Sensational cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Kim Todd pulls no punches in her new book Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters.”  Opening with an expose on the illicit abortion trade in 1880s Chicago, Todd sets the stage for her analysis of more than a century of “writing while female.”  Todd’s unflinching portrayal of pioneering female journalists offers a new—and far more complete—view of the history of American journalism.  From the moment when Elizabeth Cochrane, aka “Nellie Bly,” burst on the scene with her undercover profile of New York’s public mental hospital, through the Yellow Journalism era of the late 1890s and well into the twentieth century, Todd tracks the evolution of journalism as a profession, and with it the rise and fall of women reporters.  The social issues that sparked the enormous popularity of stories written by women, and what caused “respectable” publications to pull away from their superstar reporters–and historians to whitewash their contributions–form the meat of Todd’s extensively-researched volume.

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