Good Girls Revolt introduces us to a young Nora Ephron, played by Grace Gummer, as an aspiring writer fresh out of college on her first day of her new research job at News of the Week. She (ironically) is starting the same day as another recent graduate, a young man with a respectable college degree under his belt. But he's a reporter, not a researcher. Both have equal qualifications (let's dare to say that Ephron is more qualified). So if it seems like it doesn't make sense that they don't have the same job it's because it doesn't. Here we have it, the show's central theme.
It's clear early on in the pilot episode that the women of News of the Week are what keeps the magazine going; but they aren't the ones whose names are in the bylines. So why is credit not given where it's due? Ah, what a question!
No matter how hard these women worked, how impressive their skill set, how good their writing, they remained at the bottom of the ladder. The show is based on the inspired-by-true-events book by Lynn Povich, also titled The Good Girls Revolt, that chronicles the first female class action suit against a major media organization (Newsweek) in 1969. The Civil Rights Act - you know, the legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or nationality - had been passed five years prior to the filing of the Newsweek lawsuit. So what Newsweek was doing was illegal.
But the hierarchy of the 1960s workplace often went unquestioned. Hi Mad Men. Women didn't speak up because there weren't enough people on the side of their oppressors willing to defend them. But more importantly, like in the case of the women of News of the Week, they didn't realize that had grounds on which to take legal action. Cue the importance of the "consciousness raising" meeting, led by a young Eleanor Holmes Norton, that Patti (played by Genevieve Angelson) and Cindy (played by Erin Darke) are invited to by Ephron.
Norton, played by Joy Bryant, is responsible for the eventual success of the Newsweek lawsuit. According to Bryant, Norton's identity as a American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, a black woman, and a proponent for all women's rights, was representative of her "trying to bridge that gap between the quote unquote 'mainstream feminist movement' and specifically black women." Norton is as sharp today as she was then. The series will be seeing more of her and I'm excited to watch as her role unfolds.
When the meeting gets turned over to another woman who invites everyone to "take out a compact and look at our vulvas," Patti and Cindy decide to bounce. They had reached their peak woke-ness for the night. Still, as they go their separate ways each of them seems to come to the same realization. Even Jane (played by Anna Camp) who stayed home that night sees her reflection differently. ----- Oh, the wonders of television and its ability to make us not question unrealistic timelines.
"Somehow everything feels different," says Cindy, "Maybe things could change? Maybe we could start something."