*Winner of the 2023 Northern California Book Award*
The first biography of Elsie Robinson, the most influential newspaper columnist you’ve never heard of
At thirty-five, Elsie Robinson feared she’d lost it all. Reeling from a scandalous divorce in 1917, she had no means to support herself and her chronically ill son. She dreamed of becoming a writer and was willing to sacrifice everything for this goal, even swinging a pickax in a gold mine to pay the bills.
When the mine shut down, she moved to the Bay Area. Armed with moxie and samples of her work, she barged into the offices of the Oakland Tribune and was hired on the spot. She went on to become a nationally syndicated columnist and household name whose column ran for over thirty years and garnered more than twenty million readers.
Told in cinematic detail by bestselling author Julia Scheeres and award-winning journalist Allison Gilbert, Listen, World! is the inspiring story of a timeless maverick, capturing what it means to take a gamble on self-fulfillment and find freedom along the way.
Memoirist Scheeres (Jesus Land) and journalist Gilbert (Covering Catastrophe) deliver a page-turning biography of Elsie Robinson (1883–1956), a prominent 20th-century journalist and cartoonist. Focusing on the first 50 years of her life, the authors paint a vivid picture of the challenges Robinson faced: after leaving a repressed and loveless marriage in Vermont, Robinson returned with her young, asthmatic son to her California roots, where she worked as a gold miner and then, faced with near starvation, found a job writing a weekly children's column for the Oakland Tribune. Robinson eventually worked her way up to become the highest-paid newswoman in the Hearst empire through her syndicated column "Listen World!" The authors spotlight her fights against racism, capital punishment, and antisemitism, as well as her frankness in her belief that women should have satisfying lives that consist of more than household drudgery ("If your conception of woman's highest duty is to be a vacuum cleaner, be one, but don't grumble if your family parks you behind the kitchen door," Robinson wrote in one column). The account is enlivened with copious excerpts from Robinson's column and her memoir, all of which bring home her firebrand style. This entertaining account delivers.