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Ida Tarbell House
Ida Tarbell had many opportunities to capitalize on her reputation as one of America’s most respected journalists. Instead, she rejected the pleas of the suffragists to endorse their causes because they contradicted her own convictions about the role of women. In 1914, Henry Ford and others tried unsuccessfully to have her join the celebrity-laden “Peace Ship” to bring an end to World War I. She considered it totally unrealistic and said so. In late 1916, she turned down President Wilson’s offer to make her the first woman on the Tariff Commission because he believed she had written more common sense about the tariff than any man. Finally, she put off writing her autobiography until she was eighty years old, and even then it was a work of such modesty and self-effacement that it added little to her popularity.
The lasting results of Ida Tarbell’s brand of investigative journalism, which include the 1911 Supreme Court decision to break up the Standard Oil trust, suggest that her career, characterized by thoroughness, fairness, and intellectual integrity, should be studied by any journalist more interested in recording and influencing events that achieving celebrity status.
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