artist: Raphael Kirchner
I've started to write a memoirist take on My Brilliant Career, Part One: The Mad Men Years.
My first job out of college was with Time Inc. This was back in the day when women could not be--were not allowed to be--writers or editors for the magazine. They could be fact checker/researchers or letters correspondents (which I was; I answered a chunk of the thousands of letters a week written to Time by its readers). Researcher was the premium job for ambitious women--one could rise to be chief assistant to and then chief of researchers. Until that happy day, researchers were allotted offices that backed onto the elevator shaft and fronted a dark hallway. The editors and writers had offices with big picture windows that wrapped around the building and took in New York City's Sixth Avenue and the skyline beyond. Each section of the magazine held weekly story meetings to which researchers and letters correspondents were invited. The writers and editors in that section would hash over which news developments deserved Time's fuller (and possibly snarkier) coverage while some of the bigger brains in the room had to sit there mute.
At a time when Jill Abramson's sudden firing as editor of the New York Times reminds us of how far we in journalism still have to go, I feel compelled to share with my Grands and adult children how far we've come, even if we're not there yet.
I spent five years at Time and was no longer around when women were finally promoted to be or hired as writers. I had lunch the other day with a friend who also worked a stint at Time early in her career. What times we lived through--and managed to survive and go forth to prosper. How important it is to share this with our very own up-and-comers.