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Born in 1857 and raised in oil country, Ida M. Tarbell was one of the first investigative journalists and probably the most influential in her time. Her series of articles on the Standard Oil Trust, a complicated business empire run by John D. Rockefeller, revealed to readers the underhanded, even illegal practices that had led to Rockefeller's success. Rejecting the term Born in 1857 and raised in oil country, Ida M. Tarbell was one of the first investigative journalists and probably the most influential in her time. Her series of articles on the Standard Oil Trust, a complicated business empire run by John D. Rockefeller, revealed to readers the underhanded, even illegal practices that had led to Rockefeller's success. Rejecting the term "muckraker" to describe her profession, she went on to achieve remarkable prominence for a woman of her generation as a writer and shaper of public opinion. This biography offers an engrossing portrait of a trailblazer in a man's world who left her mark on the American consciousness. Notes, bibliography, index.


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Born in 1857 and raised in oil country, Ida M. Tarbell was one of the first investigative journalists and probably the most influential in her time. Her series of articles on the Standard Oil Trust, a complicated business empire run by John D. Rockefeller, revealed to readers the underhanded, even illegal practices that had led to Rockefeller's success. Rejecting the term Born in 1857 and raised in oil country, Ida M. Tarbell was one of the first investigative journalists and probably the most influential in her time. Her series of articles on the Standard Oil Trust, a complicated business empire run by John D. Rockefeller, revealed to readers the underhanded, even illegal practices that had led to Rockefeller's success. Rejecting the term "muckraker" to describe her profession, she went on to achieve remarkable prominence for a woman of her generation as a writer and shaper of public opinion. This biography offers an engrossing portrait of a trailblazer in a man's world who left her mark on the American consciousness. Notes, bibliography, index.

30 review for Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won!

  1. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Tai

    If I wasn't reading this book for YALSA's Morris/Non-Fiction challenge I doubt I would have made it past chapters two or three. This book was dry and read like a text book. It reminded me of something I may been assigned to read in high school or college. I liked seeing the photographs of Ida Tarbell as a child and throughout life, as well as the family photographs, but the other photos included in the book didn't help to make the book more interesting. Ida Tarbell was the only woman doing inves If I wasn't reading this book for YALSA's Morris/Non-Fiction challenge I doubt I would have made it past chapters two or three. This book was dry and read like a text book. It reminded me of something I may been assigned to read in high school or college. I liked seeing the photographs of Ida Tarbell as a child and throughout life, as well as the family photographs, but the other photos included in the book didn't help to make the book more interesting. Ida Tarbell was the only woman doing investigative reporting at her time. While this a huge step for women during her time, Ida wasn't a proponent for women's suffrage and in fact was against women's right to vote. Because of this, "she disqualified herself as a fully positive example to succeeding generations of women (McCully, 180). This may be way she isn't remembered today. I don't see too many young adults going out of their way to read this book and I'm not sure who I would recommend it to. There is an index so students could use the book for research and just read what is pertinent to what they need to know. Students who are interested in women's history or the history of investigative reporting may also find the book interesting.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    An outstanding biography of the pioneering investigative journalist.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I picked up this biography of Ida Tarbell because I recently read a bunch of books that referenced her and/or her work, and I wanted to understand her a bit more. I couldn't wrap my head around a never-married career woman who didn't support women's suffrage or general equality; the disconnect came across as so thorough it could only be deliberately hypocritical. The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! focuses on Tarbell's path to a career in journalism and the impact that her investigat I picked up this biography of Ida Tarbell because I recently read a bunch of books that referenced her and/or her work, and I wanted to understand her a bit more. I couldn't wrap my head around a never-married career woman who didn't support women's suffrage or general equality; the disconnect came across as so thorough it could only be deliberately hypocritical. The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! focuses on Tarbell's path to a career in journalism and the impact that her investigative journalism regarding politics and economics - particularly the series on the Rockefeller's Standard Oil for McClure's magazine - had on the world around her. While the subtitle is something of a misnomer - when Rockefeller died long after the series had finished running, his fortune was still intact and his historical reputation is largely unblemished - this account of how investigative journalism works and why it is important to the maintenance of integrity in a democratic society is valuable. I also liked how McCully dealt with the fact that, especially as she got older, Tarbell became less adaptable and more conservative. She explained how early life experience - especially the whole episode with Victoria Woodhull, which occurred when Ida would have been a youth and forever after tarred her view of the women's movement - shaped Tarbell's views, but also deliberately acknowledged where and how those views were directly contradicted by Tarbell's own behavior and life. For example, Tarbell famously venerated domestic life and admonished women to stay in the home and forgo careers. However, that is basically the opposite of how Tarbell - a woman who vowed in her teens that she would never marry and never did; a woman who only purchased a property to call home shortly before mostly retiring, a point when she would not have been able to live in housing supported by her workplace; a woman who very deliberately dedicated her entire life to her career choice, which was science in her young adulthood and eventually became journalism - actually lived. All in all, I'm satisfied with having read Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Big Business--and Won! I feel like I learned a lot about Tarbell from this book, and that it contributed to a greater understanding of her as a person. This is a book that I would recommend, especially to a younger audience (upper middle grade to high school).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Juliana

    Excellent biography and resource on Ida M. Tarbell.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    This biography is aimed at a YA audience, but it is well researched, thoroughly footnoted, and detailed enough to satisfy adult readers. I remembered Tarbell from high school history as "the woman who took on Standard Oil and won," and it was interesting to learn more about the personality and life history of the woman behind that description. Tarbell, as the author notes, is problematic as a feminist hero, opposing as she did women's suffrage and considering career women to be an aberration comp This biography is aimed at a YA audience, but it is well researched, thoroughly footnoted, and detailed enough to satisfy adult readers. I remembered Tarbell from high school history as "the woman who took on Standard Oil and won," and it was interesting to learn more about the personality and life history of the woman behind that description. Tarbell, as the author notes, is problematic as a feminist hero, opposing as she did women's suffrage and considering career women to be an aberration compared to the norm of the family woman who contributed to society by raising children. The author's presentation of the inconsistencies and evolution of Tarbell's thoughts on the subject is honest and nuanced. Less emphasis is placed on Tarbell's opposition to any attempt to adapt the workplace to the needs of women; thought that women should adapt themselves to what she, Tarbell, seems to have thought was rightly a man's world. In spite of such views, which are unpopular among today's feminists, Tarbell's story is worth knowing, if only because in her work on Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller, she invented the field of investigative journalism. If the American public and the world know about the My Lai massacre, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Bob Packwood's sexual harassment, the coverup of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, or the surveillance of U.S. citizens by the NSA, we owe a debt to Ida Minerva Tarbell.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    4.5 stars (liked a lot) A very well-written short biography of a pioneering female investigative journalist who challenged others in the print media while, at the same time, was challenged on some of her own views of women's rights.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I really enjoyed this book. I didn't know anything about Ida before picking it up. She was an interesting figure. She was very intellectual by nature but seemed like also a normal woman. She was very much ahead of her time going to Paris as an intellectual, but not really having a lot of means. She rubbed shoulders with a lot of noteworthy people in her time. Although she didn't choose family life for her own self, she financially took care of loads of her family members. She lived to a decent a I really enjoyed this book. I didn't know anything about Ida before picking it up. She was an interesting figure. She was very intellectual by nature but seemed like also a normal woman. She was very much ahead of her time going to Paris as an intellectual, but not really having a lot of means. She rubbed shoulders with a lot of noteworthy people in her time. Although she didn't choose family life for her own self, she financially took care of loads of her family members. She lived to a decent age, but she wasn't ever rich. She was able to continue to earn due to her research and work in her final years. I felt like it was an easy read, but with interesting information.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Ida Tarbell was one of the first investigative reporters, and the only woman of her time in this career. She chose magazine writing over marriage and family in a day when career wasn’t really available to women. She disagreed with the suffragettes and the robber barons. She wrote for McClure Magazine and dug up a lot of dirt on John D Rockefeller and Standard Oil, and was one of the first to be called a muckraker (though she hated that name.) Biographer, researcher, writer and woman before her t Ida Tarbell was one of the first investigative reporters, and the only woman of her time in this career. She chose magazine writing over marriage and family in a day when career wasn’t really available to women. She disagreed with the suffragettes and the robber barons. She wrote for McClure Magazine and dug up a lot of dirt on John D Rockefeller and Standard Oil, and was one of the first to be called a muckraker (though she hated that name.) Biographer, researcher, writer and woman before her time, Ida crossed gender barriers to achieve her dreams. This contains far too much text for a YA reader. Dry and difficult, this book is full of archaic vocabulary, and extremely slow. More like a textbook than a page turner, the index, source notes, bibliography and photography show the intense amount of research and preparation, but it did not pan out in the book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brindi Michele

    2015 YALSA Nonfiction Finalist The fact this book looks like a text book is a huge turn off; however, after forcing myself to sit down and read it, the conversational writing is intriguing, making this bio read worth it. Yet, the layout will still hinder teens from picking it up, I'm sure.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    I was first introduced to Ida Tarbell in Doris Kearns Goodwins' The Bully Pulpit. She is a fascinating figure who lived during a fascinating time. I feel McCully did a good job of describing her without condescending from a modern woman's point of view. The final chapter was not as well worked as the rest of the book. It's marketed as a young adult book, but I disagree. McCully weaves together the social, industrial and political issues in a readable way, but it does require some background know I was first introduced to Ida Tarbell in Doris Kearns Goodwins' The Bully Pulpit. She is a fascinating figure who lived during a fascinating time. I feel McCully did a good job of describing her without condescending from a modern woman's point of view. The final chapter was not as well worked as the rest of the book. It's marketed as a young adult book, but I disagree. McCully weaves together the social, industrial and political issues in a readable way, but it does require some background knowledge to appreciate the book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    An excellent biography of a fascinating woman. Tarbell was one of the first, and perhaps the finest, investigative journalists of the twentieth century, despite being pejoratively referred to as a muckraker. While a champion of equality and liberty, she never embraced the women’s suffrage movement, which I think revealed a blind spot in her beliefs. Nonetheless, her reporting on the evils of monopolies, such as the early Standard Oil Co., led to reforms that benefited middle and lower class labo An excellent biography of a fascinating woman. Tarbell was one of the first, and perhaps the finest, investigative journalists of the twentieth century, despite being pejoratively referred to as a muckraker. While a champion of equality and liberty, she never embraced the women’s suffrage movement, which I think revealed a blind spot in her beliefs. Nonetheless, her reporting on the evils of monopolies, such as the early Standard Oil Co., led to reforms that benefited middle and lower class laborers. An interesting read!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey Hitt

    I have always loved books about women who have made a huge difference in history and have stood up for gender equality. This book gave a lot of great information about a woman name Ida Tarbell and how even though she was a woman in a time where men dominated, she stood up to the most prominent men and won. Her story is truly inspirational. I think this would be a great text for middle school and high school students to discuss women's suffrage.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steph

    Warning: I am leaving a biased review as I have long loved Ida Tarbell because he managed to take down Rockefeller which really was basically David and Goliath. That said she did so much more, as well as held seemingly contradictory beliefs about women's rights, all of which is discussed in this book. I really hope in this recent era of Hollywood films focusing on empowered women that a movie about Ida could be created. Extremely worthwhile read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Annie Oosterwyk

    Such a hardworking, solitary woman who lived an intellectual life without much emotional attachment or introspection. Very pioneer. She did have a tremendous sense of justice and was fearless in attacking what she perceived as evil. I loved the description of the time she spent in Paris. The writing captures the pathos of a whole life, the exuberance and health of youth as it decays into old age and illness.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Richie Partington

    Richie's Picks: IDA M. TARBELL: THE WOMAN WHO CHALLENGED BIG BUSINESS -- AND WON! by Emily Arnold McCully, Clarion, July 2014, 288p., ISBN: 978-0-547-29092-8 "It is staggering, in the Internet age, to realize how much criminal activity and corruption was successfully hidden from public view at the turn of the twentieth century. According to one veteran newsman, McClure's exposed trusts, gangs, political bosses, vice rackets, and corruption, but above all 'exposed our lack of a national journalis Richie's Picks: IDA M. TARBELL: THE WOMAN WHO CHALLENGED BIG BUSINESS -- AND WON! by Emily Arnold McCully, Clarion, July 2014, 288p., ISBN: 978-0-547-29092-8 "It is staggering, in the Internet age, to realize how much criminal activity and corruption was successfully hidden from public view at the turn of the twentieth century. According to one veteran newsman, McClure's exposed trusts, gangs, political bosses, vice rackets, and corruption, but above all 'exposed our lack of a national journalism.' Ray Stannard Baker claimed that '[the] ignorance [of citizens] causes most of our problems.' McClure's came through, with long, complex, well-researched, and intelligently argued articles. Americans in an era without radio, television, or the Internet read them with interest. So did the government. In 1906, the U.S. attorney general began to prosecute Standard Oil under the Sherman Antitrust Act." Ida M. Tarbell was the author of these history-changing articles in McClure's. Her ability to research and write them helped attract to McClure's other rising stars like Lincoln Steffens. Emily Arnold McCully's biography of Ms. Tarbell, which is filled with horrific tales of U.S. imperialism; of public policy (both domestic and international) being driven by corporate interests; of a heartbreaking disparity between rich and poor; reveals the unusual life of this woman who was an investigative rock star in an age of men, and also reveals an America back then that seems in so many ways to share similarities with America today. "You who are on the road Must have a code that you can live by" -- Graham Nash, "Teach Your Children" How and why did Ida M. Tarbell follow what was -- for a woman in that era -- such a groundbreaking path? Why was she the right writer to plumb the depths of Standard Oil and be able to successfully expose Rockefeller's empire for what it was? I love how McCully -- who grew up the daughter of a journalist who revered Tarbell -- takes us through Tarbell's unusual childhood that so readily foreshadows on several levels the uncompromising adulthood road the author's subject would take. "For a girl devoted to reason, science would almost certainly win out over faith. Science, exciting and dangerous, engaged Ida's developing intellect, while in her opinion faith required only passive submission. Ida was constitutionally incapable of hypocrisy, so she concluded she'd have to leave the church. But what could replace it? Every value she tried to live by came from the Bible. All the Tarbells were acutely, if inarticulately, aware of each other's sensitivities. The family kept conflict at bay adhering to the precepts of 'Do unto others' and 'Turn the other cheek,' which were Christian, not scientific. Science offered no such moral guidance. "Ida cared deeply about being good. How was science going to help her? She didn't know. She'd been emptied of belief and filled with terrible doubt. But having to find answers on her own would eventually build intellectual self-confidence. Science did offer something momentous and lasting: the pursuit of knowledge. "How had life begun? How did things grow and change? Ida decided that she needed a microscope to examine life at its most elemental; she might even learn the secret of creation. She saved her money and bought one. Then she begged to be given the tower room at the top of the house for her laboratory. From now on, she would verify anything she was told. On the floors below, her family still believed that the world had been created in six days." Not only did Ida M. Tarbell have to surmount the institutional barriers that held women back from becoming anything not acceptable to the white males who controlled everything, but she had to do her work often hamstrung by a brilliant and mercurial boss who today "might be diagnosed as bipolar with attention-deficit disorder." And so it was that Tarbell necessarily had to take charge at McClure's on several levels in order to succeed in enlightening the pre-mass-media provincial America in which she dwelled. "President McKinley told the nation he had prayed for guidance in dealing with the conquered peoples. He reported this revelation: 'Educate, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them,' and assured his constituents that after resolving to put it into effect, he 'went to bed and went to sleep and slept soundly.'" And as utterly backward and unenlightened as I, for one, find that particular point of view, we learn that Ida Tarbell held some equally bizarre views -- particularly about women -- that will make many twenty-first century readers scratch their heads. As an activist and as a lifelong student of American history, I found Emily Arnold McCully's biography of Ida M. Tarbell to be filled with fascinating parallels between then and now that are just waiting to be discovered by young readers, and overflowing with history, concepts and questions that will intrigue and inspire and compel discussion. Richie Partington, MLIS Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com [email protected] https://www.facebook.com/richie.parti... Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_... http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/facult...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Ida Tarbell is rarely known but this story brings her into the spotlight. A fascinating story of a woman trying to make it in a man's world, not holding back and acheiving her dream. Not a beginning reader for students, but a powerful story of not letting anything hold you back.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Acasuper

    This was a very good book and it informed me a lot but a wish that it had been writen with a bit more personality. It was a bit dry.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Kalen

    Clearly, history is repeating itself. We need investigative reporters like her today.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Kennedy

    Writing in a conversational tone backed by first-rate research, Emily Arnold McCully brings the pioneering journalist of the early 1900s, Ida Tarbell, to life. The author begins with Ida Tarbell's birth and upbringing in western Pennsylvania and shows how her sensibilities were formed as the region was transformed by the discovery of oil in the 1860s. Her childhood impressions later led Ms. Tarbell to her seminal work, her examination of the "robber barons" of the time -- in particular, John D. Writing in a conversational tone backed by first-rate research, Emily Arnold McCully brings the pioneering journalist of the early 1900s, Ida Tarbell, to life. The author begins with Ida Tarbell's birth and upbringing in western Pennsylvania and shows how her sensibilities were formed as the region was transformed by the discovery of oil in the 1860s. Her childhood impressions later led Ms. Tarbell to her seminal work, her examination of the "robber barons" of the time -- in particular, John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil monopoly -- that was serialized in McClure's magazine and later published as a book, The History of the Standard Oil Company. Ms. McCully has not written a hagiography; we read of both Ms. Tarbell's strengths and weaknesses. Beloved by those who worked with her, she was nevertheless rejected by the feminist forces of the day because of her lack of support for women's suffrage. Although she excoriated the big business mavericks of the day, she also admired business practices that placed productivity over worker satisfaction and was wary of unions. On assignment in Italy, she was taken in by Mussolini, comparing him to Napoleon and imagining him, as the author says, "as an unleashed Teddy Roosevelt, finishing the work of the Progressive Era at the small price of a few civil liberties." In the book, you'll be delighted to come across names that ring a bell. Ms. Tarbell got her first job in journalism at the Chautauquan, a magazine published in Meadville, Pa., that dovetailed with the Chautauqua educational movement. She freelanced from Paris for such magazines as Scribner's and competed with writers for Harper's. She was offered her first staff job at McClure's filling an opening created by the departure of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of the children's classic, The Secret Garden. The founder of McClure's declines to publish Stephen Crane's novel, The Red Badge of Courage. One photo in the book shows Ms. Tarbell with a group of colleagues that includes the author Willa Cather. This book is classified as a young adult book, but don't let that keep you from reading it. It is a fine book for an adult to read. It has all the best features of a book written for young readers; clear prose, photos and drawings, and a strong storyline.

  20. 4 out of 5

    bjneary

    I read this biography of Ida M. Tarbell as part of The Hub Nonfiction Challenge- this book is a finalist and I never would have chosen to read a book like this, if no for the challenge. I also listened to a webinar hosted by SLJ - A conversation with the 2015 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalists and Emily Arnold McCully was superb in her descriptions of Ida M. Tarbell- I just couldn't wait to dig in!!! Ida Tarbell was such a remarkable woman- as a child she saw first hand the god and bad of I read this biography of Ida M. Tarbell as part of The Hub Nonfiction Challenge- this book is a finalist and I never would have chosen to read a book like this, if no for the challenge. I also listened to a webinar hosted by SLJ - A conversation with the 2015 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalists and Emily Arnold McCully was superb in her descriptions of Ida M. Tarbell- I just couldn't wait to dig in!!! Ida Tarbell was such a remarkable woman- as a child she saw first hand the god and bad of the gushing oil wells. She was educated during a time that most women did not attend school- let alone college. Ida wanted to make a difference and with hopes of becoming a biologist, she attended Allegheny College. Instead of becoming a woman of science, Ida tried her hand at writing and oh was she successful! She wrote fiction and nonfiction, but Ida was tireless when it came to fact checking, combing through documents, visiting libraries, working with sources and digging into the likes of John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil monopoly. As one of the first and foremost journalists, Ida was humble yet authoritative. She worked well with men and women; never taking credit for her successes. Sam McClure, her boss at McClure's said, "If Miss Tarbell likes athing, it means fifty thousand will like it. That's something to go by." (115) Ida was a peace maker, easy to get along with and a brilliant writer who was able to honestly expose corruption in many facets of American life. To quote Ida after hearing Henry James speak, "I see it and there is the lesson I've got to learn--to comprehend all--to wade boldly into life and yet never let the thing--the experience--engulf you."(161) With excellent photos, source notes, bibliography and index, this is a must read for any American History student or major. Adults will enjoy this authentic woman and her life- recommended for all libraries.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Emily Arnold McCully’s look at Ida Tarbell is a wonderful dive into the early years of the progressive era and a look at an enigma in American history. Arguably one of the most successful women during the progressive era but never a major part of the suffrage movement Ida Tarbell focused her efforts on journalism and being an independent woman. Although throughout her time she would grow close to several men she remained independent and focused on delivering articles that were scholarly and adva Emily Arnold McCully’s look at Ida Tarbell is a wonderful dive into the early years of the progressive era and a look at an enigma in American history. Arguably one of the most successful women during the progressive era but never a major part of the suffrage movement Ida Tarbell focused her efforts on journalism and being an independent woman. Although throughout her time she would grow close to several men she remained independent and focused on delivering articles that were scholarly and advanced human understanding. Her peak of fame came from a biography of Abraham Lincoln and from exposing the trusts of Standard Oil. Ida who grew up in oil country in Pittsburgh was a supporter of the independent wildcat producers (although she moved away from them as time went on). She focused on the tactics of Standard Oil and exposed them in print leading up to her testifying before Congress. The author does a great job of showing the complexities of Tarbell and her growth in views from scientific Darwinian logic to progressive era muckraker (a term Tarbell found amusing although inaccurate). Even for those seasoned in American history they will find many gems in this book particularly during Tarbell’s years as a editor for McClure’s magazine and the internal politics of magazine publishing in America. The book is thoroughly researched and very well written. The only complaint I had was in the complete vilification of Rockefeller. Although a truth from Tarbell’s perspective the story is far more complex and simply portraying him as the evil Octopus does not quite do it justice. That being said this is a wonderful book that keeps to a clear and concise story keeping the reader engaged and wanting to learn more.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Ida Tarbell (1857-1944) was a respected American journalist dedicated to investigative reporting with achievements that include the history of the Standard Oil Trust, but I had never heard of her until this biography became a YALSA 2015 Excellence in Nonfiction finalist. An enigma, she lived independently, focusing on her career - but criticized the suffrage movement, believing women could be more influential from the home. The subject is so interesting, but this biography has a textbook look-an Ida Tarbell (1857-1944) was a respected American journalist dedicated to investigative reporting with achievements that include the history of the Standard Oil Trust, but I had never heard of her until this biography became a YALSA 2015 Excellence in Nonfiction finalist. An enigma, she lived independently, focusing on her career - but criticized the suffrage movement, believing women could be more influential from the home. The subject is so interesting, but this biography has a textbook look-and-feel. Photographs of people, places and magazine covers are fantastic, but where are the images of handwriting samples? journal entries? letters? Formatting consists of text-heavy, two-page spreads without sidebars or subheadings. History lessons would have been so much better periodically spaced throughout the book as overviews set apart in call-outs with a different background color. Instead, historical facts and philosophies are mixed into the narrative, weakening reader engagement with the story of Tarbell's life while at the same time making it difficult for anyone who might want to use this book for research rather than to read it cover-to-cover. Excellent index, source notes, bibliography, and photographs - this book is not a page-turner, but it is an important addition to American history. I cannot believe I earned a women's studies minor in 1988 and never even heard of this woman until 2015. Readers (including adults) interested in American history, especially the history of journalism, might be the best audience for this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    This was a very interesting biography of a journalist I had not heard of before. Ida M. Tarbell is best known for being one of the "muckraker" journalists who exposed the problems of growing corporations in the American business field, particularly the Standard Oil corporation. She's just as interesting for the professional career and personal esteem she garnered in a time when it was still unusual for a woman to do so. Emily Arnold McCully, who's best known for her illustrating, does a good job This was a very interesting biography of a journalist I had not heard of before. Ida M. Tarbell is best known for being one of the "muckraker" journalists who exposed the problems of growing corporations in the American business field, particularly the Standard Oil corporation. She's just as interesting for the professional career and personal esteem she garnered in a time when it was still unusual for a woman to do so. Emily Arnold McCully, who's best known for her illustrating, does a good job of building her story from sources, and the book includes lots of quotations and interesting photographs. I would say its one main flaw is that it sometimes feels like it loses the narrative and becomes wandering--but when you try to account for a person's entire life, I think that's difficult to avoid. McCully obviously sees Tarbell as something of a personal hero, but one who is tarnished by her opposition to the women's suffrage movement. I found this opposition less surprising than Tarbell's exhortation to women of her time to stay in the domestic realm, completely unlike her own path, but I didn't feel this made her achievements any less impressive. I appreciate McCully for bringing her back into the public light.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This is a comprehensive biography covering the totality of an influential journalist's life. And, as such, it's worthy of reading. The research is first rate. In fact, I give the book 3 stars because the research is so thorough. The book, however, definitely has its flaws. In the first section, especially, I felt like McCully was trying too hard to emphasize Tarbell's feminine side with several references to the fact that Tarbell probably went on a number of dates or had interests, flings, flirt This is a comprehensive biography covering the totality of an influential journalist's life. And, as such, it's worthy of reading. The research is first rate. In fact, I give the book 3 stars because the research is so thorough. The book, however, definitely has its flaws. In the first section, especially, I felt like McCully was trying too hard to emphasize Tarbell's feminine side with several references to the fact that Tarbell probably went on a number of dates or had interests, flings, flirtations with men. It seemed far too much like McCully was more interested in making sure the readers didn't think Tarbell was a lesbian than in actually telling the story of her life. These passages were awkward and entirely unnecessary. Fortunately, as the book went on there was less of this type of apology. The writing is a little bland. McCully tries too much to tell the reader facts and not enough to engage the reader in the subject, so it's a little dull. Tarbell however is not dull. Tarbell is a single woman, a world-travelling journalist who thought that women should get married, have babies, stay at home, and stay out of the political process. An enigma and a contradiction and a woman worth reading about.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    A focused biography of Ida Tarbell, who I knew nothing about, with an apt subtitle that demonstrates Tarbell's command and focus within her own life's work-- being able to 'break it down' for an average person to understand whether it be science or big business or people. She loved science and studied before beginning to write in layman's terms for magazines about what science discoveries and issues were being uncovered, then moved on to writing about famous people like Lincoln and then her main A focused biography of Ida Tarbell, who I knew nothing about, with an apt subtitle that demonstrates Tarbell's command and focus within her own life's work-- being able to 'break it down' for an average person to understand whether it be science or big business or people. She loved science and studied before beginning to write in layman's terms for magazines about what science discoveries and issues were being uncovered, then moved on to writing about famous people like Lincoln and then her main claim to fame, writing about the oil industry and becoming was she hated being called, a muckraker. I thoroughly enjoyed the research and presentation of the story with many photographs of all players involved, relationships Ida had both within her family but also with other writer's and businessmen including those who ran the magazines that she published for, her time in Paris and abroad and her love for it, as well as her views on women and suffrage. The biography is a breath of fresh air, telling the story of someone who doesn't get a lot of press, but can make a name for all Tarbell stood for.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    I love learning about the people of the past, and what caused them to do things both great and small, noteworthy and mundane. In these ways and more, this book brings the life and times of Ida Tarbell to life. She was a woman of her times, but also conflicted over the role of women in society at a time when suffrage was a hot topic. If you like to know about women who defied the convention of their times, and dared great things, this is a book for you. If you want to know about where the process I love learning about the people of the past, and what caused them to do things both great and small, noteworthy and mundane. In these ways and more, this book brings the life and times of Ida Tarbell to life. She was a woman of her times, but also conflicted over the role of women in society at a time when suffrage was a hot topic. If you like to know about women who defied the convention of their times, and dared great things, this is a book for you. If you want to know about where the process of investigative journalism came from, this book would also be of interest. This book also shows how difficult it was to do investigative research for a story in the past, and how easily a person's journalistic work could be destroyed by those who do not want it to endure. I had been familiar with the work of Emily Arnold McCully mostly through her picture books (such as Mirette on the High Wire and An Outlaw Thanksgiving). This book is a much more in depth work than anything else I had ever seen by her. As such, though it was cataloged in the Juvenile Biography section in my library, it seems to me that it would be suitable for older children or teens.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    Read for Librarian Book Group Thoroughly researched book about pioneering journalist (and muckraker--though she rejected the term). Her coverage of the Standard Oil Company for McClures magazine helped bring about the trust-busting reform movement in the early 20th century. Tarbell, aside from being an accomplished career woman in a time when few women worked outside the home, also was an Anti-Suffragette. This made for a very interesting dichotomy later in her life. This book was very complete a Read for Librarian Book Group Thoroughly researched book about pioneering journalist (and muckraker--though she rejected the term). Her coverage of the Standard Oil Company for McClures magazine helped bring about the trust-busting reform movement in the early 20th century. Tarbell, aside from being an accomplished career woman in a time when few women worked outside the home, also was an Anti-Suffragette. This made for a very interesting dichotomy later in her life. This book was very complete and so incredibly boring to read. It's a great source for someone doing research, but otherwise kind of a snoozer. In searching for the full title, I was pleased to discover the book that Tarbell published about the Standard Oil Company is online. Though it sold quite well, it was very difficult to find copies in the decades after it was written, perhaps due to the Standard Oil Company purchasing and destroying the book. You can read the book by going to: http://www.pagetutor.com/standard/

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    Ida M Tarbell The Woman Who Challenged Big Business and Won Emily Arnold Mccully July.08.2014 Ida M Tarbell was born on November.05.1857.  Ida saw early on the danger some workers faced when she was only four her Father lost nineteen workers in an oil fire.  From an early age Ida saw how unequally woman were treated.  She vows early on she is not going to settle for the kind of life her Mother and her mothers friends have.  In a time where most woman marry she makes a conscious decision not to marry Ida M Tarbell The Woman Who Challenged Big Business and Won Emily Arnold Mccully July.08.2014 Ida M Tarbell was born on November.05.1857.  Ida saw early on the danger some workers faced when she was only four her Father lost nineteen workers in an oil fire.  From an early age Ida saw how unequally woman were treated.  She vows early on she is not going to settle for the kind of life her Mother and her mothers friends have.  In a time where most woman marry she makes a conscious decision not to marry. Ida was a woman who was determined not to be satisfied with the way things were.  She wanted to make a difference. Ida M. Tarbell was awoman ahead of her time a woman who paved the way for Women of todays generation.   Ida fought for the rights of equality until her death in 1944... I give this book five stars because I found it both interesting and educational

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This was an Honor book for the YALSA Excellence in Non-Fiction award. I had never heard of Ida. M Tarbell before opening the pages of this book, but the subtitle certainly intrigued me. This book did not grab me from the beginning. It takes place during a time in history that I have not found particularly interesting. I'm sure that has more to do with the way I was taught the history than the era itself. Ida's childhood did not interest me, and I really did not find her interesting until she sta This was an Honor book for the YALSA Excellence in Non-Fiction award. I had never heard of Ida. M Tarbell before opening the pages of this book, but the subtitle certainly intrigued me. This book did not grab me from the beginning. It takes place during a time in history that I have not found particularly interesting. I'm sure that has more to do with the way I was taught the history than the era itself. Ida's childhood did not interest me, and I really did not find her interesting until she started writing. I wanted to see how she took down big business, not how she grew up. After a couple of chapters, however, I was hooked. Here was this woman, doing what she wanted to do, uncovering secrets about some of our country's first celebrity millionaires. Read more at Truthfully Tichwi

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Trimble

    This is the story about one of the first female investigative journalists in America. Ida lived during the late 1800’s, early 1900s and grew up in Pennsylvania around the time oil was discovered. As a young adult, she witnessed first hand how money and greed threatened the social and moral fabric of our nation. After spending time traveling to France to work on a biography, she ended up coming back to America to work for McClure’s Magazine. She is famous for her biographical work on Napoleon and This is the story about one of the first female investigative journalists in America. Ida lived during the late 1800’s, early 1900s and grew up in Pennsylvania around the time oil was discovered. As a young adult, she witnessed first hand how money and greed threatened the social and moral fabric of our nation. After spending time traveling to France to work on a biography, she ended up coming back to America to work for McClure’s Magazine. She is famous for her biographical work on Napoleon and Lincoln as well as her thorough investigative writings on Standard Oil and the corrupt business practices of John D. Rockefeller. Ida never married or had children. Instead, she focused her time and energy on her career. Strangely, she opposed the women’s suffrage movement, believing women had more influence and power in the home.

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