Famous Female Journalist Dies
Far Rockaway native Frances Lewine, 86, a noted journalist, died on Saturday, January 19, due to a stroke. Lewine was a key leader in the fight for women's right in the field of journalism. She fought for women be allowed into the National Press Club and the Gridiron Club (a Washington journalists' organization.)
After her graduation from Hunter College, where she was the editor of the school's newspaper, Lewine began her career reporting for the Plainfield, New Jersey, Courier-News before moving to the Newark AP bureau.
Born in Rockaway and a graduate of Rockaway schools, she was part of an extended family that included her first cousin, Richard Feynman, who worked on the "Manhattan Project" that produced the first atomic bomb, and who later received the Nobel Prize in Physics.
In 1956 she was assigned to cover the first lady at the White House and the Washington social activities. Lewine became the first female full-time White House correspondent in 1965.
She became the Department of Transportation's deputy director of public affairs in 1977 when she left the AP to join President Jimmy Carter's administration. After Carter left office in 1981, Lewine joined the newly formed cable news network (CNN) where she served as the assignment producer and field producer. At the time Lewine was 60 years old.
To Lewine, the biggest disappointment in her career was that she was never considered an equal to her male counterparts. Even with all of the accomplishments she achieved, she was still being "relegated to social and family stories and sidebars while male colleagues covered the president." Her anger at the discrimination fueled her leadership in the women's journalist movement of the 1950's, 60's and 70's. Their biggest goal was to "protest discrimination against women in their jobs and assignments." Despite the discrimination, Lewine never considered quitting. "I don't understand why people quit, we have the best jobs in the world. I have a front row seat to history. What are you going to do that's possibly better than this?" she asked.
Due to the Gridirons (a prestigious journalistic organization in Washington) resistance in allowing women to join, Lewine founded the Counter-Gridiron, female reporters (and some men) who regularly met and protested. Eventually, the Gridiron caved, and Lewine became the second female invited to join.
One of her biggest accomplishments was her participation in a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed against the AP, which revolutionized journalism and the policies of news organizations.
In honor of her career, Lewine was elected to the Washington Society Professional Journalists' Hall of Fame and to the Hunter College Hall of Fame.