Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business --- and Won!
Born in 1857 in Erie County, Pennsylvania, Ida Minerva Tarbell entered the world at the cusp of turbulent times. Two years after her birth, Ida's family swapped their serene country environs for an area near the muck-ridden town of Titusville. They hoped to seize a profitable opportunity in petroleum, a natural resource that, once refined, would turn into oil. Inundated with huge derricks, this rural town became the staging area for get-rich schemes, most notably those of John D. Rockefeller, the shrewd and quickly rising mogul who monopolized the soon-to-be oil industry and Standard Oil Trust. Little did Rockefeller know that young Ida was not only an eyewitness to the hideous effects of his tyrannical methods upon the local refiners, but that she would also play a key role years later by exposing them.
"Thoroughly researched, IDA M. TARBELL: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business --- and Won! is an immensely captivating and eye-opening biography, and a well-needed addition to American History."
In her first book for young adults, award-winning author McCully has crafted an in-depth biography ---the first in 25 years --- on one of the most prominent yet mystifying women of the early to mid 20th century. McCully aptly divides Tarbell's life story into two parts, entitled Preparation and Achievement. In part one, McCully deftly describes the childhood and adolescent experiences that molded and shaped Tarbell’s identity, and the various situations --- tightly interwoven by her investigative skills --- that eventually equipped her to become an investigative reporter for McClure's Magazine.
While part two centers on her literary and societal achievements up to the time of her death, of prime importance is the making of The History of the Standard Oil Trust, the series of articles Tarbell wrote that unfurled the conquest, espionage and sabotage associated with Standard Oil, as well as the rigged election of an Ohio senator from Standard Oil. Her articulate sleuthing paid off when the Department of Commerce and Labor ultimately "sued Standard Oil in 1909 over railroad rates and its monopoly of the oil business." Yet in spite of this and other literary accomplishments, McCully circumspectly incorporates the mystery that often shrouded Tarbell's unmarried bohemian lifestyle and her ironic viewpoints toward women's rights.
Despite the fact that Ida M. Tarbell was earmarked as a "muckraker," a term she starkly rejected, "she helped invent investigative journalism and was probably its most incorruptible practitioner, recording history and changing it in the process." Thoroughly researched, IDA M. TARBELL: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business --- and Won! is an immensely captivating and eye-opening biography, and a well-needed addition to American History.
Reviewed by Anita Lock on July 9, 2014