Sylvia Porter: Gender, Ambition, and Personal Finance Journalism, 1935-1975
Lucht, Tracy L
Beasley, Maurine H.
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This historical dissertation examines the career of Sylvia Porter (1913-1991), a syndicated newspaper columnist who developed the genre of personal finance journalism and created a space for women on the financial pages of newspapers. At the height of Porter's success in 1975, she reached forty million readers in more than 350 newspapers, published a monthly financial advice column in <em>Ladies' Home Journal</em>, and had produced a shelf full of books, including the best-selling <em>Sylvia Porter's Money Book</em>. This dissertation--the first full-length account of Porter's career--uses primary sources to trace Porter's evolution from a media curiosity to a nationally recognized expert amid changes in women's social and economic status. The author argues that Porter carved a niche for herself within the male-dominated field of financial journalism by using seven professional strategies: (1) She accepted a job in a non-prestigious field of journalism, (2) she allied herself with her readers rather than her peers, (3) she formed alliances with men who could help her career, (4) she used preconceptions about gender to her advantage, (5) she mythologized herself in interviews with other journalists, (6) she used multiple media platforms to reach different audiences, and (7) she appropriated the labor of other writers. The author also argues that although gender was an important facet of Porter's public persona, her development of personal finance journalism was driven more by market forces and her eventual use of ghostwriters than by prevailing gender norms. Nevertheless, the author argues, Porter opened a door for women in the field and left a complicated legacy.