A Woman of the Times

In the early 1960’s, Charlotte Curtis became famous for her witty and sardonic reporting about the foibles and follies of America’s upper classes in The New York Times. Marilyn S. Greenwald traces Curtis’ rise from Columbus, Ohio, to her emergence as a chronicler of the lifestyles of the rich and famous in A Woman of the Times: Journalism, Feminism, and the Career of Charlotte Curtis. Along the way, Curtis had to battle the prejudices against women reporters that permeated the newspaper business in those days. Greenwald shows how Curtis transcended these barriers through her writing talent and reporting skill. The achievement came at a personal cost, and Greenwald’s work underscores how able women were held back because of entrenched male attitudes.

Based on Curtis’s own personal papers, the archives of The New York Times, and personal interviews, this biography takes the reader inside the workings of a great newspaper and reveals the confrontations and passions that lay behind the news columns. The book also contains abundant samples of Curtis’ wry and devastating prose. Greenwald relates Curtis’ coverage of society from a detached and often ironic viewpoint to the appearance of what became known as the New Journalism in the 1960’s. Such astringent contemporary columnists as Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins are direct descendants of the innovative work that Curtis did. Greenwald’s excellent book shows how far journalism has come in its treatment of women, and yet underscores at the same time the barriers that female reporters still confront.