Born in 1946, Lucinda Franks graduated from Vassar College with a degree in English. Her career in journalism started with the London bureau of the United Press International (UPI). In spite of her degree, her job was primarily one of fetching coffee for the men.
Lucinda’s initial reporting assignments were mostly covering beauty pageants. Using her own funds, she traveled to Northern Ireland to get a firsthand account of the “Troubles,” the growing violent conflict over the political status of Northern Ireland. She promptly found herself in the middle of covering the warring factions. Her boss ordered her to leave, saying the UPI had a policy against women covering wars. But she persuaded him to let her stay, arguing that a male replacement would never make it there in time.
Her successful reporting work in Northern Ireland led to her assignment to cover the US radical group called the Weather Underground. Together with fellow journalist Thomas Powers, Lucinda wrote a five-part series exploring the radicalization of Weather Underground member Diane Oughton. Oughton died along with two colleagues when a bomb they were building accidentally exploded in their Greenwich Village townhouse.
Lucinda and Powers won a Pulitzer Prize for their story. She was the first woman to win a Pulitzer for national reporting and the youngest person to win any Pulitzer. Expecting congratulations back in the office, she found herself essentially frozen out by her male colleagues. Initially this affected her self-confidence and made her feel like she didn’t deserve the award. Later in life, she described the snub by her colleagues as “gender degradation.”
Lucinda had what is called “a nose for the news.” She was known for her behind-the-scenes stories of the OJ Simpson trial, Hilary Clinton’s reaction to her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the dangers of red dye in food. She was also the first journalist to cover the biochemical causes of alcoholism.
Lucinda proved through her lifetime of important writings that the Pulitzer Prize was well deserved. She did not let the lack of acceptance deter her from her life’s purpose.
Just imagine the individual strength it takes to persevere in your chosen profession when colleagues won’t acknowledge your work because of who you are as a person. What are the forces that hold back acceptance of others—even when the quality of their work is clear? How might we counteract these forces? How many of the conflicts affecting us today are based upon one word – “acceptance”?
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“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” – Stephanie Perkins (Author)
This is part of our “Just Imagine” series of occasional posts, inviting you to join us in imagining positive possibilities for a citizen-centered democracy.