Gabrielle Birkner of The Jewish Daily Forward reviews “Sylvia Porter: America’s Original Personal Finance Columnist,” a new book by Iowa State University professor Tracy Lucht on the legendary personal finance columnist.
Birkner writes, “In the 1930s and 1940s, she framed her case for women in the workforce in terms of individual liberties and documented how their work buoyed the U.S. war effort. In the conservative postwar years, she attributed women’s march into the workplace to economic need, rather than a desire for self-actualization.
“Porter went so far as to suggest that husbands in two-income families ought to pay for larger expenses, such as housing, taxes and insurance, while wives should foot the bill for groceries, at-home entertainment and housekeepers — not your standard feminist rhetoric. But as one of Porter’s former assistants put it: ‘Sylvia wasn’t really interested in social movements. She was interested in Sylvia.’
“And Porter remained interested and interesting until the end, continuing her syndicated newspaper column until two months before she died in 1991, just shy of her 78th birthday, from complications of emphysema.
“Lucht’s academic biography provides a fascinating contextual analysis of Porter’s six-decade career in business journalism. By her own admission, she includes few details about Porter’s personal life, making only passing references to the columnist’s fiery personality, heavy drinking, chain smoking, devotion to her Russian immigrant mother, and relationship with her own daughter, Cris.”
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