelance basis since there were no female reporters at the magazine.

Theirs was the first female class action suit in the United States. And they won.

“Good Girls Revolt” is the title of Povich’s Talking Points program at BIG ARTS on March 19 at 10 a.m. in BIG ARTS Strauss Theater. It is also part of the title of her 2012 book, “The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace.” In 2016, Amazon Prime released a 10-part series based on Povich’s book.

More than a history lesson, it is a tale with particular resonance in the days of the #MeToo movement.

“What I think is really interesting is this whole rejuvenation of the women’s movement,” Povich said.

For many years, younger women did not want to be called feminists, or thought we were living in a post-feminist era, she said.

“Then it kind of started with the celebrities who began to embrace feminism. And it sort of broke open with the Me Too movement,” Povich said.

While the circumstances of what women have been experiencing and talking about in recent years may be different, it is the same problem, she said.

Povich, a graduate of Vassar, began her career as a secretary in the Paris Bureau of Newsweek magazine. Following her 1970 lawsuit she became a reporter and writer in their New York office. Within five years Povich was appointed the first woman senior editor in Newsweek’s history. She went on to become editor-in-chief of Working Woman magazine in 1991. In 1996, Povich joined MSNBC.com as East Coast managing editor, overseeing the Internet content of NBC News and MSNBC cable programs and personalities.

A recipient of the Matrix Award for Magazines, Povich serves on the advisory boards of the International Women’s Media Foundation, Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch and CUNY Graduate Center Foundation Board.

The empowerment of women has been a lifelong cause for Povich and what concerns her is that young women today have not been taught or seen national examples of how to organize.

“We had civil rights. We had the anti-war movement, which questioned authority; and, we had the women’s movement, which really made us question the roles we had been handed as women,” she said.

Povich’s father, Shirley Povich, was sports editor for The Washington Post for 41 years and someone Ken Burns turned to in the creation of the series “Baseball.” She edited a selection of his columns for a book titled “All those mornings … at the Post – The 20th Century in Sports from famed Washington Post Columnist Shirley Povich.”

Her brother, talk show host Maury Povich, lives near from her home in New York.

“He does good things with his show,” she said. “He gets a lot of kids out of foster care and he’s very philanthropic. We’re very close.”

The BIG ARTS Talking Points series offers a chance to fully engage with its speakers with a question-and-answer period following the presentation. Coffee and “bites” are available.