Careers

How newspapers covered America's first career woman wedding in 1895

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A century before Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg urged working women to "lean in" by prioritizing their professional ambitions, journalist and activist Ida B. Wells risked her life by speaking out against lynching on both sides of the Atlantic. She fought for civil rights while she was single as well as after she wed at age 33.

As reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones details in a feature for The New York Times, Wells was "a sharp-tongued career woman uninterested in being tied down." Indeed, she made a name for herself in the 19th century as one of America's very first famous career women.

And she did not let love or romance distract her.

Even after she met the man she would marry in 1895, attorney Ferdinand L. Barnett, she kept her focus on her professional life: "She postponed the wedding three times in order to keep up with her rigorous antilynching speaking schedule," writes Hannah-Jones.

"I decided to continue to work as a journalist, for this was my first love. And might be said, my only love." -Ida B. Wells, co-founder of the NAACP

Wells did not stop working after she got married, either. Instead, she co-founded the NAACP.

According to Hannah-Jones, Wells writes in her autobiography, "Having always been busy at some work of my own, I decided to continue to work as a journalist, for this was my first love. And might be said, my only love."

She also kept her name, at least partially. Hannah-Jones tells CNBC, "Wells, who became Wells-Barnett after her marriage, was also one of the first American women to hyphenate her name, putting her well ahead of her time when it came to gender equality."

Hannah-Jones adds, "Wells did not believe her gender made her work less important, nor did she believe that a woman needed to sacrifice her own career in deference to becoming a wife or a mother."

The New York Times featured the announcement of the Wells-Barnett marriage on page one under the headline, "Ida Wells married."