After hearing that Jill Abramson was named editor of The New York Times, columnist Gail Collins couldn’t help but think about how much has changed since the early 1970s, when female journalists were still widely discriminated against at the Times.
In an email interview, Collins — who was the Times’ first female editorial page editor and has written two books about women in American society — referred to Nan Robertson’s “The Girls in the Balcony,” which describes this discrimination. She also spoke about why Abramson’s appointment is so significant:
“I was very happy but not surprised since Jill was such a logical choice.
The other day I had a chance to reread Nan’s description of the balcony at the National Press Club where women reporters were — as a great gesture of tolerance by the men — allowed to stand huddled together if they wanted to cover newsmakers’ appearances there. While the male reporters and their friends/doctors/insurance agents/golf partners sat and ate lunch, the women stood up there, straining to hear what was being said.
This went on until the 1970s, and it just knocks me out to think that I got to watch my profession go from there to here.
In her talk [to the newsroom this afternoon], Jill thanked Janet Robinson, who’s head of the Times corporation and a wonderful role model and friend to us all.
In this one great paper, maybe we’ve reached the ultimate goal of the entire women’s movement, which is to make it utterly normal for women to be everywhere, including the top.”