Out on Assignment

Newspaper Women and the Making of Modern Public Space

By Alice Fahs

376 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2196-8
    Published: December 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6903-1
    Published: November 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7708-6
    Published: November 2011

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Out on Assignment illuminates the lives and writings of a lost world of women who wrote for major metropolitan newspapers at the start of the twentieth century. Using extraordinary archival research, Alice Fahs unearths a richly networked community of female journalists drawn by the hundreds to major cities--especially New York--from all parts of the United States.

Newspaper women were part of a wave of women seeking new, independent, urban lives, but they struggled to obtain the newspaper work of their dreams. Although some female journalists embraced more adventurous reporting, including stunt work and undercover assignments, many were relegated to the women's page. However, these intrepid female journalists made the women's page their own. Fahs reveals how their writings--including celebrity interviews, witty sketches of urban life, celebrations of being "bachelor girls," advice columns, and a campaign in support of suffrage--had far-reaching implications for the creation of new, modern public spaces for American women at the turn of the century. As observers and actors in a new drama of independent urban life, newspaper women used the simultaneously liberating and exploitative nature of their work, Fahs argues, to demonstrate the power of a public voice, both individually and collectively.

About the Author

Alice Fahs is professor of history at the University of California, Irvine. Her previous books include The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861-1865.
For more information about Alice Fahs, visit the Author Page.


"A century ago, there was a rich network of women journalists among the country's abundant newspapers. They forged new identities both for themselves and for the print culture they created. They have long deserved this exploration."--Library Journal

“A gift to journalism historians. Fahs seems to have unearthed every single newspaper story with a female byline appearing in a mainstream big-city paper between the mid-1880s and about 1910.”--Women’s Review of Books

“A most informative and enjoyable read. Highly recommended. Upper-division graduates through faculty.”--Choice

“Fahs suggests that the legacy of this half-forgotten generation stretched beyond journalism.”--Columbia Journalism Review

“Offers a fresh perspective for evaluating the history of women in journalism.”--Journal of American History

"Give[s] readers a new way of looking at women journalists' actual contribution to both journalism specifically and society more generally. . . . Aspiring historians would be well served to learn from Fahs' approach."--American Journalism