March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of women in all aspects of our society. WhatsUpNewp reached out to successful women in several professions, asking just a few questions. We will run their responses throughout the month.
Linda Levin, retired chair of the journalism program at the University of Rhode Island
What one, two or three women have inspired you? Please also tell us why these individuals have been important to you.
My maternal grandmother, who gave me the moral code by which I have lived my life; my two daughters, who have challenged me to be my best, both personally and professionally so I could be an example for them; and all of the women I taught at URI, because I always believed they taught me as much or more than I taught them about navigating life as a female journalist.
What have been some of the obstacles you have encountered, and how you overcame them?
I did my undergraduate work at a Big Ten University, and there were plenty of amazing women in my major, journalism. So when I graduated and got my first job as a reporter at the Providence Journal, I was not prepared for the fact I was the only woman on the news staff. The older men thought I should be married, cooking and giving birth. The younger men saw me as a professional rival, which I was. I found that having a sense of humor guided me through a lot of newsroom problems as well as those when I was out covering stories, like the time Winston Churchill’s nephew John was running his hand up my leg while I was trying to interview him. He also was quite drunk. I wrote a very funny, but not nasty, story about the interview that ran of page one. Or at age 22, I was named acting bureau manager while the regular manager was on vacation. The half dozen male reporters in the office were not pleased, and on my first day on the new job, they locked me out. I walked across the street to the police station and asked if they would send a locksmith to let me in. I had the last laugh when the guys came to work and found me in the office. When I joined the journalism faculty at URI, I was the only woman on the faculty and the only one without a beard. I bought one in a toy shop and wore it to the first journalism faculty meeting. But, to paraphrase Queen Victoria, they were not amused. Humor also helped, I hope, get my students interested in subjects I was trying to teach.
What advice would you give to a young woman starting out on her career? Be passionate about what you hope to do. Once you get the job, don’t miss deadlines, work hard, and smile.