Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism

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This bio of Mary McGrory started out strong, interspersing bits of her columns along with info about her life. But it bogs and sinks in the sludge of politics, and is not for the faint of (political) heart. If you’re not interested in a detailed review of every presidential campaign since the 1960s, you’re not going to enjoy this book. I also take umbrage with the pompous title– first queen of journalism? Have we so quickly forgotten about Fanny Fern’s tremendous popularity in the 1860s?

She was a successful woman journalist during the early days when this made her stand out as an oddity. Never married, carried a torch for a wishy-washy rich dandy who ultimately left his wife and married someone else. Supposedly in love with Eugene McCarthy during his run for the presidency. Supposedly regretted not settling down with a hubby and a brood of children in her later life (Irish heritage coming home to roost?).

The book makes grand, sweeping, unverifiable statements like “She helped make objecting to the [Vietnam] war respectable.”

Tidbits:

  • LBJ hit on her, schmoozing into her apartment with several secret service dudes in the middle of the night to declare his love only to be rebuffed
  • As a successful journalist she was offered a position at the NY Times DC bureau but told that she’d also need to “handle the switchboard in the morning.”