Johanna Neuman is a historian, author and award-winning journalist whose new book, Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right To Vote, is already winning rave reviews. Due out in the fall of 2017 from New York University Press, Gilded Suffragists tells the story of New York’s most glamorous women – with last names like Astor, Belmont, Harriman and Vanderbilt – and chronicles their impact on the women’s suffrage movement. Covered for every aspect of their lives – from their French fashion to the Beaux Arts décor – they had become the media celebrities of their day. She argues that when they leveraged their social fame for political power, they awakened public interest and energized the Votes for Women campaign, giving it the kind of buzz that only celebrity endorsements can provide.
Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University, called Gilded Suffragists “a fast-paced and important work,” one that demonstrates “how women of all classes built one of the most consequential social movements in American history.”
A former White House correspondent who served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Johanna wrote the book as she was earning a PhD in history at American University in Washington, D.C. Born in Los Angeles, Johanna Neuman is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, and of the University of Southern California, where she earned her master’s degree in journalism. Her career in journalism began with a job as a copy girl at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, and continued as the City Hall reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal. After a few years of covering the political scene in Los Angeles, the editors assigned her to the Sacramento bureau, where she covered Gov. Jerry Brown during his first term, as well as the state legislature.
On hearing of a newspaper in Mississippi that was trying to turn itself around from a racist past to a more equitable future, Johanna left for Jackson, winning assignment as the Clarion Ledger’s chief capital correspondent, covering the governor, the legislature and state agencies. After a few years in Mississippi, the son of the owning family – Rea Hederman, responsible for the newspaper’s turnaround, assigned her to open a bureau in Washington, D.C., the first in the newspaper’s history.
Once in Washington, Johanna covered the Mississippi congressional delegation as well as agencies that governed state concerns. After several years there, she won a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, a year without deadlines to take classes, interact with geniuses, and to think. On her return to Washington a year later she found the Clarion-Ledger had been sold to Gannett and that she was now part of the nation’s largest newspaper chain, one about to launch a new concept in journalism, USA Today. After a few years of covering federal agencies, editors at USA Today asked her to become the paper’s first White House correspondent. She covered Ronald Reagan’s second term as president, a few years of George H.W. Bush’s presidency and then switched beats to the State Department, where she covered James A. Baker III’s tenure as secretary of state.
During that time, she conceived the idea of her first book – examining the widely held concern in State Department circles that real-time television — CNN in particular — was changing the very terms of diplomacy. Winning a scholarship at Columbia University to write the book, she was drawn to history. Lights, Camera, War, her first non-fiction book, examined media technologies from the printing press to the Internet to argue that each generation confronting a new media invention had to adjust to the methods of communication but not that its essence was unchanged. In short, she found that political leadership trumped media power.
On return to Washington, she worked as foreign editor of USA Today before leaving for the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times. There, she served for more than a decade as a general assignment editor and reporter, specializing in profiles, as well as political blogging and web editing. On the newspaper’s decision to close its Washington bureau, she returned to school, pursuing a PhD in history from American University.
Her second book, Gilded Suffragists, is a revised version of her doctoral dissertation. It is due out in the fall of 2017 from New York University Press.