International Women’s Day is this coming Friday, March 8, and the newly-established Editorial Board can’t help but acknowledge the footsteps of the previous all-female Editorial Board that we’re following in. All of us have had the privilege of previously working with the last three female Editors-in-Chief, and the impact of working with such confident leaders has, for myself especially, greatly influenced how I’m now approaching my new role.
The ladies of The Mirror are continuing a legacy of female journalists, activists and glass-ceiling breakers. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the muckrakers of the past, many of whom aren’t often accredited and who deserve to be remembered this International Women’s Day.
Ida Tarbell is one such figure; she was an investigative journalist during the mid to late-1800s, and her most famous book, “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” was her magnum-opus. It directly and unflinchingly targeted John D. Rockefeller and his unethical business practices as an oil magnate at the height of his career. She was so open with her criticism of him that he came to refer to her as “that poisonous woman,” a 19th century predecessor to Trump’s labelling of Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman.”
Alongside Tarbell were fellow muckrakers Nellie Bly and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who were incredible investigators in their own right. Bly is most known for exposing the treatment of the mentally ill in insane asylums after she pretended to be mentally ill and was committed to a New York asylum for ten days in 1887. Her astute observations produced radical and nearly immediate change to improve the lives of those living in such care, ending patterns of abuse and neglect. Wells-Barnett was active during this time as well, yet an even more empowering figure working as a black woman only two decades after the end of the Civil War. Her efforts went towards investigating the lynchings of African-American men and white mob violence in the American South, and she is an unnamed founder of the NAACP.
These incredible women don’t even include the activists and intellectuals who have contributed to the women’s rights movement in even more recent years. Sylvia Rivera was a Latina transgender activist who worked tirelessly from the 1960s and onwards to advocate for queer people of color and those living in poverty, focusing especially on homeless transgender youth. She’s memorialized in her famous and heart-wrenching “Y’all Better Quiet Down” speech. Even on her deathbed in the early 2000s she was negotiating for an increased awareness of the plights of the transgender community. Today, with a shift to social media activism, we have celebrities like Emma Watson, Laverne Cox and Tarana Burke championing the #MeToo Movement, with us here at The Mirror lending our voices to the cause when we can.
We salute these incredible truth-seekers who have paved the way for us, and hope we can make even a fraction of the impact that they did.