A book review about Ida Tarbell: Portrait of a Muckraker, by Kathleen Brady.
You might get the wrong idea from the title of this book, that it is all about the years of Ida Tarbell was a journalist. But this book, that I read for my book club last month, is a biography of Tarbell’s entire life. I knew I would enjoy the author when in the forward I read a short and sweet line she wrote: “In terms of women’s advancement, she [Ida] was a weather vane, not an engine of change.”
I had never heard of Ida Tarbell before. Actually, I didn’t know what a muckraker was, even though I’ve heard the term before. For others like myself, a muckraker is an investigative journalist. The January 1903 issue of McClure’s Magazine (which Ida Tarbell wrote for) was considered the official beginning of muckraking journalism. Lincoln Steffens and Ray Stannard Baker were two other journalists, writing in the same style, and for McClure’s. This was at the time when Theodore Roosevelt was president and companies were buying each other out, getting larger and more powerful. In 1911, Ida believe that manufacturing wouldn’t last in America but be “delegated to countries where labor was cheap.” She was best know for her articles in McClure’s on Standard Oil (early Exxon), which was later published as a book. I thought she was very daring to live in Paris while researching Napoleon.
Brady mentioned how Ida spent many family summers on Lake Chautauqua in New York. She was familiar with the Chautauqua Assembly, which furnished Bible instruction,which expanded into science, history and literature lessons. I believe this was the start of the Chautauqua, which our city was participating in at the time of my reading. What excited me was seeing that later Ida lived at Hull House in Chicago, founded by Jane Addams; I had just read a biography about Addams!
Ida was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, in Seneca Falls, in 2000. On September 14, 2002, she appeared on a commemorative stamp, honoring women journalists.
Come by Ms. Jenny’s site …off on my tangent…
to see what words were chosen for the Letter I.