Marie "Missy" Mattingly Meloney was born in 1878, in an America where women couldn't vote. Yet she recognized the power that women held as consumers and family decision-makers, and persuaded male publishers and politicians to take them seriously.
Based on meticulous archival research, this book details the vast array of projects in which Meloney was involved: arranging Marie Curie’s fundraising tours throughout America, campaigning to promote women’s college education, advising politicians on strategies to secure women’s votes, championing the Better Homes in America movement, and spearheading relief efforts during World War I. Without idealizing her subject, the author carefully points out Meloney’s contradictions and inconsistencies. Meloney led an amazingly productive life despite living with chronic health conditions, challenging us to reimagine our definitions of powerful women ... A meticulously researched and readable biography that will engage readers interested in women’s history and journalism, and in 20th-century social reform.
Throughout her life, Meloney forged connections with major political and cultural figures in her professional capacities, then deepened them into personal relationships with her warm, engaging manner. Her biography reveals a good deal about mass media and women’s evolving role in society in the first half of the 20th century, and Des Jardins capably weaves together these narrative strands. But sometimes you want to pat the author’s hand and tell her to relax and stop trying so hard to convince us of her subject’s importance ... Meloney’s moderate politics and ladylike strategies were hardly surprising for a woman born into respectable middle-class circumstances in Kentucky in 1878, but they seem to embarrass Des Jardins, who compensates with a mix of defensiveness and overstatement ... It’s flat-out absurd to claim that in 1920, as the editor of a popular women’s magazine, 'Missy had engaged women as political beings more than anyone else before her' ... Fortunately, when Des Jardins gets off her hobbyhorse she is an effective chronicler and astute analyst of Meloney’s life and work.
...noteworthy ... a useful contribution to the history of American journalism. It’s odd, though, that the author seldom lets Meloney speak for herself by quoting from her journalism and letters. It’s a perplexingomission in a biography of someone who wrote tens of thousands of words ... Ms. Des Jardins’s portrayal of Meloney as one of the most powerful players of her age is persuasive. The use of a girlish nickname smacks of a condescension that the author clearly doesn’t wish to imply.