Synopses & Reviews
Anonymous in Their Own Names
recounts the lives of three women who, while working as their husbands' uncredited professional partners, had a profound and enduring impact on the media in the first half of the twentieth century. With her husband, Edward L. Bernays, Doris E. Fleischman helped found and form the field of public relations. Ruth Hale helped her husband, Heywood Broun, become one of the most popular and influential newspaper columnists of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1925 Jane Grant and her husband, Harold Ross, started the New Yorker
Yet these women's achievements have been invisible to countless authors who have written about their husbands. This invisibility is especially ironic given that all three were feminists who kept their birth names when they married as a sign of their equality with their husbands, then battled the government and societal norms to retain their names. Hale and Grant so believed in this cause that in 1921 they founded the Lucy Stone League to help other women keep their names, and Grant and Fleischman revived the league in 1950. This was the same year Grant and her second husband, William Harris, founded White Flower Farm, pioneering at that time and today one of the country's most celebrated commercial nurseries.
Despite strikingly different personalities, the three women were friends and lived in overlapping, immensely stimulating New York City circles. Susan Henry explores their pivotal roles in their husbands' extraordinary success and much more, including their problematic marriages and their strategies for overcoming barriers that thwarted many of their contemporaries.
"Living in New York City in the first half of the 20th century, Fleischman, Hale, and Grant had much in common: they worked as journalists, married reluctantly, kept their maiden names, and spent most of their lives supporting their husbands' careers. Fleischman was the backbone of Edward Bernays's public relations activities, but never met with clients. Sacrificing her own career and ultimately her marriage, Ruth Hale helped make Heywood Broun an enormously successful journalist. With Harold Ross, Jane Grant cofounded the New Yorker, but fought to be compensated for her efforts. In addition, these women maintained complex households, where they entertained guests several times per week in the service of their husbands' business interests. Henry, a professor emeritus of journalism at Cal State Northridge, is at her best showing how these conflicted feminists balanced a multitude of professional and personal tasks. However, Henry makes each woman the subject of a minibiography, and this three-part separation proves as odd as the title, an allusion to their participation in the Lucy Stone League, which supported women's efforts to keep their birth names. A chronological or thematic approach might have served her subjects better. Photos. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A collective biography of three New York City women who pushed boundaries, changed media, and advanced the cause of equality
About the Author
Susan Henry is Professor Emeritus of Journalism at California State University, Northridge, and a former editor of Journalism History.