Reporter's Notebook

A Tour of Nonfiction Writing From Women Over the Decades
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Inspired by a list from New York’s Ann Friedman, we highlight one exceptional nonfiction Atlantic piece a year starting in 1960 (with some notable mentions from the previous 100 years) written by women. If there’s an unmentioned piece you especially love and want to describe why, please email us at hello@theatlantic.com.

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Female Atlantic Writers From the '60s

Our Aug 1968 cover features a nonfiction excerpt from Joan Baez’s memoir, Daybreak.

We’ve made it our project over the next several weeks to uncover nonfiction Atlantic pieces written by women. It’s been a difficult process, since many of the early pieces are not online. But after (physically) digging through our print archives, we’re able to present the following crop of lady-journos from the ‘60s—and it’s quite an impressive group.

During that decade, women in The Atlantic tackled everything from Castro’s Cuba to illegal abortion to Marlon Brando. Among the authors listed here are a Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian, an anonymous part-time secretary, a Harvard professor, a First Lady, and a famous film critic. (Like our first list, the authors here are fairly monochromatic—the majority are white and American.)

  • Eliza Paschall’s “A Southern Point of ViewThe writer and activist criticizes the Georgia legislature’s willingness to close down schools rather than integrate them. (May 1960)

  • Eleanor Roosevelt’s “What Has Happened to The American Dream?The former First Lady demands a re-dedication to the Dream in the face of Soviet influence, “the greatest challenge our way of life has ever had to meet.” (April 1961)

  • Martha Gellhorn’s “Eichmann and the Private ConscienceThe famed war correspondent reports on the trial of Nazi official Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem and sketches out “some of the lessons to be learned.” (Feb 1962)

  • Jessica Mitford’s “The Undertaker’s Racket An investigation of the funeral industry in the United States. (June 1963)

  • Mrs. X’s “One Woman’s Abortion An anonymous suburban mother of three talks about her search for an illegal abortion. (Aug 1965)

  • Pauline Kael (AP)

    Pauline Kael’s “Marlon Brando: An American HeroA profile of the legendary actor. (March 1966)

  • Barbara W. Tuchman’s “The Case of Woodrow WilsonA historian and best-selling authoragrees with Sigmund Freud that President Wilson was a tragic figure whose neuroses got in his way.” (Feb 1967)

  • Elizabeth Drew’s “Report: Washington One of her many dispatches during her run as Washington correspondent for the magazine. (April 1968)

  • Emma Rothschild’s “Reports and Comment: CubaA look at Fidel Castro “committing Cuba to an agricultural future.” (March 1969)

A huge shoutout to contributing editor and Atlantic archives legend, Sage Stossel, for helping us with this list.

But what about 1964? One work we were unable to digitize was “Four and a Half Days in Atlanta’s Jails” by Gloria Wade Bishop (now Gloria Wade Gayles), a prolific ​black​ essayist and literary critic. In that July 1964 piece, ​she​ gives a gripping account of her time behind bars after her arrest during a peaceful protest.  

On to the ‘70s ...

See ya later, ‘60s. We’re on the next stop of our tour of nonfiction pieces by female authors in our archives: the swinging ‘70s. This decade saw the Watergate scandal, the end of the Vietnam War, and Star Wars. And the ladies of The Atlantic were there, reporting on politics, culture, and more.

Here’s a list of ten nonfiction works, one per year (and some of them were just digitized for the first time):

Again, a shout-out to Sage for her assistance on this project. Next up, Nshira is bringing you the rollicking ‘80s ...