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Hunter Plummer

At the turn of the twentieth century, young British and American women saw journalism as a space for economic and social independence. In mainstream (read: white) papers, this was the heyday of New Journalism, a trend characterized by exposing the private and seeking the sensational, and women were at its center through their frequent work reporting from the private sphere. Unfortunately, this put them under great scrutiny by those unreceptive or openly antagonistic toward the need for publicity. Public Spaces / Private Lives: Fictionalizing the Female Journalist, 1880-1940 explores the newspaperwoman as a cultural figure through her depiction in fiction. It argues that writers used the image of the female journalist to embody their anxiety and excitement about the new ways women were engaging with the public and private spheres and about periodical culture’s overwhelming fascination with exposure. Using feminist geography, public sphere theory, and journalism history, this project studies three ways in which the female journalist is at a nexus of gender and publicity during this period: her literal movement within the physical public sphere, her participation in the discursive public sphere often through publicizing the private, and her private life as imagined in fiction. At issue for the dozens of works discussed is the in-between space newspaperwomen occupied; as they entered previously male-dominated physical and discursive spaces and were made to use their new positions to shine a light on private lives, two general opinions emerged. Outsiders articulated their discomfort through depictions of women’s failure, dissatisfaction, or outright removal from “inappropriate” public spaces or contexts. Supporters, many of them female journalists themselves, used their fiction to offer positive portrayals that celebrated their liminality in both the public and private spheres. This project places such works alongside each other to create a complex narrative or cultural history of women taking advantage of the period’s exponential growth and opportunity from the pages of the newspaper.