Sensational: Book summary and reviews of Sensational by Kim Todd

Sensational

The Hidden History of America's

by Kim Todd

Sensational by Kim Todd X
Sensational by Kim Todd
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Book Summary

A vivid social history that brings to light the "girl stunt reporters" of the Gilded Age who went undercover to expose corruption and abuse in America, and redefined what it meant to be a woman and a journalist—pioneers whose influence continues to be felt today.

In the waning years of the nineteenth century, women journalists across the United States risked reputation and their own safety to expose the hazardous conditions under which many Americans lived and worked. In various disguises, they stole into sewing factories to report on child labor, fainted in the streets to test public hospital treatment, posed as lobbyists to reveal corrupt politicians. Inventive writers whose in-depth narratives made headlines for weeks at a stretch, these "girl stunt reporters" changed laws, helped launch a labor movement, championed women's rights, and redefined journalism for the modern age.

The 1880s and 1890s witnessed a revolution in journalism as publisher titans like Hearst and Pulitzer used weapons of innovation and scandal to battle it out for market share. As they sought new ways to draw readers in, they found their answer in young women flooding into cities to seek their fortunes. When Nellie Bly went undercover into Blackwell's Insane Asylum for Women and emerged with a scathing indictment of what she found there, the resulting sensation created opportunity for a whole new wave of writers. In a time of few jobs and few rights for women, here was a path to lives of excitement and meaning.

After only a decade of headlines and fame, though, these trailblazers faced a vicious public backlash. Accused of practicing "yellow journalism," their popularity waned until "stunt reporter" became a badge of shame. But their influence on the field of journalism would arc across a century, from the Progressive Era "muckraking" of the 1900s to the personal "New Journalism" of the 1960s and '70s, to the "immersion journalism" and "creative nonfiction" of today. Bold and unconventional, these writers changed how people would tell stories forever.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] spirited survey of the muckraking female journalists of the Gilded Age...Todd casts a sprawling net, rescuing some of her profile subjects from obscurity and adding depth to the popular portrayals of others. This well-researched history makes clear the crucial role female reporters played in pioneering investigate journalism and boosting progressive reform movements." - Publishers Weekly

"[A]n enjoyable chronicle of a specific element of the history of journalism. Like she did for Maria Sibylla Merian in Chrysalis (2007), Todd celebrates the contributions of her subjects while placing them within the appropriate historical context. An engaging and enlightening portrait of trailblazers who 'challenged…views of what a woman should be.'" - Kirkus Reviews

"At the height of the turn-of-the century newspaper wars, these 'girl reporters' did their work for the same reasons men did--a keen sense of social justice, along with a taste for adventure and writerly fame. Their gender (and the anonymity it provided) often gave them a leg up in reporting, drew in hordes of excited readers--and, of course, held back their careers and suppressed their pay. Sensational is an illuminating look at female pioneers working at a key moment in American journalism." - Liza Mundy, author of Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

"Sensational is a gripping, flawlessly researched, and overdue portrait of America's trailblazing female journalists. These daring, intrepid 'girl reporters' defied incredible odds to both expose societal ills and entertain readers with their thrilling adventures—going, in many cases, where no man had gone before. In this important and immensely readable book, Kim Todd has restored these long-forgotten mavericks to their rightful place in American history." - Abbott Kahler, author (as Karen Abbott) of The Ghosts of Eden Park

"In Todd's able hands, we learn about these daring young women, about their lives and times, their work, their editors and mentors, their torments and loves, their interconnections, and, best of all, their real legacy. These young reporters demonstrated the power of personal narrative to rivet public attention on society's seen and unseen ills and incite the quest for remedy--a tradition that endures today." - Brooke Kroeger, author of Nellie Bly: Daredevil. Reporter. Feminist

This information about Sensational shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Kim Todd

Kim Todd is an award-winning science and environmental writer. Her first book, Tinkering with Eden, a Natural History of Exotics in America (W.W. Norton 2001), tells the stories of non-native species and how they arrived in the United States. Species covered range from pigeons, brought over by some of the earliest colonists, to starlings, imported by a man who wanted to bring all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare to Central Park. The book explores our developing understanding of exotic species as we become more aware of the potential problems they may pose for native ecosystems. Tinkering with Eden received the PEN/ Jerard Award and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award and was selected as one of Booklist's Top Ten Science/ Technical Books for 2001.

Her second book Chrysalis, Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis (Harcourt, 2007) looks at the life of a pioneering explorer/ naturalist who traveled to South America in 1699 to study insect metamorphosis. The story also traces ideas about metamorphosis through time. The New Yorker called it a "spellbinding biography," and Kirkus Reviews said Chrysalis was "a breathtaking example of scholarship and storytelling." It was selected as one of 25 "Books to Remember" for 2008 by the New York Public Library. Research for Chrysalis led her to Surinam to retrace Merian's steps through the rain forest.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

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