Nov 15, 2016

Women (and Girls) and Glass Ceilings: Part Two

Gwen Ifill
Gwen Ifill, a widely respected reporter, moderator, and political commentator, died of cancer in recent days.  The barriers she pushed past, overcame, and excelled far beyond were many, including those related to both race and gender. 
Apart from her many accomplishments, her colleagues and friends have praised her genuine character, determination, and decency. Here is a quotation from Gwen:

I'm a preacher's kid, and we were always told,
Act right all the time, because someone's always watching.
- Gwen Ifill
And this is a quotation she reportedly appreciated:
Whatever you do, do with kindness.
Whatever you say, say with kindness.
Wherever you go, radiate kindness.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Gwen Ifill's success in a field nearly exclusive to men, and white men at that, was remarkable by any measure. At the time she was born (1950) there were certainly barriers aplenty to limit a young girl's dreams. 
But by 1950 Mary Ellen Garber (born 1916) was already surpassing barriers, six years into a sports reporting career that only a war could have provided. The full story is told by award-winning nonfiction author Sue Macy and illustrated by C. F. Payne in MISS MARY REPORTING: The True Story of Mary Garber.
Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2016
Growing up in North Carolina, a "tiny bit of a girl", she played tackle football with the boys as the quarterback of her team. She learned to love and understand the minutia of sports at her father's knee. At an equally young age she preferred writing her mandatory updates to grandparents in the form of a newspaper, the Garber News, without digital tools or templates to pave the way. 
By her mid-twenties she was earning her living as a reporter. Relegated to the society pages, she dragged a fashion-minded friend to events to avoid complaints from the debutantes about misnamed designers and style choices. 
As proud as she was to have a job as a newspaper reporter, the sports reporting assignments she craved remained a laughable impossibility until the last male sportswriter on staff joined the navy during WWII. When that door opened, Mary Garber marched on through and never looked back.
But when the war ended, reporters returned, and she was reassigned to the news desk.
Even then, within a year she made her way back into sports, reporting on Jackie Robinson's move from the Negro Leagues to the all-white Dodgers. His determination, courage, and maturity made him a role model for Mary.
Author Macy infuses details of Mary's incredible career with direct quotations revealing humor, insight, and decency. In the segregated South Mary was determined to report high school sports for all-black schools rather than only those with all-white attendance. 
She earned the respect of fellow sportswriters, players, and readers. She worked at the career she loved for more than fifty years, even after retiring, and was voted into many different sportswriters' halls of fame.
The author's note, timeline, and resources include sources for the many direct quotes. Payne's caricature-illustrations and Macy's engaging text bring Mary's colorful, appealing personality to life on the page. This is one "tiny bit of a girl" who overcame apparent limitations to achieve, inspire, and break new ground for all girls/women who followed. 
That includes other reporters, like Gwen Ifill, and anyone who sets out to learn, play fair, and make dreams come true on her own terms. This is a nominated title I had somehow missed along the way while keeping an eye on 2016 releases. I'm grateful to be participating in this Cybils panel so that it crossed my path.
As is so often true when  it comes to books, they manage to find their intended readers one way or the other. Let's help this one along to find many more young readers and celebrate the amazing life of newspaper legend, Mary Ellen Garber.
Check back to the first of this series of posts, here. Stay tuned in coming days for reviews of other outstanding books in which young girls are depicted rocking the boat, making waves, rattling at doors, pushing envelopes, and otherwise cracking, sometimes breaking, those glass ceilings.


  1. I am in love with series and we all need these books so much right now. TY.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kathy. I'll keep the titles and reviews coming in hopes that they make their way into the hands and lives of a generation still open to learning and growing and inspired to lead in better ways.

  2. I've been following news articles about Ifill's passing and love this connection to another kind, fair female reporter.

  3. One who was dedicated to covering ALL the news, and always completely. One passage from this book that I felt captured her personality completely is this:
    "According to Mary, the greatest compliment she ever got came from a young boy. ... A friend overheard two African American boys about eight and ten years old... 'That's Miss Mary Garber. And she doesn't care who you are or where you're from, or what you are. If you do something, she's going to write about it.'"
    Every story, every life, matters.


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