This Day In Writing History
On August 30th, 1944, the famous American writer, journalist, and humorist Molly Ivins was born. She was born Mary Tyler Ivins in Monterey, California, but grew up in Houston, Texas.
Molly's father, Jim Ivins, was an oil company executive, and the family lived in Houston's affluent River Oaks community. Growing up under the thumb of a father known as General Jim because of his ferocious strictness, she developed a strong rebellious nature.
While in high school, Molly cultivated her interest in journalism and became an editor of the student newspaper. In 1963, while studying at Smith College, a liberal arts college for women, she became involved with Hank Holland, a family friend and student at Yale.
In Hank, Molly found a soul mate. She referred to him as "the love of my life." Sadly, he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1964. Unable to find anyone who could replace Hank in her heart, she never married.
Molly would spend her junior year studying political science in Paris. After returning to the U.S. in 1967, she earned a Master's degree in journalism at Columbia University.
After earning her Master's degree, Molly moved to Minnesota, where she took a job as a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. Her editor assigned her to cover "militant blacks, angry Indians, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers."
By 1970, Molly had quit her job and returned to Houston, where she became a co-editor and political reporter for the Texas Observer. She covered the Texas state legislature from a liberal, populist perspective, employing the sparkling, scathing wit that would make her famous.
Her snappy, witty style of writing caught the eye of national publications. Soon, she was writing op-ed pieces and feature stories for The New York Times and The Washington Post.
In 1976, fearing that its writing style was becoming too stale, The New York Times hired Molly Ivins away from the Texas Observer. During her five year tenure, Molly established herself as one of the paper's finest writers.
When legendary rock singer Elvis Presley died in 1977, it was Molly Ivins who wrote his obituary for The New York Times. Ultimately, her colorful writing style would prove to be too colorful for her editor.
In 1980, when she covered a "community chicken-killing festival" in New Mexico, she referred to the event as a "gang pluck." Her irate editor, Abe Rosenthal, accused her of using a double entendre to arouse "dirty thoughts" in her readers' minds. Molly quipped, "Damn if I could fool you, Mr. Rosenthal!"
The following year, she left the The New York Times after accepting an offer from the Dallas Times Herald to write a column which she would have full creative control of. She would remain with the paper for ten years.
While she wrote her column for the Dallas Times Herald, Molly Ivins' fame would grow, as she also wrote freelance pieces for national publications and became a popular speaker on the lecture circuit.
In 1991, Molly published her first book, Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?. A compilation of some of her best pieces from the Dallas Times Herald in which she covered the redneck politics of Texas with her scathing wit and pointed criticism, the book spent 22 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.
Rival newspaper The Fort Worth Star-Telegram made Molly an offer to write a column for them, and she accepted. Her column would be syndicated, appearing in nearly 400 newspapers across the country. She wrote for the The Fort Worth Star-Telegram from 1992-2001, after which, she became an independent journalist.
When George W. Bush became President in the controversial 2000 election, Molly went after him with a vengeance. She gave him the famous nickname Shrub and wrote three scathing books about him and the spectacular failure of his presidency.
Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (2000), The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President (2001) and Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America (2003) delighted liberals and outraged conservatives.
Molly's disdain for George W. Bush is best summed up in this classic quote: "Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention."
Molly Ivins would write nearly a dozen books and win numerous awards for journalism. She died in 2007 at the age of 62, after a long battle with breast cancer.
Quote Of The Day
"Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful." - Molly Ivins
Today's video features Molly Ivins speaking at Tulane University in 2004. Enjoy!