Lynn Povich ’65, Women’s Rights PioneerVeteran journalist wins AAVC Distinguished Achievement Award

Lynn Povich ’65 has spent most of her life as a journalist, witnessing and covering many of the major issues of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting her career as a secretary in the Paris bureau of Newsweek magazine, Povich went on to become a major figure in her field, first as a writer and editor for Newsweek, later as editor-in-chief of Working Woman magazine and more recently as East Coast Managing Editor of MSNBC.com, overseeing the Internet content of NBC News and MSNBC.

Just five years into her career, Povich was not only reporting the news, she was making news of her own. She had returned from Paris to Newsweek headquarters in New York and became a researcher for the magazine at a time when all the researchers were women and only men were hired as reporters, writers and editors. Although Povich quickly rose through the ranks to become a junior writer, she knew that Newsweek’s policy was discriminatory.

Photo: Karl Rabe
Photo: Karl Rabe

So in 1970 Povich made history by leading a group of well-mannered, largely apolitical women who had been raised in the 1940s and 1950s to stand up for their rights by filing a class action lawsuit against Newsweek, charging management with “systematic discrimination” in their hiring and promotion practices. They won—a success that led to many other, similar legal actions, including against The New York Times. Newsrooms were never the same.

Povich went on to become the first woman Senior Editor in Newsweek’s history before moving on to Working Woman and MSNBC, and she continues to be one of the most revered journalists in the industry. She is a recipient of the Matrix Award for Magazines, and chairs the Advisory Boards of the International Womens Media Foundation and the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.

“Women have made a great deal of progress but equal rights, like civil rights, have yet to be won.”

In 2012, Povich published a book about the landmark case that had changed so much for women in media with the provocative—and still timely—title, The Good Girls Revolt. As The New York Times commented, “If ever a book could remind women to keep their white gloves off and to keep fighting the good fight, this is the one.” Lynn herself has said, “This is a book for my generation and for our sons and daughters. It is part history and part current events. Women have made a great deal of progress but equal rights, like civil rights, have yet to be won.” In 2016, her book inspired the 10-part series Good Girls Revolt, which airs on Amazon Prime.

On Sept. 12, Povich received the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College Award for Distinguished Achievement. During the presentation ceremony at Fall Convocation, AAVC President Steve Hankins lauded Povich for her remarkable career and for her role in advancing the cause of women’s rights.

“In the best Vassar tradition,” Hankins said. “Lynn Povich is a trailblazer and pioneer, who was way ahead of her time and instrumental in making women’s voices heard in mainstream US media. She paved the way for future generations of women to take stands against harassment and discrimination. It’s also safe to say that her courage and actions have continued to have ripple effects that benefit our society all the way to today.”