Journalists have had an active role in defining American history through their coverage of current events. Ida Tarbell, Nellie Bly, and Ethel Payne all contributed to the field of journalism by providing social commentary on major political and social events and reporting on controversial topics.
Although she originally began her writing career at McClure’s, Ida M. Tarbell (1857-1944) changed the world of investigative journalism in 1904 when she wrote, "The History of the Standard Oil Company." Her story exposed the corruption of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, and largely contributed to the Supreme Court case that ultimately decided to destroy the Standard Oil monopoly.
Nellie Bly (1864-1922) was one of the first female investigative journalists of her time. While writing for the New York World, she investigated the treatment of mentally ill people inside of asylums by checking herself into an institution. Her work helped spark reforms for the quality of care for the mentally ill. In addition to her skills as a journalist, Bly is also well known for travelling around the world in seventy-two days and setting a new record.
Ethel L. Payne (1911-1991), a top journalist of the twentieth century, reported on many issues relating to race relations and segregation. Payne started out as a columnist for the African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, and covered the racial segregation of troops in Vietnam. She then went on to become the first African American woman to work for CBS and be a White House correspondent in 1972.
These women’s stamps were designed by Fred Otnes for the Women in Journalism Issue. The stamps were issued in Fort Worth, Texas, at a meeting of the National Convention of Professional Journalists. The Ida Tarbell stamp contains her picture, and to the right of it has the McClure’s heading and her article headline, “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” from the 1902 November issue. The Nellie Bly stamp contains an 1890 black and white photograph of Bly, and to the left of her picture is a portion of the nameplate of The World from January 20, 1890. The Ethel L. Payne stamp has her picture and to the right of it is a headline for her article “The Alabama Bus Boycott,” that appeared in the Chicago Defender on February 18, 1956.