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8 Trailblazing Women Journalists You Have Probably Never Heard Of

"I'll take the corner office, thank you." Meet eight pioneers who smashed the glass ceiling in newsrooms all over the world.

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1. Edna Machirori, Zimbabwe

Born when Zimbabwe was a British colony called Rhodesia, Edna Machirori became the first black female editor of a Zimbabwean newspaper, rising through the ranks despite thorny media and political climates and a deeply patriarchal culture. “Throughout my career, I have struggled against gender prejudice,” Machirori says. “In a patriarchal society and a profession in which national issues must be debated objectively, the willingness to do so is not necessarily seen as a plus for a woman. Such a woman is seen as an aberration from the norm of what a woman should be: docile and silent.”
Edna Machirori | IWMF/Fungai Tichawangana

Born when Zimbabwe was a British colony called Rhodesia, Edna Machirori became the first black female editor of a Zimbabwean newspaper, rising through the ranks despite thorny media and political climates and a deeply patriarchal culture.

“Throughout my career, I have struggled against gender prejudice,” Machirori says. “In a patriarchal society and a profession in which national issues must be debated objectively, the willingness to do so is not necessarily seen as a plus for a woman. Such a woman is seen as an aberration from the norm of what a woman should be: docile and silent.”

2. Kate Adie, UK

Kate Adie has been a pioneer for women reporting from the frontlines for BBC the last 40 years. As BBC’s first female chief news correspondent, Adie has rushed to cover so many wars around the world that one cartoonist once drew a soldier’s ode to her: “We can’t start yet … Kate Adie isn’t here.”“At my first BBC meeting they asked me to take the minutes. I said, ‘Why? I don’t do shorthand.’ And they looked at me horrified. You had old-fashioned camera crews who could be aggressive about women and their place in reporting. I’d get to the interview and the camera crew would think I was a secretary and ask, ‘Where’s the reporter?’ I stressed that I intended to do the job and wouldn’t put up with such nonsense,” Adie remembers.
Aaron Eckhart and Kate Adie | IWMF

Kate Adie has been a pioneer for women reporting from the frontlines for BBC the last 40 years. As BBC’s first female chief news correspondent, Adie has rushed to cover so many wars around the world that one cartoonist once drew a soldier’s ode to her: “We can’t start yet … Kate Adie isn’t here.”

“At my first BBC meeting they asked me to take the minutes. I said, ‘Why? I don’t do shorthand.’ And they looked at me horrified. You had old-fashioned camera crews who could be aggressive about women and their place in reporting. I’d get to the interview and the camera crew would think I was a secretary and ask, ‘Where’s the reporter?’ I stressed that I intended to do the job and wouldn’t put up with such nonsense,” Adie remembers.

3. Belva Davis, USA

In 1966, Belva Davis became the first African-American woman television reporter on the West Coast.In her autobiography “Never in My Wildest Dreams”, Davis recounts the challenges of breaking into broadcast journalism at a time when stories of particular importance to African Americans and women rarely made mainstream newscasts. When news directors preposterously claimed that blacks couldn’t pronounce long words because their lips were “too thick to enunciate properly.” When a San Francisco station manager dismissed her from a job interview by explaining that he just wasn’t “hiring any Negresses.”
Belva Davis | IWMF

In 1966, Belva Davis became the first African-American woman television reporter on the West Coast.

In her autobiography “Never in My Wildest Dreams”, Davis recounts the challenges of breaking into broadcast journalism at a time when stories of particular importance to African Americans and women rarely made mainstream newscasts. When news directors preposterously claimed that blacks couldn’t pronounce long words because their lips were “too thick to enunciate properly.” When a San Francisco station manager dismissed her from a job interview by explaining that he just wasn’t “hiring any Negresses.”

4. Zubeida Mustafa, Pakistan

In addition to becoming the first woman in a mainstream media newsroom in Pakistan, Zubeida Mustafa became the first woman on the editorial board of the English-language newspaper Dawn, where she fought to gain coverage in the paper for the burgeoning women’s movement. She advocated running stories with women’s voices in all sections instead of relegating them to a “women’s page”. “The attitude was, ‘if it’s not so important, let the woman do it,’ Mustafa says, “but I turned that to my advantage.” As the only woman in the Dawn newsroom during the 1970’s, Mustafa used gender segregation to cover stories men couldn’t. She did so by taking lesser-reported topics like health and making clear their relationship to bigger questions about politics and society.
Zubeida Mustafa | CNN / Via newsroom.blogs.cnn.com

In addition to becoming the first woman in a mainstream media newsroom in Pakistan, Zubeida Mustafa became the first woman on the editorial board of the English-language newspaper Dawn, where she fought to gain coverage in the paper for the burgeoning women’s movement. She advocated running stories with women’s voices in all sections instead of relegating them to a “women’s page”.

“The attitude was, ‘if it’s not so important, let the woman do it,’ Mustafa says, “but I turned that to my advantage.” As the only woman in the Dawn newsroom during the 1970’s, Mustafa used gender segregation to cover stories men couldn’t. She did so by taking lesser-reported topics like health and making clear their relationship to bigger questions about politics and society.

5. Edith Lederer, USA

In her more than four decades with the Associated Press, Edith Lederer has worked on every continent except Antarctica covering wars, famines, nuclear issues and political upheavals. In 1975, she was named AP bureau chief in Peru, becoming the first woman to head a foreign bureau for the Associated Press. She has reported on the diplomatic side of conflicts in Darfur, Iraq, Kosovo, Congo, Sierra Leone and East Timor and major global issues, from Iran’s nuclear program and climate change to aging and women’s rights.
Maria Shriver and Edith Lederer | IWMF

In her more than four decades with the Associated Press, Edith Lederer has worked on every continent except Antarctica covering wars, famines, nuclear issues and political upheavals. In 1975, she was named AP bureau chief in Peru, becoming the first woman to head a foreign bureau for the Associated Press.

She has reported on the diplomatic side of conflicts in Darfur, Iraq, Kosovo, Congo, Sierra Leone and East Timor and major global issues, from Iran’s nuclear program and climate change to aging and women’s rights.

6. Elena Poniatowska, Mexico

Elena Poniatowska began her journalism career in Mexico in 1953. Despite the lack of opportunity for women in the first three decades of her career, she evolved from writing society columns to writing about social and political issues in Mexican newspapers, as well as over 20 books. She is considered to be “Mexico's grande dame of letters” and is still an active writer. In 1976, she helped found the feminist magazine Fem.In 1979, Poniatowska was the first woman to receive Mexico’s National Journalism Prize.
Via periodiconmx.com

Elena Poniatowska began her journalism career in Mexico in 1953. Despite the lack of opportunity for women in the first three decades of her career, she evolved from writing society columns to writing about social and political issues in Mexican newspapers, as well as over 20 books. She is considered to be “Mexico's grande dame of letters” and is still an active writer. In 1976, she helped found the feminist magazine Fem.

In 1979, Poniatowska was the first woman to receive Mexico’s National Journalism Prize.

7. Colleen “Koky” Dishon, USA

In 1982, Colleen “Koky” Dishon became the first woman on the Chicago Tribune's masthead.Before she left the Tribune in 1994, Dishon was responsible for starting at least 15 new sections for the paper, including KidNews, WomanNews, a newspaper wrap-around for commuters called Evening News, and Friday, a weekend entertainment and activities guide.James D. Squires, the editor who had promoted her, said: ”There have been two great creative people at the Chicago Tribune. The first was Col. (Robert) McCormick who put together a world-recognized newspaper, and the second was Koky Dishon who created sections people wanted to read.”
Colleen “Koky” Dishon | IWMF

In 1982, Colleen “Koky” Dishon became the first woman on the Chicago Tribune's masthead.

Before she left the Tribune in 1994, Dishon was responsible for starting at least 15 new sections for the paper, including KidNews, WomanNews, a newspaper wrap-around for commuters called Evening News, and Friday, a weekend entertainment and activities guide.

James D. Squires, the editor who had promoted her, said: ”There have been two great creative people at the Chicago Tribune. The first was Col. (Robert) McCormick who put together a world-recognized newspaper, and the second was Koky Dishon who created sections people wanted to read.”

8. Bonnie Angelo, USA

Bonnie Angelo joined Time magazine's Washington bureau in 1966. In 1978, she was appointed London bureau chief and thus became the first woman to head a Time bureau overseas, and in 1985, she became the first woman to head a major U.S. Time bureau in New York City. She was president of the Women’s National Press Club and was at the forefront in the battle to end discrimination against women journalists. In London, she was the first woman to head the Association of American Correspondents.
Bonnie Angelo / Via hallsoffame.jomc.unc.edu

Bonnie Angelo joined Time magazine's Washington bureau in 1966. In 1978, she was appointed London bureau chief and thus became the first woman to head a Time bureau overseas, and in 1985, she became the first woman to head a major U.S. Time bureau in New York City.

She was president of the Women’s National Press Club and was at the forefront in the battle to end discrimination against women journalists. In London, she was the first woman to head the Association of American Correspondents.

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