Washington Press Club Foundation


A syndicated columnist whose writing appears in over four hundred newspapers, Ellen Goodman began her working career in 1963. That year, following graduation from Radcliffe, marriage the next month, and a move to New York, she secured a trainee position at Newsweek, patiently waiting for a research position to become available. She eventually became Peter Benchley's research assistant. Her husband's medical residency then took them to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Goodman began newspaper writing at the Detroit Free Press, where she worked as a general reporter and news feature writer on the city desk. She enjoyed journalism and found it stimulating.

Born Ellen Holtz in Newton, Massachusetts, on April 11, 1941, she returned to her native area in 1967. Goodman accepted a position as a writer on the women's pages of the Boston Globe, during a transitional time for the sections that had been dominated by food and fashions. She continued reporting through her pregnancy. Following the birth of daughter Katie in 1968, she went back to the job to become one of the few working mothers on the Globe's staff. In 1971 she was divorced and had to balance her lives as a reporter and single parent.

Goodman's assignments included coverage of the newly emerging women's movement and related concerns. Because of her growing interest in women's issues, Goodman attended as a reporter the 1972 Democratic National Convention, one of the first political conventions where women's voices seemed to be heard. It was a time, she noted, when "women journalists were wanted," and the convention provided "a real women's story to cover." Two years later, a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University allowed Goodman time off to study and delve into the enormous changes taking place in society. This opportunity led to further research in the form of interviews with individuals involved with and observing society's transformations, and resulted in her first book, Turning Points, which was published in 1979. Unlike her later books, drawn from her columns, Turning Points was largely a book of interviews that explored the great changes of that era.

In addition to her reporting, in 1971 Goodman had begun writing weekly columns in the features section of the Globe. In 1975 her columns came to the attention of the editors of the Washington Post, and the following year her column was syndicated in twenty-five papers through the Washington Post Writers Group. She married Bob Levey, a fellow journalist on the Globe, in 1982. In 1986 she became an associate editor of the Boston Globe.

Since 1979, Goodman has published five collections of her columns dealing with contemporary themes: Close to Home; At Large; Keeping in Touch; Making Sense; and Value Judgments. Goodman's strong interest in social change continues to play the central role in her work. She has written about family, politics, generation gaps, ethics, abortion, and the ever-changing status of women. Her columns have won vast numbers of readers for their keen, insightful observations and clever wit. She writes about what is in the news, on her mind, and of concern to women and men across the country. In 1980 Ellen Goodman's columns earned her the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary.

Anne Ritchie
May 1994

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