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The Hidden History of America's “Girl Stunt Reporters”

by Kim Todd


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“A gripping, flawlessly researched, and overdue portrait of America’s trailblazing female journalists. . . . In this important and immensely readable book, Kim Todd has restored these long-forgotten mavericks to their rightful place in American history.”—Abbott Kahler, author (as Karen Abbott) of The Ghosts of Eden Park

In the waning years of the nineteenth century, women journalists across the United States risked their safety and reputations to expose the hazardous conditions under which many Americans existed. Donning disguises, they stole into sewing factories to report on child labor, fainted in the streets to test public hospital treatment, posed as lobbyists to reveal corrupt politicians, and more. Thanks to their daring exploits, these “girl stunt reporters” changed laws, helped launch a labor movement, championed women’s rights, and more. After a decade of headlines and fame, though, these trailblazers faced a vicious public backlash. Accused of practicing “yellow journalism,” their popularity waned until “stunt reporter” became a badge of shame.

Sensational is a vivid history that brings to light these writers and pays long overdue tribute to the essential part they played in revolutionizing modern journalism. Kim Todd traces how their influence would arc across the century from the Progressive Era “muckraking” of the early 1900s to the personal “New Journalism” of the 1960s and ’70s to the “immersion journalism” and “creative nonfiction” of today. Todd reveals how these bold and unconventional writers changed how people would tell stories forever.

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