Sylvia Porter one of first women honored as "Headliner"
When the National Headliners' Club included women in its ranks of prizewinning journalists for the first time in 1943, Sylvia Porter was one of just two women to receive a Headliners' award. On June 5, 1943, she was honored for "outstanding" work in financial and business reporting. By then, Porter had been working in journalism for a decade, but the award was only the first of many Porter would earn over a career that spanned half a century.
Born in Brooklyn in 1913, Porter enrolled at Hunter College after high school, intending to study English and history. When her family lost $30,000 in the stock market crash of 1929, she changed her major to economics, determined to understand what had happened. After college, she began to write articles for financial journals and a column for the American Banker; she obtained a freelance position with the New York Evening Post in 1935. In 1938, the Post made Porter its financial editor; she was the first woman to join the financial desk of a major American newspaper. As editor, Porter began writing a daily column, which appeared under the byline "S.F. Porter" to disguise her gender. Her column ran in the Post five days a week until 1978, when she moved it to the New York Daily News. Through syndication, the column reached 40 million readers in 450 newspapers around the world.
Porter's columns were marked by a combination of thorough knowledge and plain language. She made it her mission to explain finance to the average reader. This same combination of deep understanding and commonsense advice also characterized Porter's many financial guidebooks. The first of these, How to Make Money in Government Bonds, appeared in 1939. It was followed by How to Live Within Your Income (with Jacob K. Lasser, 1948), Money and You (1949), and Managing Your Money (1953, 1962). In 1975, Sylvia Porter's Money Book: How to Earn It, Spend It, Save It, Invest It, Borrow It, and Use It to Better Your Life made the New York Times bestseller list and sold more than a million copies.
Porter's personal finance column earned numerous awards. In both 1946 and 1948, she was honored by the New York Newspaper Women's Club for the best column in any field. In 1951, she was recognized by the New York chapter of Theta Sigma Phi, an honorary organization for women in journalism. Later the same year, she was named a "key woman of the year" by the women's fashion division of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. Porter died on June 5, 1991. Her last book, Planning Your Retirement, was published posthumously the following September.
To learn more about Sylvia Porter, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
Sources: Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp.1097-1099; New York Times, May 28, 1943; February 16, 1946; February 15, 1948; April 27, 1951; August 4, 1951; December 11, 1951; June 7, 1991.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Sylvia Porter one of first women honored as "Headliner"." (Viewed on March 1, 2021) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/jun/05/1943/sylvia-porter>.