Nan Robertson | 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award
The New York Times, United States.
A diligent and respected reporter, Nan Robertson (1926-2009) was instrumental in bringing a class action sex discrimination suit against The New York Times in the early 1970s. Her courage in this suit and its ultimate success changed the working conditions of women at The Times and throughout the industry.
Robertson won a 1983 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing because of her harrowing account of an attack of toxic shock syndrome that nearly took her life. The article was a cover story in The Times‘ Sunday magazine. She was the third Times woman to win a Pulitzer since the award was established in 1917. She was also praised for the personal courage she showed in recovering from the effects of the little-known disease.
Born in Chicago in 1926, she graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1948 and went to Europe. She was a correspondent for the Milwaukee Journal and The Paris Herald Tribune. She started working for The Times writing fashion and women’s news in London. Then she went to New York in 1955 to cover women’s news.
From 1963 to 1972, Robertson was a Times Washington correspondent, focusing on the White House, Congress, presidential campaigns and voting etc. From 1972 to 1975, she was based in Paris, writing about France, neighboring countries and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. From 1975 to 1982, she was a reporter for the Living and Style sections.
Robertson won many awards besides the Pulitzer Prize. The Newswomen’s Club of New York gave her its Feature Writing Award in 1962, its Best Feature Front Page Award in 1980, and an unprecedented Special Award for Excellence for her toxic shock article in 1982. In 1983, the Newspaper Guild of New York offered her Page One award.
She wrote several books, among which was Getting Better: Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, published in 1988 by William Morrow. She documented the sex discrimination suit against The Times in her book, The Girls in the Balcony: Women, Men and The New York Times, published 1992.
Nan Robertson is the second IWMF Lifetime Achievement Award winner from the United States, following Barbara Walters (1992). Awardees after Robertson include: Katharine Graham (1994), Helen Thomas (1995), Meg Greenfield (1996), Nancy Woodhull (1997), Bonnie Angelo (1998), Peggy Peterman (1999), Flora Lewis (2000), Colleen “Koky” Dishon (2001), Mary McGrory(2002), Belva Davis (2004), Molly Ivins (2005) and Edith Lederer (2008).